The time to get off (or out of) a hand is either before the flop – and therefore before you have committed any, or much, money to the pot – or once the flop has appeared and it does not help your hand (which is, I’m sorry to say, most of the time).
The flop is the time when your hand – and those of your opponents – is made or broken. It is the moment when hands which were trailing before the flop have suddenly become strongest, and good hands pre-flop get no help from the community cards and suddenly look frail. Let’s look at a series of common situations and decide what action we might take. Bear in mind at all times that different players will take different action in the same situations. There is rarely a right or wrong way to play your hand, just methods that are more or less likely to work. These suggested methods are simple, but they are a good starting place on which to build your own skills and poker identity.
When the Flop Doesn’t Hit: Sadly, this is a common situation.
You hold A(H),Q(C)
and the flop comes K(S),7(S),3(D)
If no one bets anything, you can just check and wait to see if the turn and river are great cards for you. An ace would be nice. However, be aware that someone might’ be holding two spades and be on a Flush draw (hoping that another spade will appear in the turn or river and make him a Flush). If anyone makes a bet, you will have to concede.
You hold Q(S),Q(D)
and you raised before the flop, and one player called your raise
and the flop comes A(C),K(D),6(S)
This is a disaster for you. It is very likely that one of the two overcards (cards higher than those in your hand) has paired up with your opponent’s hand. If your opponent makes a bet, it will be right to fold and concede your greatly devalued hand. Contrast that with this situation where, again,
you hold Q(S),Q(D)
and the flop comes J(D),7(S),2(C)
Now, unless your opponent has AA, KK or a Pair matched on the flop, you have the best hand. You should definitely bet and probably re-raise any bet that your opponent makes since your QQ is likely to be winning. What you do not want to see is a king or ace appear on the turn or river – that would threaten your hand. Here, you want to raise big, to protect your hand and try to force your opponent to fold.
Intention: try to win the pot now with a raise to protect your hand against being beaten subsequently if an ace or king hits the board on the turn or river.
Holding Top Pair: This means if the flop’s highest card matches yqur hand to make a Pair. Now, your pair is the highest possible unless another player holds a higher pair in hand (here, only AA in the hole can beat you). This is a common situation which requires a simple course of action. Assuming that there have been no pre-flop raises, but three callers,
you hold K(D),J(D)
and the flop comes K(C),9(C),4(S)
when it is your turn you should bet. This is because you hold the top Pair of kings and a decent kicke: In the form of your jack. Unless someone has called originally on a strange low hand or something like K9 or K4, you have the best hand. You do not want to see any further cards in case a third club appears and you begin to fear the Flush. Betting the value of the pot here looks good. If you are called by a player with two clubs in his hand, seeking a club Flush, you have the odds on your side. He will only make his Flush one time in three whilst you have the best hand unless a club appears.
Intention: try to win the pot now or make players pay too dearly to draw to their hand.
Holding an Overpair.
An overpair is a Pair in your hidden two cards (in the hole) which is higher than the highest card showing on the flop. Assuming that no one raised pre-flop and you decided to call rather than raise with your low Pair, you face a similar problem to holding top Pair when this happens:
You hold 8(S),8(D)
and the flop comes 7(D),6(H),3(D)
Hoping that no one has called on 54 or 98 (it has been known) and therefore made a Straight on the flop, you probably have the best hand. Players with a higher Pair than yours might well have raised pre-flop. So, you want to protect your top Pair of 8s from the appearance of high cards on the turn and river, which might mean that another player suddenly overtakes you.
Some players would go all-in here to prevent any speculative calls, but in truth, a large bet – maybe twice the pot size – should do the trick.
Here, your intention is to win the hand now while you seem to be safely in the lead. If you checked or made a small bet which was called and the turn came:
Now you would be miserable. A player might easily hold a king and have you beaten and someone might just have made a diamond Flush.
Anyone betting now will surely have you beat and you will have to give up.
Intention: bet big to win the pot now – you do not want to risk overcards appearing on the table.