Things you will learn:
- How to decide whether to stick with the hand after the flop
You don't need the best hand to win at poker.
You can bet enough with rubbish cards so that everyone else folds, but that is something you should do rarely. Most times you are looking to have the best hand and make other people pay to see it by calling your bets.
So how do we go about deciding if we still want to play after the flop is dealt? Well, after the flop is dealt you will be in one of two situations - either you have improved to a better hand or not.
Say you held A-Q and the flop comes Q-10-4 you have improved to a pair. If you hold A-Q and the flop comes K-9-6 you only have ace high. The flop is very important in deciding if you continue in the hand. If you called before the flop you should normally only call or raise after the flop if your hand has improved or is better than any hand someone else is likely to have on the flop. So if you hold 5-5 and the flop is K-J-9 you should fold. But if the flop is K-J-5 you have improved to three of a kind - this is a very good hand so you should be looking to bet or raise.
With small pairs you are generally looking to make three of a kind or fold. Similarly, with suited connectors you are looking to make at least four to a straight or flush. Just making a pair with 8♣ 9♣ is not likely to win you the hand.
How much should you bet? The best idea is to bet the same amount every time. If nobody has bet before you then you should bet 2/3 the size of the pot - the money that has already been bet. So if there was a raise to $2 before the flop and three players including you called and the blinds folded the pot will be $8.75. In this case you should bet around $6.
If you have a very good hand such as three of a kind then if someone bets you should re-raise to a number at least two and a half times their bet. So if they bet $6 you should raise to $15. If they re-raise you then you should go all-in. If you were not the person who raised before the flop then you should check after the flop (decline the option to bet) and let the original raiser make a bet. Then you can raise.
Be very careful with flops where all the cards are in sequence or are all the same suit as someone may have a straight or a flush. If you do not have a straight or flush you should probably check if you were the pre-flop raiser and fold if people start betting and raising. In No-Limit Hold'em you should always try to avoid betting too much money unless you can be sure you are likely to have the best hand. If your hand is good, but not very good such as a high pair, then you should proceed with caution.
Top pair is rarely the winning hand if there are lots of bets and raises. If you hold A-J and the flop is J-10-6 then you probably have the best hand, so you can raise or bet if nobody has bet before you. If the flop is J-Q-K, however, you are unlikely to have the best hand as anyone with a King or Queen will beat you and someone may even have a straight. The same is true if you hold a hand such as 8-8 and the flop is K-10-A. Whereas 8-8 on a flop such as 7-4-2 is probably the best hand. If you were the person who raised before the flop, and nobody re-raised you then you should normally bet whether you hand has improved or not. This is called continuation betting and is very rarely a bad idea.
You should aim to continuation bet around 80-90% of the time. If you have not improved your hand (missed the flop) you can continuation bet and hope everyone will fold. If you get called then wait to see if you improve on the turn. If not then check and fold to a bet. If you do improve then bet again. The most important thing you can do post-flop is think about not just what hand you have, but what hands your opponents may have. If you have a straight but there are four clubs on the board by the river it is likely someone else has a flush.
If you have 10-10 but there is an ace, king and queen on the flop you are unlikely to have the best hand if someone has bet or called all the way. One thing to look out for is when there are two cards to a straight or flush on the board. For example the board may read 9♣ 8♣ K♠ and players may be calling bets. In this situation it is possible they have something like J♥ 10♦ or A♣ 2♣ and are hoping to see a card that will complete their flush or straight.
They will usually call quite large bets in the hope of seeing that third club, so be careful if you have, say, two pair with 9♠ 8♠ and a third club arrives on the turn. Also, don't make the mistake of being the person giving their money away calling hoping to hit their flush or straight. You are only 33% to make your flush draw with two cards to come. And only 17% to make it on the next card. The only exception is if you have both a straight and a flush draw, for example with Q♣ J♣ on a flop of 10♣ 9♣ 2♠. Here you are 50% to make either a straight or flush so you can call or bet without fear.
But if you only have a straight or a flush draw then if it costs you more than 20% of the amount of money in the pot to call then you should fold a 'drawing' hand. This is the most frequent way for new players to lose money so stick to the basics for now.
Post-flop Odds Chart
|9%||17%||Gutshot straight draw
(J♣10♠ on a flop of Q♦8♥7♠)
|17%||32%||Open-ended straight draw
(J♣10♠ on a flop or Q♦9♠2♠)
(A♣ 10♣ on a flop of K♣ 7♣ 2♠)
|33%||54%||Flush and open ended straight draw
(K♣ Q♣ on a flop 10♣ J♣ 4♠)