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StrategyNo Limit

After the Flop: An Opponent Has Initiative

Introduction

In this article we will cover...
  • why you should play made hands aggressively
  • when you can play strong draws aggressively / when to play according to the pot odds
  • why you need a big hand to play for a big pot

You will rarely call a raise before the flop, simply because doing so is rarely profitable. You want to be in control when you play, which means being active and not making passive calls.

This situation will, however, arise, when you have a small pocket pair, for example. This is almost always the hand you will have when calling a raise before the flop. It's also an easy hand to play after the flop: Either you will have a set and try to go all-in or you won't hit a set, in which case you give up the hand.

It's also difficult for your opponents to get a read on you when you do hit a strong hand. You are only using your hole cards and a single community card, which makes your set much harder for your opponent to spot than a straight draw or a made flush, for example.

If you look at the Starting Hands Chart you will notice that the only time you ever directly call a raise is with a pair. There are, however, a few exceptions: 1) The raise is minimal in size, 2) other players have already called the raise.

You can call with suited connectors, as long as both of these criteria are met and you are in position. Just remember, you can only get paid off big when both you and your opponent have enough chips in your stacks.

There's no need to play a speculative hand against an opponent who only has half as many chips as you, since he doesn't have enough to pay you off if you make your hand. As a general rule of thumb you can call raises between 4-5 BBs when at least two players have already called and when you and your opponent(s) have 100 BBs or more in your stacks.

EXAMPLE 1 - SMALL POCKET PAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the BU
  • UTG1 calls $0.25
  • UTG2 and UTG3 fold
  • MP1 calls $0.25
  • MP2 and MP3 fold
  • CO ($25 Stack) raises to $1.25
  • You call $1.25

A relatively easy hand to play: A quick look at the Starting Hands Chart is all you need. You and the aggressor have full stacks. You follow the Call20 rule: Call a raise with pocket pairs when you and your opponent each have 20 * original raise in your stacks. This condition isn't quite met, but it's close and the blinds could still enter the hand.

EXAMPLE 2 - SUITED CONNECTORS
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1 calls $0.25
  • UTG2 and UTG3 fold
  • MP1 calls $0.25
  • MP2 folds
  • MP3 raises to $0.50
  • You call $0.50

This time your decision is tougher: You have suited connectors and the raise is minimal. You also have position on the aggressor and others will probably enter the hand. You can call and look at the flop.

EXAMPLE 3 - SUITED CONNECTORS
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are the SB
  • UTG1, UTG2 and UTG3 fold
  • MP1 raises to $1
  • MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • BU calls $1
  • You fold

Calling a raise with suited connectors in the SB position is practically a deadly sin in poker. You are playing a speculative hand out of position and on the defense. There's no way to play it profitably.

EXAMPLE 4 - SUITED CONNECTORS
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1 raises to $0.75
  • UTG2, UTG3 and MP1 fold
  • MP2, MP3 and you call $0.75

This is a close call. On one hand two players have already called and the raise was only 3 BBs. On the other hand there are other players behind you, so you can't be certain that you will be playing in position. You can call, but folding wouldn't be a mistake, either.

DOWNLOADS

The starting hand chart as PDF file

The odds chart as PDF file

What kind of hand are you looking to hit?

We already said that you will usually only be calling raises with either pocket pairs or suited connectors. This narrows the range of hands you are looking to hit on the flop. You can continue to play made hands, such as two pair or three-of-a-kind, and strong draws, such as flush draws and OESDs - everything else belongs in the muck.

You should already be familiar with the five categories of hands you can hold after the flop from other strategy articles:

  • Worthless hands
    Also called trash.
  • Weak draws
    A weak draw, like a gutshot draw, is no good when you called a raise before the flop.
  • Strong draws
    Flush draws and OESDs. Strong draws have 8 outs or more.
  • Medium made hands
    Hands like top pair with a small or medium kicker, middle pair etc. fall into this category. You will usually be ahead after the flop, but aren't looking for action. If opponents start betting you will have to fold.
  • Strong made hands
    Depending on the board, any hand two pair or better can be counted as a strong made hand and should be played aggressively.

