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‘The Course’ Skill #5 ‘Evaluating Board Texture’ #29


Sky Matsuhashi

on February 10, 2016

Board texture is a super important concept to understand that will allow us to barrel boards more effectively and with some sort of “equity when called.”

In case you missed it, in episode #21 I showed you how to get the most out of every poker strategy book you read and to ensure you put to use the valuable lessons contained within each.

‘Evaluating Board Texture' | Podcast #29

Podcast Mission

My mission for today is to show you how having at least a little equity can make your barrel bluffs easier to make and more profitable.

7 Step Process for getting the most from Skill #5: ‘Evaluating Board Texture'


  • Title: Skill #5. Evaluating Board Texture; Once the flop comes, everything changes; 
  • 23 pages long
  • Headers: Static Boards vs Dynamic Boards
    • Dry versus wet boards
    • Two non-Ace wheel cards
    • Monochrome boards
    • Boards With (or without) key cards
    • Multi-way Pots and Loose Games

Set a Goal

Now that we have a basic understanding of the chapter, we want to read productively and effectively.  To do this, I’ve devised 3 questions, and finding the answers to these is our goal while reading.

  • What skills can I learn from this chapter? We’re obviously going to learn how to tackle different boards textures, which is super important for post-flop play.
  • Why are these skills important or relevant to my game? Well, a hand is clearly better than another one pre-flop, but we all know that the flop changes everything.  So, understanding how different hands and ranges react to different flops will really allow us to exploit our opponent’s post-flop.
  • How can I implement these skills in my game? Let’s read and find out how we can employ more barreling in our game.


There’s so much great info to unpack in this episode regarding board texture.  You’ve got to get this book and read it for yourself.  But, there is one thing that Ed Miller said that I’d like to focus on:

  • You should restrict your bluff barrels to those times you hold a hand that also has a piece of the board.

This is a very interesting concept.  Yesterday we discussed barreling as something that can get opp’s off of their weak hands and ranges with no regard to our hand.  But now he says we should restrict it to when we’ve got a piece of the board, or in other words, a bit of equity or drawing equity.  So it’s not just a bluff, but a semi-bluff.  This means that we don’t have anything yet, but we fire in the hopes that he’ll fold or we’ll hit our draw.

Summarize and Analyze

  • You’re better off barreling opponents when you’ve got at least a little bit of equity or drawing equity so that if you get called, you can continue barreling on cards that add equity to your hand. This idea of equity when called is something I’ve discussed before and I first heard that term, “equity when called” from Ed Miller.  I discussed it a bit back in episode 25 when I helped Sam fix his leak of playing weak hands OOP on the flop.
  • Barreling with equity allows you to continue firing the turn when the card that comes adds to your equity. Looking at a quick example, say you’ve got A8c and you’re IP as the pfr.  The flop comes down 679 w/one club, so you’ve got an open-ended str8 draw, a bdfd and an A gives you TP (sure it’s a weak kicker but it’s still top pair that beats almost any pair that called your flop bet).  So if you cbet the flop, on the turn there are so many cards that add to your equity or complete a made hand.  Any 5, T, A or club allows you to keep firing, some for value and some as a semi-bluff.
  • If one of these turn cards hits, then a barrel here is great for many reasons: he can fold to your turn bet if you haven’t made a hand yet, you can still hit your draw on the river and win the hand, or you can get value out of your made hand if you hit the str8 on the turn.
  • What if the turn doesn’t add any equity? What if it’s a blank like the 2s?  Well, your flop cbet will likely cause your opp to check to you in which case you can check behind and realize all your drawing equity b/c you get to see the river card for free, didn’t cost you anything extra to see all the boards cards.
  • One of the great things about barreling with equity is that when you finally hit your runner-runner or one card draw on the river, your opp will never see it coming and you can extract max value from him.

To analyze these barreling opportunities with equity, we’ll review a super common situation that occurs multiple times every session: we’re HU on the flop, IP as the pfr without a made hand.  So you’ll want to filter for that in your poker tracking software, but you’ll also want to look at instances where we had some drawing equity, so look at bdsd and bdfd along with normal fd’s of any strength.  Here's my filter:

barreling with equity

Now that we have these hands filtered, we want to review them.  As we review them we need to consider the following questions to determine the likely success of our semi-bluff:

  1. Considering the board, your equity when called and your opp’s range and his flop stats, is this a good spot to semi-bluff the flop?
  2. What turn cards add to our equity and allow us to fire the 2nd barrel?
  3. If our turn barrel didn’t succeed, will a river barrel succeed?
  4. If we got blown off the hand by a c/r or a donk bet at some point, why? Did we have enough equity to call his bet?

Take Action

Now for the most important part in this whole process – taking action on what we’ve learned.

So, we’ve done some analyzing of semi-bluff opportunities, and now it’s time to put our findings to the test and practice them in a few FOCUS sessions.  And seeing as how we always try to play IP as the pfr, we should have plenty of opportunities to practice this.

Make sure you’ve got some good bd equity or your opp folds a lot to cbets.  Flop honesty is great to exploit, but if he’s turn honest then make sure you’ve got the balls to barrel the turn, and having lots of cards that can come on the turn that add to our equity makes firing that second barrel easier.

Be sensible in the hands you choose to barrel and consider the likelihood that it will succeed before you bet.  Have a reason for every bet you make with a reasonable expectation that he’ll fold.  If he ain’t folding and you can’t beat him, don’t bet.  Save the chips and put them to better use later in profitable spots.

At the end of your session, answer the following Q’s:

  • How do I feel about the session played?
  • How did I like employing the skills learned?
  • Do I think this skill has some value and does it merit further review before fully integrating it into my repertoire?


The next day you’ll do an assessment of your session in a HH review.  If you recorded game tape, then review it.  Take into considerations all of the same questions we already covered in the analyzing portion of this podcast.  Post difficult spots in forums or ask your poker buddies about them.

Rinse, Repeat, Review

Now that you’ve made the initial assessment, it’s time to take action again in another session and try to barrel your weak opp’s off of their hands.  Use this new skill and make any adjustments you want to make, and then assess again afterwards.  We’re just going to repeat steps 5-7 until we decide to fully commit to this new skill of value extraction.


Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Purposely play at least 2 sessions where your focus is on making flop semi-bluffs with some bd equity.  Follow-up each of these sessions with HH reviews on each of your semi-bluff opportunities and determine if you were making good, reasoned decisions.

Purchase your own copy of ‘The Course'.

Check out the rest of the episodes in this 11-part series:

  1. How to Learn from Poker Strategy Books
  2. Play a Simple and Effective Preflop Strategy | Skill #1
  3. Don't Pay People Off | Skill #2
  4. Assess Your Hand Value | Skill #3
  5. Barreling | Skill #4
  6. Evaluating Board Texture | Skill #5
  7. Making LIVE Reads | Skill #6
  8. Emotional Numbing | Skill #7
  9. Exploiting Aggression | Skill #8
  10. Playing Deep | Skill #9
  11. Taking on the Pros | Skill #10


Sky Matsuhashi

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