Flop Play Part 2
2. Made Hands:
The value of your flopped hands is based on a lot of factors. Your plan begins here, start thinking ahead but remain flexible. Just one card or one unexpected check-raise can completely change the course you want to take.
TPTK – Top Pair Top Kicker. You raise with AK preflop and it comes with the highest card being a king. First of all, don’t get married to the hand. It’s a strong hand and all, but its easy to get trapped in a big pot against a better hand. TPTK is meant to extract value from weaker players calling down with weaker pairs or chasing draws. Do not take heat with TPTK. You should be the one betting, not calling large raises. Do not call large raises with this hand unless your opponent is over-aggressive. Also, unless you have a certain read of the opponent, do not show this hand down with all your chips in the middle of the pot. People love to slow play and play passively in the lower limits.
Many opponents will play 2pair hands very passively calling down all the way to the river without ever raising or betting. You still want to value bet the passive opposition as much as is safely possible but – again – be the one pressing the heat, not the one taking it. If someone is in the pot betting and reraising you need to either slow down or give it up – especially against passive players (players who call a lot of bets but rarely bet themselves).
Let’s say you raise PF with AQo, get a caller, and hit a non threatening queen high flop. This is a great situation, but still be careful. Bet 2/3rd to full pot on the flop, bet again on the turn maybe half or full pot. Bet the same amount or slightly more on the river. This gives you value and makes it hard for them to raise on the river with a bluff. This is only an example though – against some opponents you may want to play the hand harder (if they are calling stations) and against others you will want to play it a little more conservative just because you know they won’t usually call off half their stack with anything less than TPTK.
Another variation to the above pattern that I like is to bet your TPTK on the flop, check it on the turn, and then bet again on the river. This will get more opponents to call because it looks like a bluff from a whiffed AK or whatever. The problem with this is giving a free card, so its best to employ this tactic on relatively safe boards.
A third variation to the play that I use quite often on boards that contain draws is to bet on the flop, bet on the turn, and then check on the river and call a bet. You can often catch missed flushed draws this way. Most players know not to slow play on flush boards so if they cold call you on two streets with a flush draw on board, its unlikely they have a set. This is very opponent-dependant of course, but it is something to keep in mind when trying to extract value out of busted draws.
As a very general rule, I prefer to play TPTK for medium sized pots. One pair hands are very read dependent simply because they are vulnerable to other possible hands. Pot control is important because it’s not fun to get stuck in a huge pot with only one pair.
On the river in LP bet again against fish and decent players, but fold if raised here. If the pot is big and you’re not sure what to do in LP just check behind. If you’re in EP, try and throw out a smallish blocking bet to get the hand shown down cheaply. Against some players it’s also good to go ahead and bet the full pot if they will call with weaker hands. There is a thin line of balance between extracting value and making bets that will only get called by better hands – reads of the opponents are vital here.
Two Pair – This hand should be played similarly to TPTK. The competition in most games is weak and they normally won’t raise you with anything you’re beating. Some players will put big raises in with weaker two pairs or TPTK, but for the most part, two pair is similar to TPTK in that you do not want to be on the defensive. You don’t want to be stuck in a big pot calling big bets and raises from other players.
Remember, put heat on the opponents but don’t take it. Bet the river more often but still check behind if the pot is big and you’re not sure what to do. Play this hand for medium-sized pots unless an opponent raised preflop. If you called a PF raise and doubt that you’re up against a bigger 2 pair then try to get as much of your money in the middle as early in the hand as possible. Two pair is susceptible to bigger hands and can be easily counterfeited by the board.
Two pair is not a hand to slow play. Play these fast. If you slow play to the river you will get raised by better hands and sometimes called by worse but you miss out on the chance to charge chasers.
Just remember that if the board gets ugly and you face a big raise or if you run into a big raise on the river 2 pair should be an easy hand to let go. If you fold the best hand sometimes, that’s OK because you make people fold the best hand all the time too. YOU be the aggressive one.. And whatever you do, don’t go broke with 2pair on the river – especially if it’s a small pot.
Sets – This is the money hand. Having a pocket pair hit a third of its kind on the flop is a beautiful thing. Play these for large pots. Play them fast on the flop and turn because you want to get chasers’ money and build big pots. If there is a straight or flush possible don’t forget that you don’t hold the nuts. If someone bets, you raise, and they in turn push, you need to make sure and do some hand reading before just calling.
