This is the third in a continuing poker series. Part I discussed the four basic rules of winning. Part II of this series examined strategies for pre-flop play. Today, let’s discuss strategies on the flop.
On the Flop
Whatever hand you started with, rethink your strategy.
• Protect Your Hand or Build the Pot? – With a Made Hand that is likely in the lead, protect it by betting or raising. But, if your hand is very strong, consider slow-playing to build the pot; let your opponents do the betting. Don’t chase anyone out. Wait for the turn.
• Stealing the Pot – It’s legal! If the flop is not likely to have helped anyone, consider betting to steal the pot. Also, if no one raised pre-flop and a pair falls on the board with no single honor card, a bet may steal the pot – especially if its been checked to you and you have a tight image. The easy win will pay for several blinds.
• Continuation Betting – If you had raised pre-flop, a continuation bet on the flop can take the pot or reduce the number of opponents competing against you. Don’t continuation bet too often; your opponents then will expect it and it will lose effectiveness. Don’t bet if you flop a monster. Then you want opponents to stay in to contribute more chips; check or call any bets.
• Early-Position Bets – An early-position opponent bets out on the flop. If he’s a tight player, chances are he has a strong hand; think about folding unless your hand warrants a raise. If he’s a loose player, let your cards determine your best action. (See below.) Call a deceptive opponent if you have at least six outs (e.g., two over-cards to the board).
• Drawing Hands After the Flop – usually must improve to win the pot. Estimate the pot odds and card odds to decide how best to respond to an opponent’s bet. If you have a strong drawing hand – six or more outs – with which you might go to the river, multiply your outs by 4. This approximates the probability of making your hand. Then estimate your card odds:
100 - Probability
Compare this with the implied pot odds (the ratio of the money you could win at showdown to your cost to call this bet). If the pot odds are greater than the card odds, you have a Positive Expectation; call the bet. But if you have few outs – a very long shot, don’t chase. Don’t gamble! Fold. But, if everyone checks, never refuse free cards. Holding two over-cards to the board, call a single bet if it’s a multi-way pot; fold to a raise.
• Using the Betting Odds – Suppose you flopped an open-ended straight draw or four-to-the-nut-flush, giving you at least eight outs. Your card odds are about 2-to-1 against making presumably the winning hand on the turn or the river. If three or more opponents have already bet, then a raise will increase your long-term winnings as these opponents will call your raise. You are getting 3-to-1 (or more) Betting Odds while the card odds are only 2-to-1 against you – a Positive-Expectation bet!
• An Opponent Raises on the Flop – Try to "read" his hand based on previous actions, the type of player he is and any tells you observe. Be cautious if he is tight. At the other extreme, if a maniac raises, he could hold almost anything. Likely you have him beat. Consider reraising. Observe your opponents as you bet; look for tells. In this situation, always call a deceptive (tricky) opponent unless you believe he has you beat.
Next time we will examine strategies for betting on the turn.
George "The Engineer" Epstein can be contacted at [email protected].
You can try out your strategy by playing our free live online poker.