What is ‘Playing the Board’?
‘Playing the board’ is a phrase most associated with hold’ em poker and similar community card games. In poker, if a player is said to be ‘playing the board’, they have made their five card hand using all the available community cards at the table, and none of the hole cards are included in the hand. One or more players could ‘play the board’ in the same game.
‘Playing the Board’ Explained
In hold ’em poker, players receive a mixture of personal cards in their hand and community cards on the table. Two cards are dealt to the player, which remain hidden from everyone else, and five cards are dealt face down to the table. At the flop, turn and river, these community cards are revealed and players can bet on the best five cards they hold out of the seven available to them. There are usually four betting rounds, and then the hands are ranked against each other in the final round.
A player usually uses a mixture of their hole cards, or hidden cards, and the five on the table. However, some players might make their hand with all five community cards – known as ‘playing the board’ – if they cannot better it with one from their hand. If the community cards pull up a five card flush for example, a player may well play the board and use that flush. The danger of using all five cards is that other players might also do the same – at which point it might come down to a tiebreak and be decided on a single high card from the unused pair. A flush at the river might also be bettered if another player has the court cards to complete that flush, so playing the board is not always a safe bet.