Overpair Definition

Higher Pocket Pair - Over Pair

by Jesse Knight


Poker Overpair
Overpair - A pocket pair which is of a higher rank than any of the cards on the board.

When a player holds a pocket pair which is higher than any of the cards on the board, it is called an “over pair.” This term is typically used in flop games, most commonly in Hold’em games. An overpair is particularly valuable in a Hold’em game, because one pair often wins the pot. Much of the time, top pair with top kicker (TPTK) is strong enough to win the pot, and an overpair dominates top pair.

Premium pairs, like aces and kings, are much more likely to become an overpair after the flop than medium and small pairs. Sometimes your pocket pair will be an overpair on the flop, but will lose this status when an overcard hits the board on the turn or the river. When an overcard hits on the turn or the river, it is often referred to as a “scare card,” because it has the potential to beat anyone who previously held top pair, as well as certain overpairs. You need to respect overcards when they hit, but you should not necessarily just shut down, or check and muck. Just because an overcard hits the board, it doesn’t necessarily mean that any of your opponents have been able to pair up with it.

An overpair can be of any rank, so long as it is higher than every card on the board. Even so, overpairs are not all considered to be of equal quality. Generally speaking, the higher your overpair ranks, the better. Sometimes, on a given hand, there will be more than one overpair dealt. This often results in a lot of action, because both players may assume that the other holds top pair only, and that their hand is good. If both overpairs are premium pairs, (Aces versus kings for example) the potential for action increases further.

Sometimes your overpair will be no good, and you will need to get away from your hand as quickly and as cheaply as possible. This is especially true for tournament play or cash games with unstructured betting (like no-limit and pot-limit). If you fail to get away from your hand in these circumstances, the consequences can be devastating, because you can lose everything that you have in front of you.

Getting away from an overpair when it is no good requires excellent hand reading ability. Keep in mind that many players will represent an overpair or something stronger, even when they do not have you beat. It will be up to you to discern when they hold what they represent and when they do not. Luckily, your opponents often give you clues about what they are holding, or at least clues about how strong their hand is. If you are able to identify these clues, you will often be able to put your opponent on a hand. These clues are often referred to as “tells.” Excellent players are very adept reading tells and are often able to get away from their overpair when it is no good. Sometimes they are even able to muck a premium pair before flop when they are beat.

How well you play your large pairs can have a big impact on your bottom line. Conventional wisdom is that you want to be very aggressive before the flop with a premium pair, to try to thin the field and isolate. This will prevent your opponents from seeing the flop cheaply, and it will also prevent them from giving each other the proper pot odds to draw after the flop. The idea is to build as large of a pot as possible before the flop, with as few players as possible participating before the flop. This is how you give your hand protection.

Protecting a premium pair before the flop is as important as protecting your overpair after the flop. Your approach should be to bet the hand aggressively in both instances. However, if you do not hold pocket aces (the best possible starting hand) before the flop, you still need to proceed with caution, especially in a game with unstructured betting. In these games, overbetting a hand like pocket queens before the flop is often fatal. But so is underbetting such a hand. If you hold a premium pair, but aren’t sure if you are up against a slightly higher premium pair, often the best way to proceed is to make a standard raise. This forces your opponent to react to your raise right away, so that you can get a better read on the situation. If your opponent goes all in or makes a strong play back at you right away, there is a good chance that you are beat. If you believe that you are beat, you can get away from your hand for only the price of the initial raise. If you had chosen to play the hand more aggressively, you would not have this option.

Usage: Overpair On The Flop, Overpair Check Raised

Previous Poker Term: Overcard
Next Poker Term: Pass


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