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After you’ve navigated the preflop betting round, the first three community cards, called the flop, are dealt. At this point in the hand, you start to get an idea of how strong your hand is and how it could impact your opponent’s hand.
Identifying which flops are good for your range and, subsequently, your opponents, enables you to make better decisions on the flop and later streets. In this guide, we’ll look at how to categorize flops, what decisions you should make based on your hand strength, and tips to help you improve your flop play.
The flop is the second betting round, where three cards are dealt face-up after the first betting round. These three cards will dictate your hand and the rest of the round.
There are many successful pre-flop strategies, but many post-flop strategies, too. Let’s run through the various plays you should remember when betting post-flop.
Once the three cards are dealt, you must decide how to approach the round. Here are some questions you should be asking once the first cards are laid:
A straight draw is four of the five cards needed to make a straight, which is the hand that contains five cards of sequential rank but not of the same suit.
This is four of the five cards needed to make a flush, which is five cards of the same suit.
As soon as the flop is out, you need to understand your drawing possibilities. If you have a good chance of hitting a straight or a flush, you want to get there as cheaply as possible. So you need to consider your chances and bet accordingly. If you’re facing a hefty raise, think twice before betting again; if there’s no raise, you’re in a great position to draw to that stronger hand.
If you’re on a straight or a flush draw, consider making a slight raise to stop your opponent from taking control of the betting with a marginal hand. Even if they call your raise, you’re still in a good position. Once you hit your straight or flush, you should raise again. Obviously, you need to consider the action at the table and if an opponent could have a stronger or similar hand.
When you hear people talking about flops, you may hear them talking about the “board texture.” They are referring to how the communal cards on the flop interact with each other, and there are several different words we use to categorize them:
As you can see, some of the definitions overlap somewhat, such as “wet” and “connected.” You’ll find that most people just use “wet” and “dry” to describe flops, so as long as you know the differences between those, you’ll be fine.
Once the flop has been dealt, one of the first things we should do is look at how it impacts our hand.
Our post-flop hand strength is one of the major factors in deciding what action to take. Therefore, it’s crucial that you have a good understanding of where your hand falls within these three categories:
The first category we’ll look at is “made hands.” In these situations, your hand has flopped a decent or significant amount of equity and is strong enough to continue against a bet from your opponent. Let’s take a closer look at the type of made hands you can have on the flop.
As there are several different made hands that you can have, learning how to play them can be tricky. The best way to learn is to take the time to consider each important variable before making your decision.
If you think through each of these and how it applies to the hand, the action you need to take should become clear. Here are the three most important things to consider when playing a made hand on the flop.
The first thing you should look at is the strength of your hand. Generally, the better your hand is, the more often you should bet. This is because you want to build a pot when you have a strong hand to get as much value from your opponents as possible.
However, as we’ve seen above, not all made hands are strong enough to be bet for value. Therefore, if you have one of the marginal hands, sometimes the best play is to check and keep the pot small.
The next thing to consider is the strength of your opponent’s range. It doesn’t matter how strong your hand is; if your opponent doesn’t have a hand to call you with, you won’t make any money! This is why you should always collectively consider the strength of your hand and your opponent’s range.
For example, if you have a monster hand that’s almost certain to win, but your opponent has a weak range, why would you bet, knowing that they’re going to fold most of the time? Instead, a better option may be to check and hope they improve to a marginally worse hand than yours. Hell, maybe they get frisky and decide to bluff at the pot!
Another critical factor in deciding how to play your hand is your opponent’s playing style. Some people play in such a way that you should dramatically adjust your strategy to try and exploit them. One of the best examples of this is the “maniac” player.
These players will barrel off for three streets with absolute air in almost every hand as they try and bully the table. Now, if you have a strong hand that you would often bet, the best option may be to slowplay when you’re up against one of these maniacs. By slowplaying, you allow your opponent to bluff into you, giving you three extra streets of value you may not have gotten if you bet yourself.
We’ve already discussed drawing hands; however, not all draws were created equal. Some draws are stronger and have more equity than others, so they should be played in different ways. It’s essential to understand how strong your draw is before you make your decision; otherwise, you risk overplaying your hand and making a mistake.
How you play your drawing hands will depend on what kind of draw you have, your position relative to your opponent, and how strong you think your opponent’s range is. You should always consider these three factors before deciding whether to make a bet, and there’s a specific order that you should consider them. Let’s take a closer look.
The first thing you should always consider is how strong you think your opponent’s range is. If you believe your opponent has lots of strong hands on a particular flop, you’ll want to bluff with your draws less often and try to make them as cheaply as possible. However, suppose you think your opponent is weak on a specific flop. In that case, you should bet your draws aggressively, as it’s more likely your opponent will fold, and you’ll win the pot.
The next thing to consider is how strong your draw is. The stronger the draw, the more equity you’ll have against your opponent’s range (even if they have a strong range), which means you can bet more aggressively. Bluffing aggressively on the flop is great if you’ve got a draw like an open-ended straight flush draw but is riskier if you’ve got a weak draw like a gutshot.
Therefore, you should always consider how strong your draw is against your opponent’s range. You should bluff your weaker draws less frequently if your opponent has a strong range.
The last thing you need to consider is your relative position at the table. When you’re in position, you can control the pot more effectively and keep the pot small when you want to make your draw. However, when you’re out of position, there’s always a chance your opponent will raise, so you need to be prepared for that.
So, again, we should consider the other two factors before deciding. For example, suppose we’re out of position with a weak-medium draw against an opponent with a strong range. In that case, we’re better off checking rather than betting. If we bet, our opponent could raise, blowing us off our equity, but if we check, we give ourselves the option to just call their bet, allowing us to draw more cheaply.
Unmade hands are the worst of the bunch. These are hands that haven’t flopped a pair or any meaningful draw and, in essence, are absolute garbage. Think of a hand like 8❤️7❤️ on a flop of A♠K♠J♣; there’s absolutely nothing going for it. Picking the unmade hands to bluff with on the flop is an important skill.
In these situations, you have two options. You can either give up, check the hand, and fold it to any aggression, or you can bluff at it.
You’ll want to strike a balance between giving up and bluffing. If you bluff too often, your opponent will always call you down. If you never bluff, your opponent will never call you. Picking the unmade hands to bluff with on the flop is an important skill, and there are things that you should look for in your unmade hands that make them more attractive bluffing candidates.
If your unmade hand has an overcard to the flop, this makes it a decent bluffing candidate. Why? Because if you get lucky, you can make top pair on the turn or river, which sometimes gives you the best hand! When bluffing, it’s always better to give yourself a chance to make the best hand, even if it’s slim. Bluffing with the possibility of making top pair is far better than bluffing with low cards, where the best you can make is 2nd or 3rd pair.
If you do have low cards, that doesn’t mean you should never bluff with them. Some of these low cards have “backdoor draws,” which means that if you catch running cards on the turn and river, you can make a strong hand like a straight or a flush.
For example, if you have 7❤️6❤️ on a board of A❤️K♣Q♠, you have three cards to a flush. If you bluff on the flop and a heart comes on the turn, you’ve upgraded your hand to a bonafide flush draw! If you bluff again on the turn, there’s a chance that if you’re called, another heart will come on the river, giving you what’s likely to be the best hand.
Knowing what hands you should or shouldn’t be bluffing with isn’t the only thing you need to know when c-betting with an unmade hand. When considering whether or not to bet your draws, you need to consider the hands your opponent can have in their range.
The stronger your opponent’s range is, the less often you should bluff, as it will work less often! On the other hand, if you think your opponent’s range is particularly weak, you should up your bluffing frequency, as it’s more likely to work.
Hand reading can be tough, but it’s essential for knowing what hands your opponent is likely to have in any given situation. If you want to better understand poker ranges and how they work, you should read our article on poker ranges.
Knowing when to bet on the flop can be complicated, as there are many things you must consider before making your decision. However, knowing why you should or shouldn’t bet makes it easier to identify what you should do with your hand. Let’s look at what those reasons are.
By running your hand through each possible reason for betting or not betting, you should have a clearer idea of how your hand should be played. Check out our in-depth guide to betting for more info.
Here are some situations you could find yourself in and how to play the round.
If you’re holding on to one of these combos, you should bet out if there is no action before you. If you are called, it’s worth seeing what the card shows on the turn. If you are raised, the safest play would be to fold with these cards. However, if it’s a standard raise, it’s worth considering calling with top pair. In most cases, fold any other combos.
If you have one of these hands, you’re in an excellent position, so you should raise. But you want to avoid offering your opponent correct pot odds to draw, so make a sizable bet. Remember: You want to avoid giving your opponents a chance to catch the next card. If you slowplay, your hand could become weaker.
If you find yourself holding one of these hands, you’re in a fantastic position. In this situation, you want to bet out in a bid to get as much money into the pot as possible since you have a good chance of scooping a sizable pot. You could slow play here, but it’s better to go for pot size. If you have a weak flush, you should still bet to take advantage of those looking to call with on a bigger draw.
