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Reading the Board

Reading the Board

The board is made up of 5 community cards placed in the middle of the table. The 3 parts of the board include the flop (first three cards), the turn (the fourth card) and the river (the fifth card).

After the first round of betting, the remaining players in the pot will have the opportunity to see the flop. At this point these players will have the next round of betting based on the hand they each can make with their two hole cards combined with the 3 flop cards.

With the flop, you receive your first big piece of information. As said before, when the flop hits the board, everyone has now seen 71% of what could be their hand. Developing a quick compilation of the possible hands that can be made by looking at the board is imperative when playing no limit Hold'em (just as it is in any flop games such as any Omaha games or limit Hold'em). A player will first look at the board and figure out what the highest 2-3 possible hands are. He then will need to know how his two hole cards combine with the board to make a hand. Either the board made a good hand or it didn't, or it provided an excellent draw for the best hand.

After learning how to read a board, it is suggested that you take a deck of cards and deal out flop after flop. Practice your ability to call out the best 4 hands. Continue by finishing out the board by placing a turn card, and then a river card. Each time, practice your ability to call out the best 4 hands. Learn to do this as second nature. After you have done this to the point that it is an automatic reflex, then deal yourself two cards and determine if you have a hand or not. Practice this until you can do it in your sleep.

Reading the Board on the Flop

4 Possible hands in order of dominance

  • Quad Aces: A player is holding the AA
  • A full house: A player is holding the A2
  • A smaller full house: A player is holding the 22
  • A set of Aces: A player is holding the Ax

FYI

Looking at the board, you will see that there are 2 hearts.

After the flop, if a player has 2 hearts in his hand, then that means that there are 9 hearts out, (13 hearts – 4 hearts) either in the remaining deck, the burn cards or in the other player's hands. So, anyone holding 2 hearts has 9 (heart) possibilities out of 47(cards left) to hit a heart.

[52 (number of cards in the deck) less 5 (number of cards the player can see made up of his 2 cards and the 3 cards on the board) which equals 47].

Hence, 9 out of 47 or 9 hearts and 38 other cards.

He has a chance that approximately 1 out of 5 cards will get him a heart. Mathematically it looks like this, 38:9. In poker lingo, it would be said that he is a 4.2 : 1 (under) dog to get his flush card on the turn. 4.2 times he will not make his flush, and 1 time he will.

If a heart does not come on the turn, then on the river card, the same player has a chance of 9 out of 46 cards to hit his flush. 9 cards will be hearts, and 37 will not.

In other words, if he does not get the heart on the turn, he has about the same odds of getting it on the river. 37:9 or 4.1:1. For every five cards shown, approximately one will be a heart.

In poker, the convention for expressing the chance of success is about 35%. If a player has flopped 4 to a flush, he will make the flush by the river about 35% of the time. You are a little less than a 2 : 1 dog. (About 1.85 : 1) Two times that you will not make it to every one time that you do. You have 9 chances out of 47 cards on the turn and if you don't make it then, you have 9 chances out of 46 cards on the river.

You ultimately have 18 chances to get a heart. So, if you are a 1.85 : 1 dog, you would not make it 64.75 % of the time, yet you could make your hand 35.25 % of the time. After all is said, you are basically calculating the number of cards that do not make your draw to the number that do.

Reading the Board on the Turn

4 Possible hands in order of dominance

  • Quad Aces: A player is holding the AA
  • A full house: A player is holding the A6 or A2
  • A smaller full house: A player is holding the 66 or 22
  • An Ace high nut flush: A player is holding the Kx of hearts

Reading the Board on the River

4 Possible hands in order of dominance

  • Quad Aces: A player is holding the AA
  • Full house: A player is holding the AK, A6, A2, KK, 66, or 22
  • An Ace high nut flush: A player is holding the Kx of hearts
  • A flush: A player is holding any 2 hearts

Another Example

The Flop

 

  • An Ace High Straight: A player is holding the AJ
  • A King High Straight: A player is holding the J9
  • Set of Kings: A player is holding the KK
  • A set of Queens: A player is holding the QQ

The Turn

  • An Ace High Straight: A player is holding the AJ
  • A King High Straight: A player is holding the J9
  • Set of Kings: A player is holding the KK
  • A set of Queens: A player is holding the QQ

The River

  • An Ace High Straight: A player is holding the Ax
  • A King High Straight: A player is holding the 9x
  • A Queen High Straight: A player is holding the 89
  • Set of Kings: A player is holding the KK

Not only is it important to look at what is on the board, it is also important to realize what is not. It is a different way of eliminating possible hands.

  • There has to be a pair on the board to make quads
  • There has to be a pair on the board to make a full house
  • There has to be at least 3 cards of the same suit on the board to make a flush
  • There has to be at least 3 cards on the board to fill in a straight

Looking at this board, there is no chance anyone made quads, a full house or a flush. Therefore, an Ace high straight is the absolute nuts (the best possible hand at any given point).

Let's say on the hand above, you hold a K9. You make a King high straight. How many hands can beat you?

The Ace high straight is one of them and with 4 aces out, anyone holding an Ax will win.

On the flop, there was a possible Ace high straight.

A rag hit the turn, and with the Jack falling on the river, your hand of K9 came in a close second.

From the beginning, the only thing you had was a pair of Kings with a gut-shot (a card that fills an inside straight draw) draw for a straight. And even then, you were drawing for second best.

As a beginner, you are encouraged to take out a single deck of cards, sit down by yourself and place the flop, the turn, and the river on the table one at a time.

Ask yourself the above questions over and over. Do it until it becomes automatic. You won't believe the difference reading the board will make in your overall game and the stress of confusion.

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