How to Play Poker Lesson 3: Missing the Flop


This is where the hand usually defines itself; as a result, the play on the flop is usually more complicated then the play on the previous and future rounds. Although the following are some guidelines, we won’t pretend to have given you everything you need to know here. We could devote five hundred pages to the play on the flop, and still not cover everything.

The flop is another spot where most bad players lose a lot of money. When you enter a pot, you should have a pretty good idea of what kind of flop you’re looking for. Unfortunately, you usually won’t catch it. When this happens—and it will happen a lot—you can generally fold the hand and be done with it. For instance: you have Ac Jc, and the flop comes something like Kh 8h 7c. In this spot your play is usually to check and fold. You can’t be sure a jack will be good if it hits, and an ace might give someone two pair. Also, you’re susceptible to flush and straight draws even if you do hit on the turn. Another example is when you have a hand like 88 and the flop comes 9c Qc 2h. You should fold. You’ll see a lot of players who ‘marry themselves’ to big starting hands, and stubbornly continue on, calling bets and even raises, when the flop has missed them completely. Don’t become one of them. Remember that one of the basic concepts to playing hold ’em successfully is to lose as little money as possible when you do not have the best hand. People who often ‘chase’ (keep playing with the hope that their miracle card will come on the turn or river) are not consistent winners.

That said, there are spots where you might decide to stick around to see the turn. For instance, if you have Ac Jc and the flop had come 9c 6h 3d, you might call one bet in order to see the turn. The reason is that although the flop did not do much to help your hand, it probably didn’t do much to help anyone else’s hand either. An ace on the turn will probably give you the best hand (although beware of someone playing a hand like A3, since an ace will help them more then it helps you), and it’s unlikely that a jack will give someone two pair, unless they’re playing precisely J9. Further, you can catch running clubs to give you the best possible flush.

Whenever you’ve ‘missed’ the flop (and by that we mean you’ve neither flopped top pair or better, nor a four flush or an open ended straight draw) and are considering whether or not to continue with the hand, you should ideally decide which cards will likely help you more than they’ll help your opponent(s) and calculate the chances of one of those cards landing on the next street. Consider this: each card has roughly a 2% chance of showing up at any given time, so the calculations aren’;t hard. For example, let’s say you have AK and have missed the flop (no A or K). If you think an A or a K on the turn will give you the best hand, multiply 6 (the number of A’s and K’s remaining in the deck) by 2 (the percent chance that either of these six cards will drop on the turn). Hence, you have about a 12.5% chance of improving your hand on the next card. These odds may not sound great to you, but as long as there are seven bets in the pot it would be correct for you to call. Since 12.5% the same as 7:1, you need around seven bets in the pot to justify the call. If you also have ‘running flush’ possibilities (as is the case with the above mentioned Ac Jc), you can usually safely add ‘1 out’ to the list of cards you’d like to see. So, instead of having six ‘outs’, you would have seven. You can use these same calculations on the turn when deciding if you should continue on and see the river.

Calculating your odds of getting the cards you want and weighing those odds against how much money you can expect to win if you do end up with the best hand is a whole subject on its own. If you decide you want to get really serious about the game, it is a concept you should learn. Or, if you like odds and math, this concept might appeal to you. For now, lets suffice it to say that the more money that is in the pot, the more “correct” it becomes for you to chase a little.

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