In texas holdem, before the flop, you act without having seen any of the five community cards. You make your decisions based on your starting hands and other factors affecting your preflop strategy, like your position and any previous action.
Then comes the flop… and three community cards are revealed! This means that after the flop, you have seen five out of the seven cards you will use to make your hand, your two hole cards, and three of the community cards. So, you already have a big piece of the whole puzzle! It is time to build on your successful preflop play with a solid texas holdem post-flop strategy.
Either you hit or missed the flop, and the same applies to your opponents. You need to re-evaluate where you stand. Before assessing how the strength of your hand has evolved, you need to analyze some other factors.
How many players are in action?
If there are more than two or three players, analyzing the situation and figuring out where you stand, can become very difficult! In general, in multiplayer pots, you must play your hand more straightforward. You have less space for maneuvering, so you should mostly bet your strong hands and check your weak ones.
Bluffing, semi-bluffing, or slowplaying are rarely a good idea! If you slowplay your strong hand against many opponents, there is a significant risk that someone will outdraw you. The option of bluffing becomes much less appealing, as it is difficult to force more than two players to fold!
Another thing to notice is that your hand goes down in value against many players, as the chances that someone has a stronger hand increase. A hand like top pair, good kicker, is excellent when you are playing heads up, but may well be trailing in a multiplayer pot. You must be particularly careful when the board presents straight or flush possibilities. In such boards, it is more likely that one or more opponents have made a monster hand or are drawing to one!
What was the action preflop?
Observing how the action unfolds before the flop, can give you valuable information on your opponents’ hands. Did someone raise from an early position? He is probably on a tight range. Did your opponents limp? If so, their hand ranges can be pretty wide. Was there an early position raise followed by a reraise? Someone could have a monster hand! So, be sure to take a moment to analyze what information you can extract from preflop action.
There is another way to exploit preflop action. In poker, the one that raises preflop, especially if he is a tight player, can get credit for having a strong hand. If it was you that raised, which will be most of the time, if you have a tight-aggressive style, you can use it to your advantage. Even when you completely miss the flop, your opponents may give you credit for being strong. This situation offers you an opportunity to take a stab at the pot with what is called a continuation bet. However, if you are facing more than two opponents, your chances of pulling it off decrease drastically.
What is the texture of the flop?
The texture of the flop affects your decisions significantly. Some boards are more dangerous than others, and you need to know how to adjust your betting accordingly. There are two types of flops. Dry flops that don’t present any possible straight or flush draws, like Q♥7♠3♣. “Draw heavy” flops, like 10♦9♦7♠, that have some straight or flush draw potential.
In a dry board, it is more probable that post-flop hand strengths will not evolve by a lot. When you have a strong hand that rates to be ahead, you have more confidence that it will hold up until showdown. Understanding this concept gives you some freedom to vary your betting, make smaller bets, or slowplay if the situation warrants it.
For example, let’s say that you are playing heads-up with K♣K♠, against an opponent holding A♦8♦. You both miss the flop, and you are ahead with a pair of kings. Let’s now consider two different scenarios.
First, consider a dry board, like Q♥7♠3♣. Your opponent has to hit one of the remaining three aces or runner-runner eights to win. So, even with his overcard, he only has about 13% of outdrawing you and winning the hand.
However, on a draw heavy board, the situation can be very different. Let’s consider an extreme case where the flop is 10♦9♦7♠. Your opponent still has ace-high, but he now has picked up a few draws. In addition to the 3 aces, he has 9 more outs to make a flush, plus 6 non-diamond jacks and sixes for the straight, for a total of 18 outs! He is actually a 60% favorite of winning the hand!
Even if this example is extreme, it serves to demonstrate that coordinated flops are dangerous. So, in general, on draw heavy flops, you need to protect your hand by betting enough to make it unprofitable for drawing hands to continue. By betting the right amount to protect your hand from draws, you make sure that you come out a winner. When your opponents fold you win the pot, a positive outcome. When they call, you win on average, as they are paying too high of a price to draw.
Is it likely that the flop helped your opponents?
It may be impossible to figure out exactly how an opponent has connected with the flop. However, many types of flops connect differently with various hand ranges. Based on factors like opponents’ style, position, and preflop action, you may be able to estimate the range of your opponent’s possible hands! Then, from their range of hands, you can calculate the likelihood that they have connected with the flop.
Considering hand ranges in a multiplayer pot is too complicated. This is one of the reasons many professional players prefer raising preflop. Raising helps to narrow the field and, therefore, facilitates post-flop analysis and decisions. When you are against one or two opponents, you may be able to analyze the situation and put them on hand ranges. Then you can make a more informed calculation of how the flop may have helped them.
For example, if a tight opponent raises preflop from an early position, you can safely consider that his opening range is tight, containing mostly premium hands. Conversely, if a loose-aggressive opponent raises preflop from late position, you can put him on a wide range!
The next step is to consider how the flop correlates with your opponent’s range. A flop like A♥J♦5♠ is more probable to have helped someone that has a tight range of hands, as it contains a lot of high cards. For example, if you have K♣K♠, you only have 50% of winning at showdown against a 10% range, but about 70%, of winning against a 40% range. The tight range does so much better because of the presence of the high cards on the flop.
On the contrary, a flop like 8♥7♠6♠ is more likely to have helped someone with a wide range, as it contains a lot of middling, connected, and suited cards. In this case, your K♣K♠ has a 72% of winning at showdown against the tight range, and a 66% of winning against the loose range. In this case, the looser range outperforms the tight range!
In a nutshell
The flop reveals five of the community cards and gives you a big part of the final picture. Before considering any action, you need to take into consideration different factors that come into play, like how many players remain, preflop action, the texture of the flop, and your opponents’ potential strength. The next step is, of course, to evaluate how your hand has evolved and to act accordingly!
Please post any questions or suggestions that you may have. I will do my best to answer them.
Once you feel ready, you can test your skills with our Basic Poker Strategy Quiz 🙂