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The flop is undoubtedly the most important part of a hold’em poker game. These three cards that the dealer neatly places face-up on the board, combined with your two holecards, represent over 70% of your final holding. If your hand is well ahead on the flop, the odds are you will win that pot at the showdown – more often than not.

Very important, the round of betting on the flop is critical as to whether or not you win that hand, and how big the pot becomes. Indeed, that betting round is vital to your poker success. Not only do you want to win as many hands as possible, but you would like those pots to grow as big as possible to fill your racks.

The Two-Step Concept, described in the Aug. 15, 2017 issue of Gaming Today, requires (Step 1) that you select a playable starting-hand – the Hold’em Algorithm helps; and then (Step 2), continue in the hand if it improves enough to warrant further investment, but fold if it’s a cold flop (unless everyone checks and you get a free card).

We will assume you used the Hold’em Algorithm (or equivalent) to select a decent starting hand, and your two pre-flop holecards was not a made hand (A-A, K-K, and Q-Q – which are quite rare). The dealer then places the three community flop cards face-up on the board. Now, here’s the big question: After the flop, assuming you have a drawing hand (which is quite common), how can you best decide whether or not to invest more of your precious chips – hoping your hand will further improve to take the pot?

Key to making that decision is the number of outs you hold – the unseen cards that would give you a strong, made hand. You have two shots at it – the turn and the river.

Five outs

After the flop, if you don’t connect with a big pair or better, and count only five or fewer outs, do not hesitate to fold your hand – unless: You can stay to see the turn if the opponent to your immediate left bets and several others call, so it’s just a single bet to you; or, if it’s checked all around. (Never refuse a free card. You never know what the turn may bring.)

Six outs

You have two overcards to the flop. (Both of your holecards are higher than any of the three face-up cards on the flop.) That gives you six outs. Call a single bet if it’s a multiway pot (three or more opponents staying to see the turn); but fold to a raise. Six outs aren’t worth a double-bet investment. Before acting, it would be wise to look to your left for any tells that could “inform” you that an opponent is planning to raise; if so, muck your hand without saying a word to anyone.

Seven outs

Same as with six.

Eight outs

You have an open-end straight draw – eight outs. The odds against connecting on the turn or the river are only 2.2-to-1 against you. You certainly want to play that hand, even if there is a raise. What’s more, you ought to consider making a raise after three opponents have already bet. Inevitably, they will call your raise. That gives you “money odds” higher than your card odds for a Positive Expectancy for that raise. If you do not connect on the turn, just call to see the river – unless you decide to go for a semi-bluff.

Nine outs

That’s four-to-a-flush; the card odds are only 1.86-to-1 against you. Play this hand the same way you would with eight outs (above).

Ten or more outs

On the flop and afterward, play it the same as you would for eight or nine outs.

Next issue: Part II will discuss the probability of various possible cards falling on the flop.

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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