Playing the Flop in Hold’em

When you’re new to poker and especially the hugely popular variation called Texas Hold’em, you soon learn that it’s one of those games that when you think you’ve grasped the basics, more rules, angles and techniques jump out at you to keep you on your toes.

One of those aspects of the game is known as The Flop and this is a special part of Texas Hold’em poker that can make or break your game. It doesn’t matter what you’re holding in your hand or how good or bad the cards appear to be, it can all change completely at the flop. Let’s look at what this game changing section of Texas Hold’em is all about.

First of all, what is the flop?

In Texas Hold’em poker, the flop is the three cards dealt face up to the board, or the centre of the table. This follows the initial deal of two hole cards to each player and the first round of betting. Otherwise called community cards, these are the three cards that can be simultaneously used by all players in making their hands.

Following the flop, each player that remains in the game is dealt a third, then a fourth and finally a fifth or river card, with each subsequent deal being followed by a further round of betting. But before any of that can take place, players have to make a vital decision based upon the value of their own hole cards plus the flop as to whether they should continue in the game or to fold. This is a crucial point in Texas Hold’em poker and one that deserves an entire chapter in the “how to play poker” manual all to itself.

What’s important, especially when playing a low limit game is learning to quickly read the flop to ascertain if you’re hand is the favourite to win or not. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if your hand hasn’t improved on the flop, chances are another player’s did and it’s time to bow out gracefully. On the other hand, if there is an improvement and you believe you might just be holding the best hand, by all means protect it, aggressively if needs be. Remember poker’s golden rule is never to chase a hand. What it means here is that if the flop has missed you completely, the smart player always folds to any bet.

Playing poker means waiting patiently for a playable hand. But if you miss the flop completely then another player bets into you, the best thing to do is to fold and wait for the next good hand to come along. Having the best overcards still does not guarantee anything as other players may have better, so it’s best not to slow play anything other than the strongest hands.

In an often seen game, a player will be dealt king and queen in the hole and although it looks strong, it rarely, if ever wins. Novice players often make the mistake of raising the blind when they are dealt high hands in an attempt to jack up the price of the flop for everyone else. In this case, only players holding similarly strong hands are going to stay in. At the flop, if they fail to determine if their hand is beatable or not on the turn as well as the river, they could be in for a rude awakening.

The better the hand the bigger you lose, or the bigger you win if you judge it right.

In Texas Hold’em, playing the flop just right can lead to taking the pot at the showdown by accurately judging the potential of your hand. It pays to be aware that even if you are holding trips that they are vulnerable to bigger hands and the player sitting across from you could already be looking at a potential full house. If you hold ace high straight, then you have to ask yourself the question. Is there a flush on the way? Alternatively, the player sitting next to you might be one card away from something better but if it hasn’t happened yet, what are the chances of your hand being beaten? If you decide you have a strong chance of a pretty good hand but there are equally strong hands out there, your best approach is to bet big and hope to put enough doubt in the minds of the other players that they’ll fold potentially better hands.

After all, poker is not all about merely getting the best hand. It’s about being the player in the game with the winning hand.

That’s why playing the flop right is so important, because a king and queen in the hole is not much use to anyone when the flop turns up a 6, 7, 8. Then you must fold and wait for a more accommodating flop!

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