The structure on the board isn't as important as in hands when, for example, you raised before the flop. You are only interested in playing strong made hands and strong draws for the right price.

The cards on the board do, of course, influence your play. Your decision on how to play your hand, i.e. slowplay or a raise, will require a glance at the community cards.

You should never slowplay on a draw heavy board. Slowplay is only profitable when it is extremely unlikely than an opponent can catch up to you. It's also better to play aggressively when three or more opponents are in the hand, unless you have an unbeatable hand like four-of-a-kind.

In this article we will answer the following questions:

  • When should you slowplay a strong made hand?
  • When should you play a strong draw passively/aggressively?
  • What should you do with a medium made hand, for example, pocket 8s on a 327 flop?

How do you play after the flop?

You have a strong made hand

The most interesting and profitable situation comes when you hit a very strong made hand on the flop. This could be anything from three-of-a-kind to a completed straight, flush or full house. Two pair are often a strong made hand, but weaker and more vulnerable than the others.

The number of opponents in the hand and the cards on the boards have a strong influence on your decision. Your position is also a decisive factor.

YOU DON'T HAVE POSITION ON THE AGGRESSOR

This happens when you are the SB/BB, or when you limp in and someone raises behind you. If you hit a strong made hand on the flop you will have three choices:

  • You bet.
  • You check with the intent of raising when an opponent bets (check/raise).
  • You check with the intent of calling when an opponent bets (check/call).

When you check you do so to give your opponent the opportunity to make a continuation bet. Whether or not he seizes this opportunity depends on a number of factors.

If he is a good player you know exactly what factors are necessary for him to make a contibet - the same ones you would need. Remember the article "After the Flop: You Have Initiative" - You can make a continuation bet with a good made hand, a strong draw, or when facing few opponents.

The more opponents you have and the heavier the draws on the board, the better it is to bet yourself. Even an aggressive player will refrain from bluffing against three opponents. And since he will often miss the flop, he probably won't keep betting.

A board with several open draws is even worse. The aggressor will hardly ever make a continuation bet and the chances of someone catching up to your three-of-a-kind are even higher.

If it's just you and the aggressor, slowplay might be an option. You can play check/raise on a draw heavy board, or check/call on a safe board.

It's OK to be a bit creative. You don't always have to check/raise - you can also make a small bet into a very aggressive player. This will often be seen as a challenge and he may be provoked into putting even more into the pot.

YOU HAVE POSITION ON THE AGGRESSOR

If you have position on an opponent who raised before the flop and checked after, your next move is simple: You bet. The only way for money to enter the pot now that the aggressor has slowed down is to put it in yourself.

Things get interesting when the aggressor makes a contibet. You'll have to look at the board before you decide what to do. What draws are possible? Will it hurt to let your opponent(s) see the turn card?

It's certainly not a mistake to raise directly on the flop, but you can also just call on a drawless board.

A low flush and a low two pair should be played aggressively. Your opponent(s) can have a lot of outs; get your money in while you're definitely still ahead.

Straights are more suitable for slow play, as long as there isn't a flush draw on the board.

EXAMPLE 5 - THREE-OF-A-KIND
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the BU
  • UTG1 bets $1
  • UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • You call $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, UTG1 - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks
  • UTG1 bets $2.50
  • You call $2.50

Here you see a good situation for slowplay. As you can see, there aren't any dangerous draws on the board and an ace is showing. A great flop for a continuation bet (as you learned in the article 'After the Flop: You Have Initiative'). This is the kind of flop a lot of players like to bet on even when they haven't hit anything.

Your opponent raised from early position. He probably has an ace or a pocket pair like tens or jacks. Chances are that you will get more money out of any of these hands by just calling.

