News: Static vs Dynamic boards

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Forget wet and dry flops, Dara O’Kearney says you should be thinking about static or dynamic flops instead.

Dara O’Kearney 

You will already no doubt be well versed in ‘wet boards’ vs ‘dry boards’ in conventional poker wisdom.

A wet board is also known as an ‘action board’ and is one that hits a lot of likely hands. K Q J is a good example of a wet board. A lot of broadway hands hit this flop hard, as do heart draws. The conventional wisdom is you bet big on these boards for value and/or protection as lots of hands will call.

A dry board is one which is hard to hit. 7 7 2 is a good example, there are no draws possible and most ranges are made up of high cards that do not improve here. The old school wisdom here is that you can bluff, and do so with a small bet sizing, because nobody is likely to have a hand they can continue with.

GTO has a different way of categorising boards, one which looks the same at first but is differen. Boards are static or dynamic.

A static board is one where most turn and river cards do not change the relative strength of each player’s range. A dynamic board is one where many cards can completely change who has range advantage.

Compare the flop A 9 6 to a flop of 9 6 4. Which of these would you say is static and which is dynamic?

Draws make up a very small part of the range

Dara O Kearney
Is this board wet, dynamic, dry, or static?

Most players would think back to the old school ‘wet vs dry’ flops and decide that A 9 6 was a dynamic flop and 9 6 4 was dry. It is quite hard to have a hand on the nine high flop, after all, whereas on A 9 6 you can have top pair, two pair, sets, flushes, flush draws and straight draws.

However, this is the wrong way of thinking about it. 9 6 4 is actually the dynamic flop in this example and A 9 6 is the static one. Fortunes can change quickly on the nine high flop whereas the hand that is ahead on the A 9 6 flop is likely to be ahead by the end of the hand.

The A 9 6 flop looks scary because we all have a deeply ingrained understanding of the obvious scare cards. We see the Ace which often gives us a very strong pair and fear that any lone spade will give a random hand a flush. The reality is that flushes and flush draws make up a small part of any range (usually 20% of less) and most of the time the best Ax is still winning by the river. The correct strategy here with range advantage is to bet small. Your flushes don’t need protection, the only way to get value for top pair hands is to bet small and if you get reraised you can get away from marginal hands cheaply.

High cards drive the action

Dara O Kearney
Lots of high cards can take the lead on this board’s turn or river

Contrast that with 9 6 4, which looks very hard to hit. There are some straight draws here – 87/T7/75/53. More crucial, however, is the highest card, which is just a 9. How dynamic a board is depends on how many draws there are but perhaps more it depends on how high the highest card is.

If you have top pair in the A 9 6 example you are mostly worried about spades, but if you have top pair on the 9 6 4 flop you are worried about any T/J/Q/K/A coming on the turn that could devalue your hand. Given that you will often be up against broadway hands and big Aces, the prudent strategy on a board like this is to bet big. You want to clear out equity as well as get value while you know your hand is probably ahead.

If a lot of cards can flip range advantage then you should bet bigger, both as a bluff and as value. If the best hand right now is usually the best hand by the river then you will make more money overall betting smaller and guaranteeing more bets across more streets. 

Dara O’Kearney’s new book Endgame Poker Strategy: The ICM Book is out now.