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Best of Fred Renzey

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Play 'Good Poker' on the Flop in Texas Hold'em

27 November 2004

Much has been written about the strategy of choosing your starting hands in Texas Hold'em. That's because it's not only very important, but it's also the simplest stage of the game. At that point you simply hold one of 169 different possible starting hands. Some are good while most are not. Choosing a playable starting hand in regular limit Hold'em is primarily a mathematical consideration.

Once the flop hits the board, though, the water starts to get muddy. The game now begins to turn from the mathematical toward the psychological. Sure, you'd love to play two high cards such as K/Q just like the book says and have the flop come down with a King and two smaller cards. That would be sweet and simple. But suppose you play that K/Q and the flop is any one of the following:

A-Q-5
2-6-9
10-J-3
K-7-7
Q-2-6 (all hearts)

Here's where playing "good poker" can make you money or save you money and playing "bad poker" can cost you money. The thing of it is, knowing what to do here isn't that simple and these kinds of scenarios come up all the time. Let's look at the top flop first.

A-Q-5: Answer this question. What pair gets made more than any other in Hold'em? It's a pair of Aces. Why? Because an Ace in the hole calls to see the flop more than any other card. The deuce/9s, the 6/9s and the J/9s will usually get thrown away, but the A/9 will often stay to see what flops.

So when an A-Q-5 falls and you've got a Queen in the pocket, realize that your hand isn't really too good. If a bet comes from an early seat, particularly if that player raised before the flop, fold your hand yesterday. If it's checked to you and there are still players behind you, bet if those players just called before the flop. But check if one of them had raised, then fold if he bets.

2-6-9: Here, maybe somebody made a pair and maybe they didn't. All you have is two "overcards" to the board. If you're in an early seat, your opponents will expect you to have high cards and won't be particularly afraid if you bet. It's probably better to check, then call hoping to hit one of your six overcards on the turn. But if you're in a late seat and it's checked to you, a "steal" bet might be worth a try. If you're called and miss on the turn, though, just check and be ready to give it up.

10-J-3: This is actually a good flop for you. You'll make either a big pair or a straight half the time before the hand is over. You should probably bet or raise on the flop, but slow down and just check or call on the turn if you've missed there.

K-7-7: You flopped top pair but could be against trips. Be aware that a flop of K-10-10 is more dangerous than K-3-3 since more people will play a 10 than a 3. If there's a tiny pair on board, assume your Kings up are good and bet. With a larger board pair, just check and call.

Suited Q-2-6: When you flop top pair and somebody could already have a flush, you're liable to be just called by a flush, but raised by somebody with a flush draw (4-flush). Since flushes aren't that common in Hold'em, bet the flop and call if you get raised. If a fourth flush card comes on the turn, however, check and fold. If the flush card doesn't come, bet again. If you get raised there, fold – this player probably actually has the flush. If you get past all that, check and call at the river.

These are the bulk of the problems you'll run into on the flop when you play two premium cards. Managing them effectively can make you a winner or a loser.

Play 'Good Poker' on the Flop in Texas Hold'em is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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:

> More Books By Fred Renzey