If you’re holding one of these hands, then you’re surely in a winning position. However, these hands come along infrequently, so you want to take full advantage. Consider slowplaying and allow other cards to come out. You want to increase the pot size to its maximum potential. If you only take a small pot with a strong hand like this, it’s almost a waste.
There’s plenty to think about when the flop comes down. First and foremost, you should always have your opponents in mind and consider what hands they could hold. This means taking note of their action on the flop and assuming your opponent has a drawing hand.
You should never get attached to your good hands either; if your opponent shows a lot of strength, you must let the good hands go. Furthermore, it all comes down to reading the situation and playing smart. Don’t rely on luck.
When making decisions on the flop, consider using conventional poker strategy against your opponents by giving them incorrect odds to call with a draw. For example, on wet, draw-heavy flops like J♣10♣8♠7♠8♠10❤️ etc., it’s better to use a large sizing with your strong hands, as it gives your opponents the wrong odds to call.
For example, if the pot on the flop is $10, it’s perfectly fine to use full pot sizing on draw-heavy boards. If your opponent has to call $10 into a $10 pot, they’re getting immediate odds of 2-1, meaning they have to make their hand 1 in 3 times (33%) for it to be a profitable call. However, if they have a hand like a flush draw or a straight draw, they’ll only make their hand around 20% of the time.
This means that if they call, they’re making a mathematical mistake, and you’re making money with your bet.
After the flop comes down and you can see a five-card hand, it’s easy to get caught up in your own and not consider what your opponent has. However, deciding the best strategy for your hand cannot be done in a vacuum. Having an idea of the range of hands your opponent can have will allow you to make the best decision.
For example, if your opponent will not continue against a bet, you may want to check your strong hand instead of blindly betting it for value. You also need to consider the type of opponent they are – are they tight or loose, passive or aggressive? Knowing these traits will help you better understand what hands your opponent is likely to have in any given situation.
Many beginner players try to put their opponent on one single hand and then play as if their opponent has that hand. In reality, that is a very tough thing to do, as players will often play a variety of hands in the exact same way. This is why you need to consider ranges and all the hands your opponent can have, given how the hand has played out.
If you think your opponent has one specific hand, but they don’t, it could lead to you making catastrophic errors in how you play your hand. However, by thinking in terms of ranges, you are more likely to make the overall right decision.
Sometimes in poker, you just have to let good hands go. When your opponent displays a lot of strength, you need to pay attention and continue with the very best hands you have in your range. Deceptively middling hands like TPTK or an overpair sometimes need to be folded on the flop if the board is wet. While it’s tough to do, don’t be afraid to make a big fold from time to time.
How you play on the flop sets you up for the rest of the post-flop betting rounds, so it’s vital that you learn how to play this street well. When thinking about your and your opponent’s hands, think about ranges.
Now that you’ve mastered flop play (of sorts), check out our other articles on betting, poker ranges, pot odds, and 3betting to round out your poker knowledge.
Jackpot! You’ve flopped a winning hand! This article has surely added some extra chips to your stack. Tune in for more valuable insights and pro-level strategies!
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Yes, the dealer must always discard (or “burn”) the top card on the deck before dealing with the flop, turn, or river.
There are a variety of strategies that a player can utilize in order to make good decisions at the table. The key is to evaluate your hand, consider your position at the table, think about what your opponents might have, and think about how they bet pre-flop.
The frequency at which you should bluff the flop should depend heavily on the board texture and how it interacts with your range. On boards that are good for your range, you should bluff often, but on boards that are better for your opponent’s range, you should bluff less frequently.
The frequency at which you should bet the flop will depend on the board texture, your position, and whether or not you were the preflop raiser. Generally, as the preflop raiser, you should be betting the flop fairly often – a little over half the time.
No! This is a common mistake made by beginner players. Betting pre-flop with less than optimal cards just top see if you can land a pair will get you into trouble. On the flip side of that, if you have a strong hand and believe you can get out of it with some chips before your opponent has a chance to see the flop, take it!
There are four actions you can take on the flop. You can check or bet if no one has made a bet before you, or you can fold or raise if another player has already made a bet.
Flopping the nuts is when you flop the best possible hand there is. For example, if the flop comes 9d8c7s, the best hand is a jack-high straight, so if you have JT, you have “flopped the nuts.”
The flop in poker refers to the first three of the community cards that are flipped face up for the whole table to see. Once these cards are flipped, the second round of betting ensues.
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