The flop is your major decision point in poker. Make sure you read our pointers on post-flop strategy, and pick up additional tips from Paul Phua’s video
The flop is the key to Texas Hold ’Em. Because three cards are dealt at once, with only one on the turn and the river, this is when you have a strong indication of how good your hand is – and how good it is likely to be by the river.
As Paul Phua says in his video, a common mistake made by inexperienced players is to keep going for too long after the flop with an indifferent hand: top pair with a poor kicker, for instance, or second pair with a strong kicker. Our advice on pre-flop strategy is to fold all but the strongest hands, or you will leak money. This is even more true after the flop, because the bets usually get bigger with every street.
So what should your post-flop strategy be? You will find many videos and articles devoted to specific post-flop situations in the Tips and Strategies section on Paul Phua Poker. But here are some of the factors you should always consider:
The power of position in poker
Being first to act post-flop is a disadvantage. The last person to act is armed with additional information: if no one has bet, usually no one has a very strong hand (unless they are trapping). You can be more confident of a marginal hand such as top pair with a weak kicker, or even second pair with a strong kicker. You might also be able to win here with a bluff or ideally semi-bluff, for instance if you have a draw to overcards or a flush to fall back on if you do get called. For more details, see “Position in poker”.
Know your odds
We can’t say this often enough. You should base all your post-flop decisions on the amount you have to put in compared with the probability of a desirable outcome. Let’s say you have one overcard to the flop, and you feel like calling just in case you hit your pair on the turn. You have only three outs! It would have to be a tiny bet to make a call worthwhile. Or let’s say you have a straight or flush draw, and someone goes all in. You have just a 1 in 3 chance of doubling your money, which is not worthwhile. For more information, read our series of tips on poker odds.
Board texture: is it “wet” or “dry”?
A “wet” board in poker is one with many possible draws, such as consecutive cards and/or two or three cards of the same suit. An extremely wet flop might be 9d Jd Qd. Someone with two diamonds would have a flush. Someone with 8-10 would have a straight. Someone with 10-K would have a higher straight. Even if no one yet has a strong hand, they might have a draw to a strong hand: all they need is a 10 to have an open-ended straight draw, or a high diamond to have a flush draw. If you are holding As Qh, you wouldn’t be celebrating for hitting top pair with top kicker; you would be approaching this flop with extreme caution, being prepared to fold if the betting is strong or if a fourth danger card comes on the turn. A “dry” board is the opposite: a flop with no draws, such as 3d 8s Qh. Now you can feel confident with A-Q!
The importance of raising on the flop
If you are confident that you have the best hand on the flop, don’t check: you should raise. Anything could happen by the river! You don’t want to let your opponents see a free card. The exception is when you have a hand so strong that it is unlikely to be beaten no matter what happens on the turn and river: a full house, for instance, or a straight on a “rainbow” flop with no two cards of the same suit. Then you can consider a trap-check or else a very small bet so as not to scare the other players off.
What do you do if they re-raise you?
A re-raise is a very powerful move. It usually indicates that your opponent has, at the very least, top pair with top kicker, or perhaps two pairs. If you only have a pair, you should consider folding. However, poker is never that simple! Players will also sometimes re-raise with a draw. We ourselves suggest doing so in “How to play a flush draw”. So look at the board: are there are any obvious draws? If not, your opponent is likely to be strong. Now look at your opponent: is he an experienced and aggressive player who might easily be re-raising with a draw, or a solid, cautious player who is more likely to be protecting a strong hand? You will have to rely on your reads and your experience to decide!
As Paul Phua concludes in his video, “No one always makes the perfect decision. And don’t be too afraid to be wrong. But if you do make a mistake, try to learn from it.”
Please read our video script on Post Flop poker strategy here.