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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Improving your Texas Hold'em hand beyond the flop

23 November 2007

Tons of good, solid strategy has been written about how to pick your playable Hold'em starting hands. That'll get you into the pot responsibly, but once the flop comes down, you usually have a whole new set of problems.

Today, we'll cover some typical scenarios that have a habit of developing on the flop. Sometimes you should play them and sometimes you should fold. You need to know your odds to improve and compare that with the size of the pot to decide which time is which. Here's one relevant set of odds on the flop that tell you the chances of improving your hand on the very next card.

Hole CardsA/K
Flop isQ-6-2
Odds to hit Top Pair on the Turn 7-to-1

How do you use that information? Suppose you came into the pot with A/K in the hole in a $5/$10 limit game. Three of you stay in to see the flop, and then that Q-6-2 falls.

The first player bets $5, the next man folds and it's up to you. All you have is two "overcards" to the flop and you're fairly likely to be up against a pair of Queens. You're probably beat at this point – but – if the next card is an Ace or a King, you'll have the "top pair," a probable winner. The chart says it's 7-to-1 against catching your card on the turn. So should you call $5?

Here's where you have to size up the pot, add in another two or three bets for the expected eventual profit you'll earn if you hit your hand, and call only if that total is more than $35 (7-to-1 on your $5 call).

Generally speaking, there'll be enough money out there for you to call with this hand, but sometimes there won't be. Your job is to call when there's enough and fold when there's not. Be extra cautious if there are players to act after you who could raise, thereby doubling the cost of your call while increasing the pot size only moderately. And it should go without saying that if it's already been raised to $10, you'll seldom be able to call since you'll now need to net more than 70 bucks.

Also, you should err on the conservative side to cover those sadistic times that you hit your Ace on the turn, only to find out at the river that your opponent holds A/Q.

By the way, I want to stress that the Q-6-2 illustration is not so specific, but just a generic example of the many times you'll have two overcards to the flop. The same "generic" essence is intended with the rest of the "odds charts" below. Some of the following entries are frequent calling situations and others are frequent folders. But remember, the quoted odds refer to your chances of improving your hand right on the "turn" (next card). They'd be much better if you were planning on going all the way to the river, but then you'd have to call two bets instead of one.

Again, be aware that your odds to improve may not be the same thing as your odds to win. Depending on the situation, some of the very cards that improve your hand may end up giving your opponent an even better hand. We'll deal with recognizing that tricky caveat in a future column.

Hole CardsK/9
Flop isA-9-4
Odds of 2-pr or Trips on the Turn 8-to-1

Hole Cards8/7
Flop is7c-8c-Kc
Odds of Full House on the Turn 11-to-1

Hole CardsJ/10
Flop isA-K-5
Odds of Straight on the Turn 11-to-1

Hole CardsJ/10
Flop isK-Q-5
Odds of Straight on the Turn 5-to-1

Hole CardsAc/8c
Flop isKc-9c-2d
Odds of Flush on the Turn 4-to-1
Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey