Texas Holdem Flop Strategy
Besides the dealing of the pocket cards, and your decision to fold or hold them, the Flop is probably the most important moment in Texas Holdem. Three cards hit the board, often making “nut” hands out of weak pocket cards, and at times, making strong pocket cards useless. Your ability to read the flop will be a huge factor in your success in Texas Holdem.
Flopping 3 of a Kind
At the suggestion of a recent visitor, I am going to make a difference between “flopping a set“ and “flopping trips.“ First, flopping a set would be a situation where you hold a strong pair, such as KK, and the river comes K-A-6. Your monster 3 Kings are hidden, and anyone with an Ace is probably going to be putting in a raise, seeing top pair on the flop. The potential for this hand is amazing, and slow play would be a good option.
A similar situation we will call flopping trips. This would be a situation where you hold only one of the 3 cards as your pocket card. Say you hold AK suited, and the flop comes K-K-Q. Here again, you have 3 of a kind, but even so, we have to understand that this is a bit of a weaker hand. Anytime a pair is showing on board, there is danger of a full house already formed. QQ would definitely be a hand that someone would hold onto, and if given this flop, your 3 Kings are losers. Its also harder to maximize a pot with the two Kings on the flop. Those are huge scare cards, and if you bet out right away, you may get nothing more than whats already in the pot. Again, slow play, and be especially careful of an already formed full house.
There are however certain times you want to jam the pot with 3 of a kind. If the flop gives chances for a straight draw, like K-K-10, where anyone holding Q-J has a good chance at a straight, or if 2 of the cards are the same suit, giving someone a chance at a flush.of they held onto a pair of same suited cards. In these instances, they are going to play to the river, so make them pay to see extra cards!
Another time you want to jam the pot is if you have flopped a small set. For example you checked with the big blind with a pair of 3's, and the flop comes out Q-8-3. You have your set, and will most likely win with it, but you don't want to risk someone holding a higher pair getting their set on the turn or river for free. Bet, raise, check raise if you know someone else will bet, whatever you have to do to narrow down your competition and hopefully force out the medium pairs. What you like to see is someone with AQ in this situation with top pair, top kicker who will give you action but has very little chance of winning it. Jam the pot with small sets.
Top Pair after the Flop
If you held a high pair before the flop and were jamming the pot, then you should continue to jam the pot if you still hold the top pair. If you held Q-Q, and the flop comes out 10-2-7, you're most likely still the leader, unless someone was slow playing Aces or Kings before the flop, or someone with 10's just flopped a set. The fact is, if you play aggressively with a high pair before the flop, you will generally know whether or not you still have the lead.
If you held A-K, and the flop comes out 4-K-9, here again, you're jamming the pot. You hold top pair with the best kicker, and the last thing you want is for someone to draw out and complete a flush or straight to beat you.
Top pair is strong after the flop, but definitely not strong enough to sit on and slow play.
Flopping a small Pair
Suppose you were holding A-8 of clubs, and the flop comes out Q-8-3. You have missed your flush draw, because only the 3 is clubs, but you have flopped a pair of “babies.” You have to respect the fact that someone may have a queen, and have you beat. Even so, if the action is checked to you, I would seriously consider putting in a bet here. By putting in the bet, you accomplish the purpose of finding out the true strength of your pair. If anyone holds a queen, you can expect a raise. If you have high hand, expect calls. If you are raised, then you must consider the personality of who raised you. If a mouse or rock raises you (see “Poker Animals” under general strategy), then it might be time to call or fold. If its the jackal, then by all means stay in, and even re-raise.
This particular hand would be hard for me to fold, simply because you still have alot of outs. An ace would give you a huge hand, another 8 would be even better, and theres always the possibility of 2 more clubs hitting the board.
So, go ahead and bet with the small pairs, and then judge by your opponents personalities and actions as to where you stand.
Flopping a Monster Hand
By monster hand, I mean flopping a royal flush, 4 of a kind, full house, flush, straight, straight flush. Statistically the hand is yours or practically yours. I would slow play in most circumstances. You want the other players to stay in and build a decent hand that they will bet with or at least call to the river with.
A word of caution though. In the case of flushes and straights, make sure you don't get caught with the low end of a straight or a low card flush, where someone makes the same straight with a higher card, or someone makes the same flush with a higher card. If you are playing good quality pocket cards though, this should rarely happen. But if your flush is only a 10 high, bet aggressively and try to force out anyone holding a jack, queen, king or ace of your suit. Granted, most people won't fold with four to a flush, but at least you're making them pay for a chance to get their card.
As a general rule then, slow play the monsters and wait till the more expensive turn and river to begin extracting chips from your opponents.
Flopping a Flush or Straight Draw
You have to first of all understand that odds are still against you making your hand (2-1 with four to a flush or open ended straight). But the rule of thumb to follow here is that Texas Holdem rewards aggressive play. Bet this hand if it is checked to you and hope for one of two results. Either everyone else folds and you pick up a small pot, or you end up making your flush or straight and winning a huge one.
If there are bets and raises to you, then you will need to resort to calculating pot odds to determine if it is profitable to call or in some cases raise.
Flopping 2 Pair
Say you hold J-10 suited, and the flop comes 10-4-J. You have managed to flop the top two pair. I would tend to jam the pot with two pair. While two pair is strong, there are still alot of hands that can beat it. There is no harm in jamming the pot and elbowing everyone else off the table. If you end up making a full house on the later streets, you can adjust your strategy, but for moment, you want to bet and force the limpers out.
There are exceptions to this of course. If you hold AQ and the flop comes AQ2 rainbow, you are pretty strong and can afford to let someone catch up a little. Read the texture of the flop. If the flop is suited or connected you definitely do not want to mess around with slow playing, but rather get your chips in while you are ahead and charge the draw hands to play. Flops that show little help to the other players might be worth slow playing a bit so that they improve enough to call your bets on the turn and river or give an aggressive player a chance to bluff.
If you are holding onto a marginal type hand, and it is not helped at all by the flop, then plan on checking and folding. Taking bad hands to the river will take a major toll on your bankroll.