The best situation is to get a board pair and improve to a full house. If you ever get raised and strongly suspect a straight or flush then slow down, call the raise if its not too big and if you hit a board pairing card, you’re getting paid. If you think you have the best hand on the river whether your set improved or not, then bet it big on the river. Big bets won’t need to get called as often as small value bets to show a profit.
*Remember big pots and destackings occur when a big hand is up against another big hand AND someone can’t lay down the loser even when they know it is the loser. This does not mean to lay down big hands to every bet or to check all the time or to never raise. It means practicing pot control when you don’t have a lock on the board. If you practice pot control most of your opponents won’t. This is a huge edge. You can always get out when behind while they always get stuck to the pot. They will never understand how you bet and raise so much and get involved in so many pots yet always disappear and take little damage when they have strong hands. You’re like a ghost haunting the table. Learn two things: How to practice pot control (without turning weak-tight) and how to know when your opponents have the nuts. I’ll make sure and touch on these areas in a separate section later.
Straights – Rarely slow play these hands. You need to trap money in the pot before shitty cards come. Four to the straight will scare opponents away and can sometimes take the nuts away from your hand. Board pairings will scare you and your opponents if not improve them to a full house. Flush cards are the same. You just want to build the pot and trap non-believing/chasing opponents.
If you come out betting on the flop, they’re going call or raise you with their TPTK’s sets, 2pairs, and other random crap. You bet again on turn, they call, bet half pot or even full pot on the river and they’re going call more. If you slow play it on one street, every street will be smaller unless you overbet. A $30 bet is going to get called more in a $45 pot than it will in a $3.90 pot you decided to slow play. Besides, what kind of non-flush, non-higher straight hands are going to go broke on the river for a $3.90 pot?
Extra Ramblings : Don’t be reluctant to let go of straights if you strongly sense you are beaten. Raise a small bet on a semi-safe board but fold if it someone reraises and it gets too expensive. Play fast and get your money’s worth when they chase and miss because you’re not going to get much money out of a missed flush draw.
Flushes – They are rarely flopped as a complete hand but if so, play them fast. If you have the ace you can slow play them when you feel it is appropriate but if the fourth flush card comes it will kill your action.
Flush draws are good hands to semi-bluff because it disguises your hand if you hit and build pots, not to mention it can get folds before you even get a chance to whiff the flush. It’s also nice to semi-bluff with the nut flush and have a weaker flush chasing behind. Play these for big, multi-way pots. The only thing you’re worried about is the board pairing and higher flushes if you have something like 56s. These worries shouldn’t be major concerns, but again it will come down to reads if you face any heavy action.
Full Houses – The Under Full: You have 44 and the board comes 4QQ. Play under fulls fast. Sometimes you can wait until the turn to bet but you don’t want to give too many free cards or let the board bring a third queen or double pair and counterfeit your hand. Your under full won’t get counterfeited often, but it is possible. You want to build a huge pot. Raise, re-raise, and push on the flop if you get any action. On the turn and river your hand is still strong, but still keep in mind the small chance that someone has a bigger full. If you occasionally lose a stack with an under full, it will have barely any impact at all on your long term hourly rate. Usually I’ll only consider dropping a small FH is against good players with extra deep stacks and facing an all-in reraise on the river. I can’t remember ever laying one down, but I have just called a big raise instead of pushing a few times.
With the top full house, your hand is made and the only thing to worry about here is extraction. If you have AA and the board comes A77, you have the nuts. Even if your opponent flips over his cards and shows you pocket sevens, don’t believe it. For our purposes, quads don’t exist unless you have them. It’s good to slow play these unless you have a laggy image or there is a large pot and there are several calling stations involved. You pretty much have the deck crippled and it’s going to be hard to get paid unless your opponent happens to have a little something or is on a bluff. Practice your best pot building here. It is worth an attempt to build a pot at the risk of having opponents fold. Although it is easier said than done, you will want to get to know your opponent well enough to estimate whether a small value bet or a full pot-sized bet is going to get the most value.
Quads and Straight Flushes – Practice pot building. The deck is crippled and it’s going to be hard to get paid. Usually slow play one street but start betting on the turn in the hopes of getting the opponent to chase or catch something.