In Texas Hold’em, what really constitutes a “scary” flop?
Well, to a beginning player, all flops are scary.
So I reached out to IveyPoker Pro Mathew Frankland for some tips to help beginner poker players feel a little bit more comfortable about their post-flop play.
This is what he had to say.
1. How Much Should I Bet?
Mat Frankland: You should always tailor your bet size for a specific reason.
The best advice I would give to a beginner is to make your continuation-bet size the same for almost every situation with the only exception being the stack size of your opponent.
Imagine you’re playing in a cash game and are deep stacked. You have good reason to believe you have the best hand and want to extract as much value from your opponent as you can.
In this instance it would make sense to bet bigger with a view to get all of your opponent’s chips by the time you reach the river. So 70% pot would be a good bet size.
If you’re playing in a poker tournament and stacks are a lot shallower, then you don’t have to bet as big and yet still be able to get the chips into the middle by the time the river comes rushing in.
2. Why Are We Betting?
MF: This is a big problem that I continually see with beginners and weak players. They will bet on the flop just because they feel they have to.
There is no thought process. No thinking. You should always be asking yourself, “What am I trying to achieve with this play?”
For example I see people c-bet hands like pocket aces, in position, on a flop of J87ddx. I think checking is the best play in this position and let me explain why.
a) We don’t want to face a raise
If we get raised we can discount most of the pure bluffs from our opponent’s range because the board is so coordinated.
So we’re either going to be up against a strong made hand that we’ll be close to drawing dead against, or a strong draw that has a lot of equity against our hand.
When people see me check back this board it doesn’t exactly scream strength. For this reason I may get one or two streets of bluffing I may not get otherwise.
c) Getting three streets of value is tough
There are exceptions to this rule, where weaker calling stations might call me down with three streets holding a weak jack, but in general if I bet twice here I’m going to be thinking long and hard about betting the river.
So if I’m only going to get two streets of value, why open myself up to getting raised or losing the art of deception?
If I check back then I can still happily get two streets by either calling turn bets or betting myself. I also get more information about my opponent’s hand by seeing what he does on the turn.
3. What Are the Stack Sizes?
MF: We always need to be aware of our stack size and the stack sizes of our opponents. The same hand can play out quite differently depending on how many chips our opponent has.
For instance we raise in the cut-off holding KTo and the button calls. The flop is K76r. Now against a solid player I’m not going to get three streets off a worse hand so I’m going to check this hand because:
a) I want to deceive him about my hand strength and get him to bluff/call the turn and river with weaker hands.
b) I don’t want to bet twice and then be unsure what to do by the time we reach the river.
However, this all changes if we start the hand with 20 big blinds (bb). Now I might want to bet here because I know he’s going to call with a lot of hands on the flop.
I can move all-in on the turn, giving him a tough decision with his middle pairs, and also block any free shots at hitting draws/two pair combos.
4. What Happens Next? (Think Ahead)
MF: This is the most important concept of flop play. When I’m playing the flop I’ve already evaluated various possible turn and river scenarios in my head.
This helps me immensely because it improves the quality of my flop decision based on the likely scenarios that may present themselves on later streets.
You wouldn’t just make a solitary move in a vacuum whilst playing chess. Why should poker be any different?
5. Who is My Opponent?
MF: The great thing about poker is that every opponent is different.
The way you play a hand against a tight player is entirely different to the way you would play against a maniac.
So the next time you go for the automatic c-bet with top set, stop and think first.
How would this opponent react if I check to him?
6. What Does He Have?
MF: Beginner players can easily fall into two categories. Those that don’t even think about what their opponent may be holding, and those that try to pinpoint a specific hand.
As you advance as a player you will start to think about the range of hands your opponent could be holding as a result of his previous decisions and interpersonal tendencies and then act accordingly.
Breaking this down can help massively when thinking about whether or not to c-bet.
For example if I open from mid-position and the small blind calls, I’m going to think twice about betting on a flop of J87ddx because his range consists of a lot of middle-pairs and suited Broadway combos.
7. What Does His Bet-Sizing Mean?
MF: So far we’ve discussed situations where we’re the aggressor but let’s consider a scenario where we are the pre-flop caller.
Players have a tendency to change bet sizing depending on the board/strength of their hand without really being good enough to play about with this to any great effect.
Very few players are capable of mixing this up with their strong and weak hands, so if you pay attention you might just be able to take someone off an obvious weak bet after seeing it a few times.
8. What Does He Think I Have?
MF: Thinking about your opponent’s perception of your range is far more important that what your cards are.
Stronger opponents will be thinking about what types of hands you have and then making decisions based on that information.
So if there’s a situation where you have a weak hand but the majority of the hands in your “perceived range” is strong, and this will be apparent to your opponent, then go ahead and fire away.
9. Is “Floating” a Good Idea?
MF: I think the ‘float’ is a move that is under used in poker, particularly by beginner players.
The idea behind this play is to call a flop bet, with no made hand and very little equity, with the intention of picking up the pot on a later street.
The next time you see a weak bet from your opponent, and let’s say we have two bare overcards, then consider floating as an option.
This way we can catch an overcard and let him continue bluffing, or even raise the turn to get him off his weak hand and take the pot.
10. Keep an Open Mind
MF: Think about poker as a river. It’s always ebbing and flowing and it never stays static for too long.
It’s important not to get stuck in a rut. Do not let fear or a closed mind stunt your growth.
Try new things in spots where you’re not too sure about, and who knows?
Perhaps you’ll find a good move that will give you the license to print money.