After the flop is dealt, you need to repeat the previously outlined considerations (your hole cards, your position and your opposition) and ask yourself one very important question: has the flop increased or decreased the value of your hand?
You now have five cards to make an assess of your hand with; your two hole cards and the three community cards. But remember, the flop may also have helped an opponent, so you also need to consider the number of other players involved, as well as the texture of the flop, before determining how you want to play from here.
Firstly, let’s look at determining the strength of your hand.
Categories of Post-Flop Hands
After the flop, hands tend to fall into three categories: ‘made’ hands, ‘drawing’ hands and ‘unmade’ hands.
A ‘made’ hand is one that has improved significantly on the flop and has only a slight possibility of further improvement.
If you had a pair of pocket Aces preflop and another Ace falls on the flop, you now have top set (Three of a Kind) and your hand can only realistically be improved by seeing the final remaining Ace (highly unlikely) or the board pairing to give you a Full House.
The important part to note is that this is already a very strong – or ‘made’ – hand.
Made hands can themselves be separated into three groups:
Monster hands: Better than one pair on the flop
A♠J♠ on a flop of A♥J♦2♣
3♠3♥ on a flop of A♠K♦3♦
Very strong hands: Very good one pair hands such as top pair with top kicker or an over-pair to the board
Q♠Q♦ on a flop of 10♠4♣4♦
A♠K♠ on a flop of A♦10♦4♠
Marginal hands: These are hands like middle pair
A♠10♦ on a flop of K♠10♥2♠
J♣J♦ on a flop of Q♣8♦3♥
‘Drawing’ Hands are hands that have connected with the flop but still need to improve.
For example, if you have J♥10♥, you will be delighted to see a flop of Q♠9♥2♥ because you almost have either a straight or a flush.
But you are not there yet. You still need to hit certain cards to improve your hand.
There are different types of draws that vary in strength:
Very strong draws: These are combined straight and flush draws or a combination of draws and made hands.
Q♠J♠ on a flop of 10♠9♠2♦
A♥2♥ on a flop of A♣5♥J♥
K♠Q♠ on a flop of A♠10♠4♣
Strong draws: These are open-ended straight and flush draws to the nuts (or close to it)
10♠9♦ on a flop of A♠8♦7♣
K♣Q♣ on a flop of A♣6♣5♦
Weak draws: These are gutshot draws, or flush/straight draws that don’t make the nuts.
7♠6♦ on a flop of 8♥9♥Q♣
8♣7♣ on a flop of K♣9♠5♣
One of the unfortunate realities about poker is that you see many more unmade hands than any ‘made’ or ‘drawing’ hands.
This doesn’t mean your unmade hand is necessarily bad. Sometimes High hands such as Ace-high and King-high can win the pot by showdown but they will not be able to stand up to much pressure if facing a bet.
If your hand is worse however, then your hand is pretty much worthless. The only way to turn the hand into a winner is to make a high-risk bluff.
At this stage, you probably don’t want to get involved in making foolish bluffs, so you should throw away your unmade hands and wait for another chance to hit something strong. All poker players – including the very best – spend a lot of time folding their cards.
Reading the Flop
We saw in the previous lesson how a flop can change the strength of your hand, giving you either a made hand, a drawing hand or unmade. But it is also important to remember that the community cards can be used by all your opponents, and the strength of their hands might also have changed significantly.
Although you cannot tell precisely what cards your opponents are holding, you can measure the potential that the flop could have to improve other hands. The ability to categorise the flop is a crucial skill for all players to learn; the structure of the flop will inform your subsequent decisions and affects how you might play your own hand.
Categories of Flops
The first distinction when looking at a flop is between so-called “dry” flops and draw heavy (or “wet”) flops. Dry boards offer no possible draws, while draw heavy flops, as the name suggests, contain a lot of draws.
Examples of dry boards:
Examples of draw heavy boards:
In the first three “dry” flops, it is impossible for any player to have picked up an immediate flush draw, or an open-ended straight draw. There are no connected cards on any of these flops, so you know that a player will either have a made hand or a unmade hand at this point.
By contrast, the next three “wet” flops all have enormous amounts of potential. In the first instance (10♦8♠7♠) a player with two spades in the hole now has a flush draw, while any nine in a player’s hand gives him an open-ended straight draw. If a player has, say, A♠9♠ they have a straight and a flush draw, and are in a very strong position.
How Flops Influence Your Hands
Take a look at the examples below. This shows how the texture of the flop can affect the relative strength of your hand.
You hold A♠K♦ in early position and raise to 3 BB. Two players in late position calls your bet.
Scenario 1: The flop comes A♥7♦3♣ which is a dry flop.
Scenario 2: The flop comes A♥10♦9♦ which is a wet flop that contains a lot of draws.
In both instances, you flop top pair top kicker, and should make a continuation bet but on only one board would you feel confident that your holding will remain strong through the turn and river to come.
You can also reduce your opponent’s range of hands much more effectively on the first board. With no draws, they must have also caught some of the flop to want to continue with the hand. In the second example, they may have any number of draws and could be calling your flop bet to improve on later streets.
The next lesson will be how you should proceed after the flop, once you have decided how you think your own hand measures up against your opponents’. We will look at the differences between playing made hands and drawing hands in differing circumstances.
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