There are too many hands he could fold, such as pocket tens, if you raise. There's no need to be aggressive on the flop. There are $8 in the pot on the turn, if your opponent bets there will be app. $20 in the pot on the river, and you will both still have a good $15 in your stacks. You might be able to get to an all-in by the time the river comes by just calling on the flop.

EXAMPLE 6 - FLUSH
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the BU
  • UTG1 bets $1
  • UTG2, UTG3, MP1 and MP2 fold
  • MP3, CO and you call $1
  • SB and BB fold
Flop - Active Players (4): You, UTG1, MP3, CO - Pot: $4.35
  • UTG1 bets $2.50
  • MP3 and CO fold
  • You raise to $9

In this example you hit a strong hand, but any opponent with a higher spade has a draw for a better flush. You already know what to do: Play a low flush aggressively on the flop and go all-in if possible.

EXAMPLE 7 - THREE-OF-A-KIND
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are the SB
  • UTG1 calls $0.25
  • UTG2 and UTG3 fold
  • MP1 calls $0.25
  • MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • BU bets $1.25
  • You call $1.15
  • BB folds
  • UTG1 and MP1 call $1
Flop - Active Players (4): You, UTG1, MP1, BU - Pot: $5.25
  • You bet $3

This is a tough situation. If you know the BU is an aggressive player, you can try a check/raise, if not, you'll have to bet yourself. With four opponents in the hand it's unlikely that someone else will bet and you don't want to give the turn card away for free. All in all, it's almost always better to take the initiative yourself in such a situation.

EXAMPLE 8 - THREE-OF-A-KIND
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are the SB
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • BU bets $1
  • You call $0.90
  • BB folds
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $2.25
  • You check
  • BU bets $1.40
  • You raise to $5

This time it's just you and the aggressor. He will almost always make a continuation bet in such a situation - a good opportunity for a check/raise.

You have a worthless hand / weak draw

It won't take long to discuss your strategy when you miss the flop. You can occasionally bluff when it's just you and the aggressor and he doesn't make a continuation bet. Against two opponents or more you'd need a good reason to stay in the hand.

EXAMPLE 9 - A SMALL PAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are in MP2
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3 and MP1 fold
  • You call $0.25
  • MP3 and CO fold
  • BU bets $1.25
  • SB folds
  • BB and you call $1
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $3.85
  • BB and you check
  • BU bets $2.25
  • BB and you fold

There isn't much to say to this hand. You correctly called before the flop, but you didn't hit and there's nothing left to do but fold.

EXAMPLE 10 - A SMALL PAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the BU
  • UTG1, UTG2 and UTG3 fold
  • MP1 bets $1
  • MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • You call $1
  • SB and BB fold
Flop - Active Players (2): You, MP1 - Pot: $2.35
  • MP1 checks
  • You bet $1.40

Your hand isn't worth much, but the aggressor checked and there aren't any other opponents in the hand. Either he is setting a trap or he has already given up his hand. Since chances are higher that he missed the flop than that he has a monster hand, an opponent is more likely to fold to a bet than to have set a trap.

You can bet and see if he folds. If he doesn't, don't bother trying a second time. Either he has a big hand or he suspects you're bluffing. Either way, there's no reason to invest any more money in the hand.

You have a strong draw

Your strategy with a strong draw is similar to your strategy for an unraised pot. It's not worth being aggressive when your chances of winning are only between 25% and 45%.

You do have a good opportunity, however, to win the pot in a later round and get even more money out of an opponent with a strong hand. If he has a hand like top pair or an overpair and your draw completes on the turn you can usually get him to invest at least one more time before he gives up his hand. You might even get his entire stack. These are all factors you have hopefully already read about in the article on implied pot odds.

