How to Play the Flop

How to Play the Flop

Once you have seen the flop you should be able to plan ahead for how you are going to play the hand.  Depending on how well you hit the flop, the type of board, and the number of opponents in the hand, it should directly affect how you play the hand.

Unfortunately, you’re going to miss the flop more than 60% of the time.  I always recommend c-betting if two or less opponents have checked in front of you.  This is particularly true if you have still have two overcards to the board or a high A such as AK on 7-10-4.  The chances are that they’ve probably missed too, or they don’t have a strong enough hand to confidently raise out of position with (bottom pair or some sort of draw like 6s-7s on 8-4-J board).  This means that you probably still have the best hand since raising pre-flop and it’s good practice to build up the size of the pot whilst you’re ahead.  Your “outs” combined with your fold equity and position on opponents all mean that you are likely to win these types of pots in the long run.

With TPTK, such as AQ on Q-J-6, you’re probably far ahead of your opponents.  You should be playing TPTK hard and fast with regards to building up the pot and eliminating drawing hands.  The reason that you must avoid slow-playing for instance by check-raising first to act is because TPTK is not that strong a hand.  Remember, TPTK is only a pair at the end of the day and there are many other hands that beat you such as two pair, sets or straight/flush draws on the table.  If you opponent has a medium strength draw like 10J on a Q-8-8 board then the last thing that you want to do is give your opponent favourable pot-odds to draw with.  Even if you have TPTK, it can still be undone by a turn that brings a pair to the board and improves your opponent’s equity.  Situations like these make TPTK very unplayable because not only is your actual hand strength reduced but you also make yourself more susceptible to the bluff-raise.  Flops that carry two cards of the same suit are likewise dangerous boards which need to be taken down quickly.

Semi-bluffing the flop for value with a medium strength hand like mid-pair or a straight draw and overcards to the board is a great tactic.  You should be check-raising out of position against opponents with a high c-bet% for a number of reasons.  First of all, your opponent cannot afford to re-raise your raise regardless of your hand since the equity will actually be in your favour.  He’s also unlikely to raise you even if he’s caught a monster hand like quads since he will favour slow-playing it and possibly keeping others in the pot.  Secondly, if your opponent has a high c-bet% (e.g. above 50%) then he’s probably betting with air a lot of the time and will be folding to aggression, for this I also recommend looking at his Fold to c-bet% stat (if you’re using a HUD) to see how weak he is. Thirdly, check-raising medium hands for value will pay off much more when you hit your two-pair or complete your straight draw on the river since your opponent won’t believe you when you make it.  Check-raising 8s-Js on a 9s-Qd-4s board for example will make it look extremely unlikely that you have a flush draw, since the majority of regs would check/call draws to see the next card cheaply.  Lastly, check-raising opponents enables you to “buy” your position.  Having to act first out of position on the flop, turn and river can make certain hands very hard to play particularly when you miss the board.  By check-raising however, you buy your position back and force your opponent to make a move after you instead of the other way round.

If you hit the nuts such as quads, full house or the Ace high flush on the flop for example, then now is the time to slow-play pots.  Because you are certain that you are ahead, and there is a next to nothing chance of being outdrawn, you can happily give opponents a free card to help them to catch up with you or simply call out aggressive opponents c-bets.  Your aim when you have an unbeatable hand like a set on an inconnected rainbow flop should be to keep as many opponents in the hand as possible and let it build up naturally whilst keeping your hand own hand strength camouflaged.  Another reason that you to slow-play hands like full house is that it makes it less likely for your opponent to catch something.  For example, if you have 77 on a 799 flop, then it makes it very unlikely your opponent is going to have hit something or be opening on it.  He’ll definitely be c-betting with AJ+ or pocket pairs, but asides from that you can’t expect much action.  By checking the board and giving him a free card however, you can at least give him the opportunity to bluff it or even hit a pair on the turn.