Poker Flop Play Theory

In Hold'em poker game, the well known perspective is that it is a contest between a made hand and a draw. Under most of the poker game conditions, this is a useful perspective but however under loose game conditions, maintaining that the perspective of the game can lead you making tactical mistakes. As the game conditions become loose, involving more players competing for the pot, poker denotes a game of money and odds and less a classic confrontation between a made hand and a draw.

Under the made hand against a draw perspective, the made hand is in the lead and bets raises to reprove the draw, which is the hand that's chasing. The pot odds reduce through bets and raises that the chasing hand is getting to the edge of the made hand. This thought works well in games where most hands become two-or-three player confrontations. In those kinds of game condition, ideas about the best hand and hand domination are of great importance, but when the game typically involves four or five players contesting the pot on the flop, a different view of the game is needed.

Who is in the Lead?

Let's take an example of the previous section:

Player 1: KQ
Player 2: A9
Player 3: JJ
Player 4: T8
Flop: 973

We will scrutinize this example from the point of view of each of the four players.

The KQ

This first player would be almost confident that he does not have the best poker hand on the flop. Without knowing the exact holdings of the other players, he cannot be sure what the probability of ending up with the best hand is, but he can make some estimation. Any Heart (nine cards) will make a flush. Any King or Queen (six cards) will make a pair higher than the flopped top card. That's adds to fifteen cards which will improve the hand to a possible, if not probable, best hand. Further a 10 or Jack will give him a gut-shot straight draw. This kind of draw, where you need the last two cards to hit your hand is called a "backdoor" draw. This draw is strong enough to raise with, even heads up. In a multi- way pot it is a very strong hand.

The A9

The second player has the top pair with the top kicker - a good hand. Also he has got the flush Ace, giving him both a backdoor flush draw and protection in that if he makes two pair it won't make someone else a flush. Again, this is a strong hand. This player has no reason to think he doesn't have the best hand and if it turns out he's beaten by two pair or a pocket overpair; he's still got a draw to beat it. Even if someone makes a flush on the turn, this hand is not dead; a fourth flush card makes an Ace high-flush. This player is much more likely to raise.

The JJ

The third player is the best hand on the flop at least according to its poker hand rank but it is a very vulnerable hand. Such kind of hand doesn't get much opportunity to improve. Even if it catches a third Jack, things won't look so great. One of the two Jacks it can catch will complete a Heart three-flush on the board. Any Jack makes a straight possible.

This player will raise but against the lineup we are examining, that's a mistake. He loses his money on each bet he puts into the pot. He can't know that, but he can know than this kind of situation is very normal in multiway pots. Aggressive play by this player, under such situation, can be very costly. It is big mistake that is often made by players who consider themselves good players.

The T8

The fourth player has a playing straight draw and a backdoor flush draw. Although this hand is vulnerable of the four hands we are reviewing, it is stronger than many people think. It is not a kind of hand which should be raising with the flop, but it has enough possibilities that it should be played, even when the other players are raising.


You will get the advice that straight draws when there is a possible flush draw should not be played if other players are raising on the flop. It is true that straight draws are not strong draws and the presence of a possible flush draw is more likely to make them even weaker. However, we have got a little extra equity in the backdoor flush of our own. That is not much but it is just enough to offset that risk of making your straight when someone else is making a flush.

Value of Draws

This hand illustrates a concept which is further little modified from this original idea: When many hands with draws are competing on the flop against a semi-strong made hand, the primary beneficiary of flop bets is the best draw, not the best poker hand.

This concept was not popular and was misunderstood. Many players think that the implication is that you should play poker your big cards and big pairs very aggressively to drive out all the marginal draws. It is correct in tight games some typical games, but it is not the correct interpretation when the game loosens up. In a loose game, the idea of starting with the best hand goes out the window, draws start getting value. This is an important concept of Morton's Theorem.

The concept is explained by the table. For various numbers of callers, the table gives the combined outs, which relatively make the best pair an underdog to the field.

It is very important to get your money in the pot when your hand is best. The idea of "when the hand is best" needs to be extended beyond thinking of poker as a game of hand domination or a contest between a made hand and a draw. In Hold'em, your hand is best when the odds that you will win the pot are greater than the odds you are getting from the number of active hands that will call a bet. Playing on the flop is related to the game of odds. A tactical perspective is also important but under some circumstances you will want to maneuver players to fold; in other situations you will want to maneuver players to call. This is a basic concept in texas hold'em poker and the looser the game conditions, the more important the concept.

NUMBER OF OUTS
Number of collective outs to make an overpair a money underdog by number of rivals

Number of Outs Number of rivals
14 1
20 2
24 3
26 4
28 5
29 6
31 7
32 8

Evaluating the Flop

The first main step in playing the flop is an evaluation of your possibility. Let's look at the situations where the flop is:

" A virtually worthless hand
" A probable big winner
" A probable winner
" A probable best hand with large loss potential
" A strong draw
" A probable best hand with a strong draw
" A weak draw
" A steal opportunity

Let's see how to identify and evaluate the hand you have just flopped. The skill to determine how the flop has affected your hand's profitable potential rather than its hand value is very significant skill. The actual value of various kinds of flops is greatly dependent on the game conditions, i.e. the loose-tight and passive-aggressive characteristics of the table.

continue: A Theory of Flop Play: Defining Your Hand