As a general rule of thumb we can say: You must be able to win at least twice as much as you invest on the flop in later betting rounds to justify calling a pot sized bet on the flop. This means both you and your opponent(s) have to have enough left in your stacks. And as tempting as it might be with a strong draw, don't call any bets significantly larger than the pot size on the flop.

EXAMPLE 11 - FLUSH DRAW
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the BU
  • UTG1 and UTG2 fold
  • UTG3 bets $0.50
  • MP1 calls $0.50
  • MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • You call $0.50
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.25
Flop - Active Players (4): You, BB, UTG3, MP1 - Pot: $2.10
  • BB checks
  • UTG3 bets $1.75
  • MP1 folds
  • You call $1.75

This is an easy call for you. You have position on your opponent and a strong draw. Since your opponent is betting from early position, you can expect him to have a strong hand that he will invest in on the turn and river - even if another spade comes.

EXAMPLE 12 - OESD
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the BU
  • UTG1 and UTG2 fold
  • UTG3 bets $0.50
  • MP1 calls $0.50
  • MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • You call $0.50
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.25
Flop - Active Players (4): You, BB, UTG3, MP1 - Pot: $2.10
  • BB checks
  • UTG3 bets $4
  • MP1 and you fold

Folding is the best choice in this example. Your opponent's bet is almost twice the size of the pot, which should be enough for you to get out of the way. And even if his bet weren't quite so high, your draw isn't particularly strong with only 8 outs.

You learned about discounted outs in the article on odds and outs. The flush draw on the board means you have to discount your outs in the example hand. The 8 and 3 of clubs would give you a straight, but would also complete a flush draw. These two outs are no good and your chances of winning are lower than they would be on a rainbow flop.

It would be foolish to invest a large amount of money with such poor chances of winning.

You have a medium made hand

This is the hardest kind of hand to play. You have a hand and don't really want to lay it down, but it isn't good enough to start any action.

You might have the best hand, but it could get expensive to find out. Remember the rule: Big pots are for big hands, small pots are for small hands. With a medium made hand like top or middle pair your goal isn't to inflate the pot, but to get to the showdown as cheaply as possible. Pot control should be your main concern. If an opponent shows aggression, it's rarely a mistake to fold such a hand.

The other problem is that you can never really know where you're at with your hand. And even when you are ahead, your opponent(s) usually has outs that could show up on the turn or the river.

YOU HAVE POSITION ON THE AGGRESSOR

It's best to fold a medium made hand to a continuation bet when more than one other opponent is also in the hand.

You already know why: The more opponents in the hand, the less likely that the contibet is a bluff. If a player raises before the flop and bets into three opponents afterwards, he is pretty likely to have a pretty strong hand.

Being alone against the aggressor doesn't change things much. You're best off folding to a contibet. Even if you're ahead, your opponent is likely to have decent chances at catching up, and getting to the showdown won't be cheap. A player raising from early position is signaling a strong hand - it's best to believe him.

If he raises from middle or late position, however, chances are higher that you're ahead. You can call a contibet on a safe board. If he continues to bet on the turn, though, you'll have to get out of the way. Once again, he probably isn't bluffing.

You could also raise directly on the flop. Ideally your opponent will fold; if he raises you'll at least know you're beat and can get out of the way without investing any more.

Be cautious if he calls. If he then bets on the turn you're probably best off folding. If he checks, it's safest to check as well. He obviously called with something on the flop and his hand will often be better than yours.

A draw heavy board should be played differently. If you're only facing one opponent, raise on the flop. Your goal: To win the hand here and now. The jig is up if your opponent doesn't fold. Either he will let you get a cheap showdown or you will have to fold before you get there.

YOU DON'T HAVE POSITION ON THE AGGRESSOR

You can often take the initiative and bet out of position, even against several opponents. This is a good way to find out where you're at with your hand. A raise is your cue to fold. If you get called you'll have to make a new decision on the turn.

