Playing the Flop
The options that you have on the flop are similar to preflop:
Notice where your cards are in this list; not the first, not even in the first half of this list of considerations. If you ever listen to a good player as they discuss how they play or think through a hand, the first four will often not even be mentioned. This is not because they don't consider these items but it is because these things are already known, so the experienced player has taken these elements into consideration as the flop is being dealt. Even so, one or more of these first four considerations will be particularly important and will bear mentioning while evaluating the flop.
Styles and hands
- Player Style descriptions
- Tight/Aggressive style
- Starting Hands
- Playing the flop
- Playing the turn and river
Odds and Outs
- Count your Outs
- Pot Odds
- Odds on the Turn and River
- Using Percentages
- Bet sizing, expressed versus implied odds
Rules and terms
- How to play a game
- Poker hand rankings
- Terminology and definitions
For futher study
- No Limit Hold’em starting hands; the Next Generation
- My Aces got cracked!
- Can I fold KK preflop?
- How to play JJ?
- Playing AK, Big Slick
- Should I move up to avoid the bad players? Part I
- Way ahead / Way behind
- What is ABC poker?
The more players
there are in the pot, the stronger the hand you need to continue. If
you had AA preflop, the chances that your AA is still the best
hand decreases further and further the more opponents
there are that are still playing. Similarly even top pair on the flop
good hand against one opponent, but against 3 it may be second or even
2) If the pot was raised preflop, any active players likely have stronger starting hands, or at least fewer garbage hands, and you may need a stronger hand to continue, depending upon the flop texture and your opponents' styles.
3) If you raised preflop, then you should be betting the flop 70-80% of the time. You showed strength preflop, and you need to continue to do so, depending on the number of players, the texture of the flop, and your interpretation of your opponents. Betting in this situation is so common that it has a name; Continuation Betting, because you are continuing your representation of a strong hand.
If, however, you have more than one opponent still in the hand, then continuation betting is much less useful. This is because as soon as you have two opponents instead of one, there are automatically twice as many chances that someone now has a good enough hand to continue playing. Unless you have a "made" hand such as an overpair or top pair, or you have a good read on your opponents and you expect them both to fold easily, you should be less inclined to make a continuation bet when you have more than one opponent.
If you called someone else's raise preflop, you will not be expected to bet the flop but you might call or check and then call a bet if you have a good drawing hand or you think that the player who raised may not have a strong hand. You also might raise or check-raise with a good hand or as a semi-bluff.
4) If you are one of the first players to act, you might tend to check and possibly call a bet if you have something like J9 on a flop of J72; top pair without a strong second card. If you are the last to act and no one has bet, you might bet with anything because no one has shown interest. As in 3) you might also check-raise from early position against a player who habitually bets or raise from late position against a player who habitually bets.
5) and 6) work together and in conjunction with the other considerations. If the flop comes J22 and it was raised preflop, then it's unlikely that the flop helped anyone and a bet may take it down uncontested. If on the other hand the flop comes JT8 with two cards of the same suit, then there are all kinds of one pair with straight draws/two pair/pair with flush draw hands that may not fold. This is a difficult/dangerous flop if you raised with AA and have two callers.
7) Finally we come to your cards and the flop. 2 out of every 3 times any two unpaired cards are not going to connect with the flop. Keep that in mind when you raise AK and get flops like 36Q, or 67J. When you continuation bet flops like these you may very well have the best hand even though all you have is Ace high with overcards to the flop. Keep that in mind too when someone else raises preflop and you call with 99 and then they bet the flop. Your 99 may be the best hand.
8) We've already talked about playing opponents who habitually bet, but there are also tight opponents who habitually fold so against them you should bet most hands. There are also opponents who habitually call with low pairs or weak draws, so you should bet if you have a decent hand to make sure that they pay to see additional cards, and not bet with just overcards or pocket pairs lower than the cards in the flop since they won't fold.
9) In a tournament when your chip stack is very low, or if you decide to try to play cash games with the minimum buy in (called "short stacking"), all of your decisions should be made preflop. Either you raise and are prepared to go all in, or you fold. I didn't cover this in the Starting Hands section, but if you are playing with a chip stack of less than 10 big blinds, you should be pushing all in with any hands that you chose to play.
When to bet
I've already mentioned some of the situations where you might choose to bet at the flop.
How much to bet?
Okay, you've decided that you should bet, so the question is, how much? Complete answer: it depends.
In tournaments, especially when chip stacks get smaller relative to the blind size a bet of about 1/3 - 2/3 of the pot can be reasonable. Bet less and you give your opponent(s) little reason to fold, bet more and it can look suspicious or weak. In cash games the chip stacks size relative to blind size are usually deeper so 1/2 to full pot is reasonable. See the later section on outs and odds for more mathematics relating to pot to bet size ratios. If you have more than one opponent you should size your bet on the larger side because if one opponent calls then the next opponent has even more incentive to call because the pot is bigger compared to the bet size. The larger bet will help to deter the first opponent from calling and then if he does call your bet the next opponent doesn't get quite as good odds because you made the bet size larger to begin.
When you are playing against beginners you can adjust the size of your bets slightly because they probably won't notice. When you have a hand that you will fold if raised, make the bet on the smaller side. If you have a strong hand and the flop is dangerous, bet larger. If you have a monster and you want callers, bet smaller. Keep in mind that over time adjusting bet sizes in this way will telegraph information if anyone is paying attention, so you may want to mix up your sizing if you are playing the same players over a long period of time.
When to call
So someone before you bets, or you checked and someone after you has bet. When should you call?
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