What to Do after the Flop’s Out
1.lf you have nothing, get out.
This simple rule will save you a lot of money over your poker-playing lifetime. But a lot of players violate it. If you have queen-jack of hearts, a good starting hand, and the flop is the king of diamonds, and the 6 and 3 of spades, get out. Throw your hand away and wait for the next hand.
2. If you don’t have much, get out.
This is a harder rule to follow than the previous one but it’ll probably save even more money. For example, you have a 9D, 8D and the flop is QC, 8H, 3D, i.e. all of different suits (called a ‘rainbow flop’). The optimist in this position sees a pair and a back door flush draw. But if someone bets the pot, representing a pair of queens, or better, where are you? You need to hit a 9 or an 8 for an immediate improvement, which still may not win. If a diamond comes, that gives you a four flush, but your opponent, if he’s a quality player, is likely to bet the pot again. Do you want to call a pot-size bet with only one card to come? I suggest not.
After the flop, you have seen five cards out of seven or 70 per cent of your hand. It is usually a weak play to call on the flop, only to pass on fourth street if there’s another bet.
As a general rule, then, inside straight draws, back door flush draws, second or third pair, or even top pair with a weak kicker, are better off in the muck (that is, you are better to pass them). Of course, if you have a strong suspicion your opponent may not have a solid hand or is attempting a bluff, that’s a different matter.
David Sklansky introduced the concept of semi-bluffing into the language of poker and it is now part of the lexicon of table talk. This is a hand that you are betting with which you hope will not be called, but if it is called, still has a chance to win. So, in the hand above, for example, you might bet your pair of 8s as a semi-bluff if your opponent checks to you, showing weakness. You hope he folds, but if he doesn’t you still have a number of ways to win. This is better than a pure bluf( where you have no hand at all. If your opponent calls in the latter case, you know for sure you have lost your chips. Note that a semi-bluf( by definition, can only be made if there are still cards to come, as you are hoping your hand will improve.
3.lf you’ve hit something, and you like it, bet it.
Say you’ve played a small pair and now you’ve hit trips. You should usually bet here. For example, if you’ve played pocket 4s (two 4s in the hole), and the flop comes 10-9-4, I would definitely bet. This applies particularly if two suited cards come on the flop which means somebody might have a flush draw. If you checked this type of hand and the next card is, say, the jack of the same suit, your three 4s don’t look so good any more (the jack could have made your opponent a flush or a straight). It’s always tempting when you flop a big hand, to check and hope somebody else bets, or check and hope somebody catches something on fourth street that gets them involved. But unless you are against a very aggressive player, who nearly always bets if he is checked to, it is usually safer to bet to protect your hand. If you get raised, of course, you have to re-evaluate your hand – it might be second best, but don’t let the fear of being raised stop you from betting.