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This is the second part of our series on Playing the Flop, which we introduced in the previous issue of GamingToday.

Playing Texas hold’em, you have decided to stay to see the flop in accordance with Step I of the Two-Step Concept. Now, you wait anxiously to see the three face-up community cards on the flop. At that point, you will have seen five of your final hand cards – over 70%. Using all that information, figure your outs. Last issue, we discussed how the number of outs determines how you should best play your hand on the flop.

In that regard, it is of interest to understand what those three cards might be. What is the probability (percent of the time) various combinations will fall on the flop? What are the odds? (See the chart.) Of course, your main interest is how well these three cards fit along with your two starting-hand holecards.

What are the odds?
The Flop Contains

Odds Against

Percent Comments
A pair 5-to-1 17% Opponent could have trips or better
Three suited cards 18-to-1 5.2% Opponent could have a flush
Two cards of the same suit 0.8-to-1 55% Opponent could have draw to flush
Three different suits 1.5-to-1 40% Often termed “rainbow”
Three cards in sequence 28-to-1 3.5% Watch out for a straight
Two cards in sequence 1.5-to-1 40% Often gives a draw to a straight
None in sequence 0.8-to-1 55% Happens so often
Three cards of the same rank 424-to-1 0.24% Oh so rare, Caution is advised

As you view the flopped cards, ask yourself two questions:

(1) How does this flop help my hand? Remember, in order to stay in the pot according to our Two-Step Concept, the flop must improve your hand to warrant possible further investment; and,

(2) Assuming the flop does improve your hand to a significant extent, how might this flop have affected each of your opponents’ hands?

If one open-bets or raises, take into consideration how he has played his hand thus far, and the type of player he is. If he is a deceptive/aggressive player, he may be trying to steal the pot. Look for tells. You might give some thought to raising to isolate him from the others who have yet to act. On the other hand, an opening bet or a raise by a tight player must be respected; he may very well have caught a monster. Give him due respect. Mucking your hand could very well save you lots of chips.

Reviewing the chart above, note that the flops most to fear are those with the higher odds against them falling. What if such a flop improves both your hand and, possibly, that of an opponent? Be cautious. Consider open-betting for information. How he responds may be key to how best to play that hand from here on.

Three cards of the same rank would be great for you if you hold the fourth of that rank, a big pair in the hole, or an Ace. But, the same applies to your opponents; hopefully, none of your opponents has a big pair in the hole, or gets lucky to pair up one of his two holecards on the turn or the river – unless you pair up your big Ace in the hole.

Three suited flopped cards – also quite rare – is great for you if you hold two more of that suit as your holecards. But even a lonely Ace (the nut flush), or probably also a King of that suit, would give you a winner if another of that suit falls on the turn or the river. At that point, with nine outs your card odds would be less than 2-to-1 against you. A good move would be to raise if three or more opponents have already called to see the turn. If you don’t connect on the turn, you might even want to raise as a semi-bluff.

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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