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The Two-Step is a poker concept to help you win more. There are two steps during which you must make key decisions:

• Do your hole cards deserve investment preflop?

• Does the flop warrant continued investment in that hand?

Step 1 is relatively easy to implement. Just use the Hold’em Algorithm in my book. Superficially, Step 2 appears quite straightforward: If the flop helped your hand, consider investing further. The question here is how best to “invest further?”

While the Hold’em Algorithm (Step 1) involves a bit of simple math, the decision for Step 2 is much more complex. Let’s limit our discussion to drawing hands (“made” hands preflop are much less frequent) that were playable before the flop:

Folding on the Flop

If the flop doesn’t improve your hand, muck your hand – unless everyone checks, so you get to see the turn for free. To what extent must your hand improve to warrant betting, calling, or raising on the flop?

Below, we have listed the kind of hands that generally will be worth further investment. You might also stay to see the turn with two over cards to the board – if there are no raises in a multi-way pot.

You have six outs – the minimum we suggest to call a bet on the flop. A draw to a straight would provide at least eight outs; a flush draw, nine outs. With fewer than six outs, the chance of improving to a winning hand is not attractive; folding usually is best. Otherwise you are chasing; chasers are losers.

Flop top-pair

Starting with two non-paired hole cards, expect to pair up on the flop about one out of three times. If you started with two honor cards, catching top-pair is more likely. You may hold the best hand at this point. But, top-pair is, in fact, vulnerable.

Without an Ace in the hole, an opponent holding A-rag could overtake you when an Ace falls on the turn or river. The more small pairs and other drawing hands staying in the pot, the more likely you will lose.

With top-pair, your best play is to bet big or raise to force out those threatening hands. (Also, hope a card higher than your pair does not fall on the board.)

Flop two-pair

Certainly, two-pair on the flop is a much stronger hand than any single pair. Starting with two unpaired cards in the hole, the odds are about 50-to-1 against it. Top two-pair on the board is preferred over any other two-pair.

An opponent making a small pair on the flop, could catch a set on the turn or river. But, he can’t beat you if he mucked his hand preflop, in response to your raise – in conjunction with the Esther Bluff. (An ounce of prevention…)

Flop a big hand

Suppose you are lucky and catch trips (odds are about 75-to-1 against, according to Tom Green’s Texas Hold’em Poker Textbook; or better on the flop. As long as the board is not threatening (e.g., no flush or straight draws likely at this point), you are heavily favored to win this pot; make it as big as possible.

It’s even possible you might flop a straight or better – even a full-house. Rare indeed, but so beautiful to behold! Now, your goal is to build as big a pot as possible – especially if you hold the nuts.

Try to keep opponents in the hand. Perhaps one of your opponents will catch a strong hand – second to yours, of course. He has no idea what you have in the hole. Let him do the betting for you – until you raise him on the river.

Use every trick in your bag: slow-play; trap your opponents; check-raise – whatever will help you build the pot. In so doing, consider your opponent’s playing traits.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

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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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