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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Playing Texas Hold'em Against a "Raggedy" Flop

21 September 2007

It's nice when you're dealt a big pocket pair in Hold'em, like a pair of Aces or Kings. That gives you a clear-cut direction on how to play your hand.

It's also pretty nice when you play the two big cards, like Ace/King and an Ace or King comes on the flop. Again, your hand can pretty much play itself. Even when you've got something like 9d/10d in the hole and two diamonds flop, you know you can usually play your 4-flush to the river. That, however, is about the extent of it in Hold'em.

Other than having a big pair, flopping a big pair or flopping a flush draw or straight draw, there are hardly any additional situations worth playing beyond the flop in this game. Usually, you either flop something, or you're done with it. Normally, you must live by that rule if you want to survive in the green felt poker jungle.

Nevertheless, if there are only two or three players in the pot and the flop is all small, unrelated cards (known as "rags"), then high cards alone do have some value. Here, you might want to think it over for a split second before you flat out surrender. Suppose, for example, you're playing $5/$10 limit Hold'em and you raised it to $10 coming in with A/Q and have just one or two callers behind you. The flop comes down:

2h-5c-7d

You missed this flop completely and have nothing but an Ace high with a Queen kicker. But hold on a minute. What could your two opponents have called your raise with? If nobody already had a pocket pair, you most likely still have the best hand since they shouldn't be calling a raise with a 2, 5 or 7 in their hands.

You're first to act, so what do you do? Here you should probably make the $5 bet to test the waters and avoid giving a free card that might turn out to beat you.

Remember, you were the one who showed strength by coming into the pot with a raise. You could very well have a decent pocket pair for all they know. A bet might win the pot right here and now. But if somebody calls, you'd better be very careful on the next card.

If that "turn" card (fourth board card) is another "blank" (low, unsuited, unpaired card), again you might make some judgments about your opponents' playing styles before you throw up the white flag. You see, many opponents will call the $5 flop bet with almost anything, but will fold on the turn for $10 if they're still empty there. If that's how you've seen these people play, then fire the ten bucks out there.

But if either of your opponents are the cautious type who needs to make a real hand on the flop before putting any more money in the pot, you're probably already beaten. In that case, you should just check on the turn, then fold if there's a bet. You never know. Maybe they'll just check along and you might spike an Ace or Queen on the river for free.

Now, what if the tables were completely reversed? Say your opponent came in raising and you called behind him with the A/Q – then he bet $5 on the flop when the unsuited 2-5-7 hit.

He's trying to suggest to you that he already has a hand – and he very well might. It's very tough to call that bet when you have nothing but two "overcards" (cards higher than the flop). Most of the time you should fold here. But just before you do, consider how you've seen the bettor play. Does he raise a lot? Does he play a lot of hands?

Don't make this a habit, but you might give a call to a "loosey goosey" player for $5 to see if you spike an Ace or Queen on the turn, or if he now checks to you. If you miss though, do not put any more money into the pot.

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