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Reading the Flop

By Gary Steele

There is a lot you can learn from the flop if you are playing your game correctly. When you get no help on the Flop, it is important to understand when you are holding two cards that are a lost cause versus when you have a reasonable chance of bluffing.

A classic example of a scenario where you play correctly and gain information about the flop is when you are dealt King/Queen. This is a hand you want to make a pre-flop raise on, but it is also a hand that is easily beaten. Your bet pre-flop on an average table gains you invaluable information. Unless someone is wild they will at least respect your bet and give you credit for having something worth playing. They at least have to consider that you may hold a high pair. This is where analyzing the flop comes in. Here are two examples of flops that do not help you, but do help you to make different decisions.

For both of these scenarios I am going to assume we are the last to act with a King/Queen. We are also going to assume you have average players at the table. Nobody too tight and nobody too loose is sitting with you.

In the first situation you have three other players in the hand and the flop contains Jack of Heats, Jack of Spades, and Seven of Hearts. The other three players check to you. You are probably not holding the winning hand and if you raised before the flop there may be some incentive for the guy holding the Ace (there always is one) or two Hearts to stay in the pot looking to make their hand. If anyone is holding a Jack they are probably slow playing hoping you make a bet. I know I would. It is not uncommon for players to call a raise before the flop with Jacks and Aces in their hand. In this case you have two options. Check and see a free card on the Turn OR make a bet hoping to get help on the Turn and see the River for free. Since you would be so far behind the player holding a Jack, I would Check and see what happens after the Turn.

In the second scenario you have made a bet before the flop and only one other player is left in the hand. The Flop contains Two, Five, and Eight of three different suits. In this case the correct play would be to bet as if you have made your hand or have a high pair. It is much more likely that the other player has two cards such as Ace/Jack than a high pair of his own. It would be very uncommon for an average player to call a Pre-Flop raise with anything helped out by that Flop except maybe a low pair. You know the player has something playable because you raised and you know the flop did not help a playable hand. This bluff will get the pot for you much more often than it will fail. If the other player calls or raises you have to concede defeat. After all, you have nothing.

Gaining experience analyzing the Flop is one way to play more hands, make more money, and earn more respect at the poker table. It is also important to read the other players to get an idea if they would slow play the Jack in the first scenario or if they would call your bet with two high cards in the second. Keep playing and keep learning.

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