Flop Play Part 1
The flop is where it all begins. Most of the time you will hit nothing, not even a draw, so don’t get too attached to your pretty starting hands. For the most part, the flop dictates where you are going with your hand. This is where you set up a plan – a flexible plan. Did you hit a monster, drawing hand, or completely whiff? Try to figure out what action is going to make the most value for your hand. Usually, it’s going to be a fold that shows the most profit. I know, boring. Other times it may be a simple continuation bet that earns the most profit.
1. Continuation Bets:
For this section, Continuation Bets are defined as post-flop bets that are placed by the last player to have raised preflop. Continuation bets are a continuation of the momentum that was started by the raiser during the preflop phase of betting. Say you get AK, raise it about 4BB preflop, get one caller and (whether or not you connect with the flop) you place an 8BB bet. You have just made a continuation bet.
If you raised PF, you will usually put out a 2/3rd to full pot-sized bet after the flop is dealt. You do this even if the flop completely missed you. I would estimate that I bet place a continuation bet somewhere between 70-90% of the time – this all depends on the number of players in the pot, your position, the flop texture, and how much you’ve been raising lately (your image).
Deciding on whether or not to place a continuation bet depends a lot on the number of players and the board texture. (If you have a table full of calling stations, then this doesn’t matter so much – just bet when you have it and check when you don’t.) If there is just one opponent in the pot with me, I’ll place a continuation bet about 95% of the time unless I have an extremely loose image and an ugly board. When there is more than one player, then the board texture and your position becomes more important.
Board textures can range from fairly favorable to downright scary. If you raise with something like 67s preflop and get 2 callers and the flop comes with 3 face cards, its time to check and fold. Boards like ATK, JT9, 789 either connect with lots of hands already or they present good drawing conditions for lots of hands. You just have to think about the types of cards people like to play preflop and then see if the board has a chance to hit them. A board like 39J is less likely to have given someone a monster than a board like TJQ. Being able to read the texture of the flop compared with the likely hands your opponents have is extremely important. Not just for continuation bets, but for hand reading in general.
If there are three or more opponents and especially if you have bad position, it’s usually a good idea to check and fold if you miss the flop. If there are two or more opponents and you whiff the flop, it’s a good idea to check if the board comes out with something like two face cards and a flush draw. In that situation there are just too many chances that you’re going to get calls from either made hands or drawing hands.
To wander off on a tangent, I also suggest stealing pots when you didn’t raise preflop. If you have position or just one opponent + a blind, then bet if the board looks somewhat harmless. If anyone calls this bet, then give it up. Try keeping a log for a couple weeks and record how many times you pick up a pot vs. how many times you lose a bet.
If you ever get a pot steal called, be it a continuation bet or a simple steal like the one just described above, give up on the hand if you don’t improve. Even if you suspect your opponent is on a call-steal or resteal, you still need to give it up. Even if it is a resteal, your opponents are often marrying themselves to the pot and will not give up on it often enough for you to profit.
It’s simple but you can become predictable if you always give up. Decent opponents can catch on and start bluffing you on the turn every time. (Of course, in small stakes hold em being predictable isn’t much of a leak. If you simply play tight, ABC poker, you’re going to win.) But still, we often give up easy money by giving up on the turn. However, if you bet the turn every time someone calls your flop continuation bet, then you’re going to lose a lot of money by trying to blow people off their hands.
An easy trick to mix up your 2nd barrel bluffs is to fire that 2nd barrel when two conditions exist: 1. When the flop comes with exactly two cards of one suit and 2. When the turn card does NOT complete the flush. For example, if the flop has two diamonds and a spade, someone calls your c-bet and the turn brings a card of any suit other than a diamond, try a second barrel. Simple! It doesn’t necessarily mean that you think every flop call is a draw, but it helps you mix it up without bluffing too much. The added benefit that makes this system a little more profitable than others is that many times they actually are on draws. Some opponents will still chase draws on the turn, but many give up on the hand if they miss on the turn. If you’re up against the chaser who can’t be budged, then he’s welcome to the game – just don’t bluff at him. Additionally, even if someone does manage to catch on to this little system, there’s not a whole lot they can do to counter it. Whether you have a made hand or a bluff, you will be playing the turn the same way. With the bluff, you’re simply following the system and with a real hand, you’re protecting your hand from drawers.
Mixing in some random turn check raises against habitual c-bet callers is another effective way to punish them. It’s best to have a real hand when check raising the turn against someone who likes to stick around but the occasional bluff will keep things balanced.
If there happens to be any opponents who are decent/aggressive enough to notice that every time your continuation bet gets called or raised you give up then there are three options:
1. Find a new game.
2. Avoid that player.
3. Play back at him.
To play back at your opponent is the most expensive and least desirable option, but if it’s a good game and you want to get him (and even sometimes the entire table) off your back, you’re going to have to make a stand. I know I just said that even if you suspect someone is playing back at you to give up, but this applies when you’ve got a great laggy image and want to stay in the game but have players trying to resteal with WEAK raises. If you suspect someone is trying to resteal by pulling the old flop min-raise, and especially if you’ve been playing laggy, then when in EP, call the flop min-raise and lead out for half pot on the turn regardless of the card. When in position, call the flop check-minraise and bet if they check and fold if they bet. If this doesn’t work, then give up. If your opponents are playing back at you too hard to pull this off, then you need to slow down and hope to hit a monster or find an easier game.
If your opponent is a calling station, you just need to tighten up on the flop against him and value bet him to death. These types of opponents used to cost me lots of money until I learned how to change styles vs. individual players. Its not that hard at all, it just takes discipline.