How to extract
the most info
out of the flop

Feb 13, 2006 10:31 PM

Just a quick reminder that there are a few seats left for readers who would like free personal poker lessons, which I’ll be offering at Green Valley Ranch Station, on Saturday, Feb. 25.

The morning session will begin at 9:30 in the poker room and if you’d like a seat, call Gaming Today at (702) 798-1151 to register your name.

If you can’t make this session, we’ll be offering lessons in the upcoming months as well.

Last week we discussed the importance of position in evaluating your starting hand and shaping your strategy, vis-à-vis, whether or not you should play your starting hand.

This week we’ll explore evaluating your hand after the flop, as well as evaluating the potential hands of the other players at the table.

Obviously, the flop will reveal a vast amount of information, but there’s still going to be guesswork involved.

Your two immediate goals after the flop are determining the strength of your hand, and determining what the best possible hand is at that point.

For instance, say you’re holding A-7, which you called from a late position, and the flop comes A-2-9. The good news is you’ve flopped the top pair (aces), although your kicker (7) is potentially low, compared to a player who might be holding an A-10.

Thus, betting the aces would be in order, but if your bet brings a raise, it’s better at this point to not challenge (simply call) and maybe even act like you don’t have a good hand or you’re bluffing. This puts the onus on your opponent.

On the other hand, if you bet and your opponent comes over you heavily (makes a large raise), then it might be wise at this point to concede you might not have the best hand, and need to make a decision based on who your opponent is and how he plays. (Always be aware of your competitors and how they play.)

Now, assume the same A-7 hand but the flop comes K-J-7. Ordinarily, the third best pair isn’t where you want to be, but if you’re in late position and everyone checks to you, you might bet it anyway.

Also — and this is important — if you have a flush or open-ended straight draw plus a small pair, you might want to bet it as well.

Now that you see what your hand is and what it can be, turn your attention to determining what the best possible hand is at this moment. In this example, it’s three kings.

But if the flop revealed a 9 or an ace in place of the 7, then the best possible hand would be a straight (assuming the cards are unsuited).

If the cards were suited, then the best possible hand would be a flush or even a straight flush.

Now you must start thinking about what your opponent might be holding, keeping in mind what is the best possible hand he could have.

Naturally, much of this is guesswork, based on how the opponent has bet in the past and how much experience you’ve gained playing against him.

Overall, your goal is to always try to draw for the best possible hand, rather than drawing for a hand that, even if you make it, could be beaten by your opponent’s.

Equally important is trying to lessen the draw, that is, giving yourself as many "winning" possibilities (called "outs") as possible, especially if you don’t have the "nut" hand (the hand that can’t lose, such as an ace-high flush).

Determining your outs is really quite easy, requiring the simplest of math: simply figure out the cards that will complete your hand as well as your opponent’s hand.

For instance, if you’re holding J-10 suited (both are hearts) and the flop comes 8-9 suited (hearts) and jack (off-suit), you have top pair (jacks) and a straight flush draw (meaning a straight, flush or straight flush draw).

In this case you have 20 outs — cards that can give you a potential winning hand. They include eight cards to the straight (four queens and four 7’s), nine cards to the flush and three more to the straight flush.

Having 20 outs and two chances (the turn and river) is a good position to be in. Incidentally, this is why players love middle suited connectors.

I hope these examples give you an idea of how to go about evaluating your hand after the flop.

Also, keep these thoughts in mind. Usually, when players bet on the flop, it’s a smaller amount than on the turn or river. Thus, you have to be much more cautious at the turn and river.

Also, be very cautious of drawing for a straight or a flush if there is a pair showing on the flop. The reason? There could be a full house lurking. These situations can be a potential minefield. Many times you could be drawing dead in this situation, a position you don’t ever want to do.

But we’ll get into the art of betting next week — when to bet, how to bet and how to use betting.

Betting, in essence, is what hold’em poker, especially no limit, is all about. The topic deserves careful consideration.

But for now, remember to let poker be your hobby, enjoy yourself and be happy.