Poker Strategy IV - After the Flop

After the Flop: Now what??

One of the most enlightening articles I ever read on hold'em was in one of the final issues of Poker Digest (which was purchased by Card Player) which posed the question - If you had a combined team of a novice and a professional who played a tag team game where each player made the decision (and they could not communicate in any way) on what to bet ... how would you play it - Would you let the amateur play the openers and the turn and the pro play the flop and the river or would you let the pro play the openers and the turn and the amateur play the flop and the river???

My thoughts and those of many experienced players - The pro needs to play the openers and the turn ... most novice players waste more money on lousy openers and don't know when they should be raising out of strength and then they chase on the turn when there aren't enough outs to make it worth while and even if they connect the hand has a low percentage of winning.

So with that in mind - you've seen the flop - what next

The absolute most important part of hold'em is understanding that the hand is now 5/7 complete - Statistically, you can absolutely calculate the best possible hand that can occur with the three cards exposed on the flop. Similarly, after the turn and the river - you have to be able to know what the best possible hand is ... and knowing that, be able to evaluate whether the hand you have has a good possibility of winning. We have all had countless games where we loose on straights, loose on flushes but somehow seem to win on a low pair or even an Ace high.

For example:

The FlopBest Possible HandThoughts/Strategy
Ah - Qc - 9dBefore the turn and the river, the best possible hand is a set of Aces, then Queens and Nines.
Notice that there are no paired suits, so a flush draw is unlikely. A player who is suited would need to catch runner/runner which is about (10/47)*(9/46) or about 4.16% since there are 5 known cards to them and since they have 3 suited cards, there are 10 left so they have 10 out of 47 on the turn and IF THEY CONNECT - they must draw one of 9/46 to fill the flush. The most likely scenario is a straight draw - so a 10-J opener would give you an open ended straight draw with 8 outs (4 Kings/4 Eights) but you need to be wary of the higher straight - and if I'm sitting with A - K, I'll win more than my fair share since you will catch your straight only about 16% and your flush less than 5% of the time - Strategy On Aces - Raise and make them pay to beat you
2c - 6s - 10dThis is a typical rainbow flop - not much to work with. Obviously the chance of hitting a set - but all of your straight draws are inside and would require a gut-shot fill. In other words - to fill a 2,3,4,5,6 (or the 6,7,8,9,10) straight, you would need 2/3, 2/4, or 3/4 in hand and fill the remaining card on the turn or the river ... which is unlikely 
Looking at this hand there is always a chance of a set, but more than likely, If you are sitting with a high pair or a couple of over-cards - you have a great shot at winning this pot. Even someone playing a suited run - say 7-8 or 4 - 5 would have to draw a gut shot to connect - that's about 4/47.
7h - 9h - 10cThere is a possible straight on the flop - possible heart flush and obviously the possibility of a set of 7's, 9's or 10's
Part of the strategy of poker is knowing who's tight, and who is loose. When you look at a flop like this, what are the odds that the player or players you are up against would have gone in on a 6 - 8 or an 8 - J. Trust me, loose players will catch this more than you think is possible, but a tight player is probably defending a high pair or his over-cards. I would love to be sitting with Ah-4h or K-Q because even if the hearts or straight don't connect, I stand a good chance of winning on a high pair.


Once you have seen the flop - Here is the thought process now you need to calculate the number of outs and whether or not to play the turn:

  1. Determine what the best possible hand is on the flop - In other words, if you had any two cards - what would be the best possible hand and what are the odds of someone having those cards - remember, it is much less likely that a player will have a 7 - 10 for a straight than let's say a A-J ... and if you do get called or another player is called, be aware of the situation and pay attention to what that player felt was strong enough to call with. Was he strong - and sucker the other player or was it a good card on the river. You can get a lot of insight into what people play by the cards they turn up on winning hands.

  2. Now you need to calculate the possible outs - not only for your hand, but for the best possible hand that can be made from those cards - If the flop is 2c - 8s - 10h, there is little chance of a straight flush vs. a flop of 10d - Kd - Ah where you need to look at the diamond flush, possible straights, probable high pairs, etc.

  3. Finally, determine how much is in the pot and what type of players are in the game - loose players will probably cost you more money if you lose and tight players will probably have one of the better hands you thought of when you are calculating potential outs - so if you are calling a $12 bet with 5 players and there was already $36 in the pot, you are now betting $12 to win $96 - Does your hand have a 1 in 8 chance of winning? If there is a rake, maybe you need a 1 in 7 (or better) chance of winning.  If you have a potential dominant hand Ah - 10h that is suited and the flop is 9h - Kh - As where you have a high pair and four to a flush ... you need to consider whether to raise ... if they  are going to beat you, make them pay - even if someone has a set or two pair - you have more outs on the flush draw and filling your Aces.


Here is a quick chart on the number of outs. This is useful information if you are trying to decide if you should call or raise on the turn or river. Note - on the river, you have seen an extra card - so the odds are based on 46 cards.

Outs When Drawing One Card
Your Hand Comments Outs
You have both a 4-straight & 4-flush and are drawing to both a straight or flush Be aware of the runs on the board - If you have a low flush draw - be careful on the higher flush or connecting on a lower straight. 15
You have a set and are looking for a  full house or quads You have 1/47 on quads and 3/47 on each of the other 3 cards (9 total) 10
You have a 4-flush and are playing for the flush Obviously, you are in a greater position of strength if you are suited in the pocket - if there are three suited on the flop - be careful on overcards. 9
You have an over-pair and you think you are up against either 2-pair or the top pair on the board => looking for either a  better 2-pair or set If you have a high pair A-A or K-K  and you think your opponent has the high pair on the board or two pair (maybe he only raises on 2 pair) and the board is Q-10-4, you have 2/47 to catch a set, a 3/47 to pair percentage to catch a second pair that doesn't help him ... don't forget that if a tight player is betting on that flop, they probably have the high pair on the board or possibly two pair. I'd take my chances with two pair - Aces and Fours. 5
You have a 4-straight and are playing for the straight If you have 5-6-7-8, then you have a 4/47 chance of catching the 4 and a 4/47 chance of catching the 9. 8
You are sitting on a 4-straight and you believe that your opponent has a 4-flush what are the odds of you getting a straight and him not getting a flush Now let's look rationally at this - You have eight cards to fill your straight, but two of them fill his flush - He has 9 outs to your 6 - So if you do connect, and he is a tight player - you might want to make him pay to stay in - you might buy the hand. Turn it around, if you are the flush draw and don't connect - do you stay for the river??? Again it is how much is in the pot vs. the odds. 6
You have two over-cards and you are up against what you believe is the top pair You have A-K and you believe that your opponent is in on a high pair. The board in 7s - 9s - Qd. While the flush and straight draws are possible, in a heads up game - I'd believe that a pair of Tens or Queens is more likely. You have 3/47 odds on drawing either a pair of Kings or Aces, while your opponent has only a 2/47 chance of drawing a set but also has a 3/47 chance of drawing a 2nd pair. 6
You have a potential inside straight - what are the odds of drawing it? I would be much more likely to draw to an inside straight if it also had 3 suited cards or an over card. 9s - 10s - Qh - Ks is a much better play than 2c - 3d - 5s - 6h. Again - look at the potential outs, and determine the return if you connect. 4
You have two pair, what are the odds of getting a full house If you have A-K and the flop is A-K-6, The chances of getting either pair on the turn is are 2/47 + 2/47 - 4
You have a pocket pair, what are the chances of getting a set on the turn Since you only know the 2 cards in your pocket, and you have seen the flop (5 cards total) - the odds are 2/47 2