EXAMPLE 13 - WITH AN OVERPAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are the BB
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1 and MP2 fold
  • MP3 bets $1
  • CO and BU call $1
  • SB folds
  • You call $0.75
Flop - Active Players (5): You, MP3, CO, BU - Pot: $4.10
  • You check
  • MP3 bets $3
  • CO, BU and you fold

Staying in the hand would be a poor investment. You have an overpair, but your opponent is either already ahead, or he has a hand with good chances at beating yours. It's too bad you don't have the ace of spades - you won't win a big pot with a pair of sevens.

EXAMPLE 14 - WITH AN OVERPAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are the BB
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1 and MP2 fold
  • MP3 bets $1
  • CO calls $1
  • BU and SB fold
  • You call $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, MP3, CO - Pot: $3.10
  • You bet $2
  • MP3 folds
  • CO calls $2

This time you're facing fewer opponents and the board isn't as draw heavy as in the last example. This is a good chance to make a bet and see if you can make your opponents fold. Once again, you'll have to fold to a raise and make a new decision on the turn if you get called.

EXAMPLE 15 - WITH MIDDLE PAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are in MP1
  • UTG1 bets $1
  • UTG2 and UTG3 fold
  • You call $1
  • MP2, MP3, CO, BU, SB and BB fold
Flop - Active Players (2): You, UTG1 - Pot: $2.35
  • UTG1 bets $1.50
  • You fold

There's no need to call this bet. Occasionally your sixes will be good, but most hands your opponent would raise with have already left you in the dust. It would be a waste of money to invest any more money in the hand.

EXAMPLE 16 - AN OVERPAIR WITH AN OESD
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1 and MP2 fold
  • MP3 bets $1
  • You call $1
  • BU, SB and BB fold
Flop - Active Players 2): You, MP3 - Pot: $2.35
  • MP3 bets $1.50
  • You call $1.50

This time you have a weak overpair, but, more importantly, you have an OESD. You can't give this hand up without a fight.

In the last example you were facing a raise from a player in early position, this time the raise is coming from a player in middle position. Your overpair is more likely to be ahead this time. And even if your opponent is ahead at the moment, you still have the OESD.

Sometimes it's better to raise on the flop, but this time your cards are almost too good for that. If your opponent reraises you will be forced to fold a nice hand.

EXAMPLE 17 - WITH AN OVERPAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the BU
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • CO bets $1
  • You call $1
  • SB and BB fold
Flop - Active Players (2): You, CO - Pot: $2.35
  • CO bets $1.50
  • You raise to $5

This time raising is the best option. The board shows a few draws - it's also likely that someone has an ace (gutshot). An overcard on the turn would put you in the dark.

It's always best to raise in such a situation. Once again, you'll have to fold to a raise and make a new decision on the turn if you get called.

How do you play on the turn?

YOU HAVE A STRONG MADE HAND

Your strategy with a strong made hand doesn't change much on the turn. If you haven't shown any aggression yet, now is the time to take the initiative. Slowplay was OK on the flop, but now you need some action.

The only time you shouldn't show aggression is when your opponent is so aggressive himself, that you're more likely to get an all-in with more slowplay than with aggression. Most low limit players won't do this, however, and too much slowplay results in missed opportunities.

YOU COMPLETE A DRAW

Always be aggressive when you make your draw on the turn. Not betting when your opponent has position on you is always a mistake.

YOU HAVE A WORTHLESS HAND OR A WEAK DRAW

Your strategy with a worthless hand or a weak draw doesn't change much, either. You fold to any action unless the turn card gives you a draw and there is only one opponent still in the hand. If your opponent checked on the flop and/or turn because he missed the board, you can consider bluffing.

The main condition for bluffing is, as always: Your opponent has to be able to lay down a hand. If he likes to stay in the hand or if you think he might have hit something, but doesn't want to bet on it, you should stay away from a bluff. It may be worth a try, however, if there were only two or three players who saw the flop.

This, of course, is a semi-bluff, since the turn card gave you a draw. You should never make a full-blown bluff on the turn.

YOU HAVE A MEDIUM MADE HAND

It's hard to play a medium made hand on the turn. If you called from position on the flop, you'll have to fold to another bet on the turn. If your opponent checks, you should bet. As always, fold if he raises.

The reason you can bet when your opponent checks: the move 'bet flop/check turn' is an indication that your opponent doesn't have a strong hand and would rather fold than invest more into the pot.

It's a different scenario if he called after you raised his bet on the flop. If he then plays the turn aggressively, you should fold without hesitation - you are most likely facing a trap.

You have to be cautious even when your opponent checks. The safest move is to check and look at the river card. You aren't in a profitable situation: Either you will push weaker hands out or you will pay better hands off.

You have two choices when you're out of position. If your opponent didn't bet on the flop, you should seize the opportunity and bet on the turn.

If your opponent already called a bet on the flop, there is little sense betting on the turn. It may not sound logical not to bet on the turn, but doing so won't accomplish anything - there's hardly any hand that can call and lose to you. In other words: You turn your hand into a bluff.

It doesn't matter that you have a made hand and could win a showdown. Betting is bluffing in this instance. Weaker hands can't call; the only positive result a bet can have is forcing a better hand to fold - the definition of a bluff.

You can consider betting on a draw heavy board, but only under one condition: You know your opponent often folds on the turn after calling on the flop.

EXAMPLE 18 - THREE-OF-A-KIND
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are the SB
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • BU bets $1
  • You call $0.90
  • BB folds
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $2.25
  • You check
  • BU bets $1.40
  • You raise to $5
  • BU calls $3.60
Turn - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $12.25
  • You bet $8
  • BU calls $8

Unfortunately the nine isn't a great turn card. KQ would now have you beat; or, your opponent could get scared and give up his hand. Still, you have a very strong hand and there are a lot of weaker hands that could call your bet. You can even go all-in if you get raised.

EXAMPLE 19 - THREE-OF-A-KIND
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are in MP1
  • UTG1 calls $0.25
  • UTG2 and UTG3 fold
  • You call $0.25
  • MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • BU bets $1.25
  • The SB calls $1.15
  • BB folds
  • UTG1 and you call $1
Flop - Active Players (4): You, UTG1, SB, BU - Pot: $5.25
  • UTG1 checks
  • You bet $3
  • BU and SB fold
  • UTG1 calls $3
Turn - Active Players (2): You, UTG1 - Pot: $11.25
  • UTG1 bets $7

UTG1's call on the flop can mean a lot. He could have a draw with KQ, Q9 or 89, or have hit the J or T. It's unlikely, though, that he has two pair or better.

Then a second jack turns up on the turn and your opponent suddenly starts to bet. JT is the only reasonable hand that can beat you and it's unlikely that he is holding those two cards. You can assume you're well ahead and want to get as much money into the pot as possible. His $7 bet is enough for you to respond with an all-in.

It wouldn't be wise to call his bet. He is sure to have a made hand and would probably call with a straight draw. There are also a few ugly cards, like a ten, that could turn up on the river. Now is the perfect opportunity to put all your money in the pot.

EXAMPLE 20 - THREE-OF-A-KIND
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the BU
  • UTG1 bets $1
  • UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • You call $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, UTG1 - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks
  • UTG1 bets $2.50
  • You call $2.50
  • BB folds
Turn - Active Players (2): You, BB, UTG1 - Pot: $8.10
  • UTG1 checks
  • You bet $4.50

The flop gave you a good opportunity for slowplay, but now that your opponent has checked it's time to bet and increase the size of the pot. If your opponent had bet $4.50 instead of checking, you would only call. If he were to bet less, you would raise, since your ultimate goal is an all-in.

EXAMPLE 21 - FLUSH
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the BU
  • UTG1 and UTG2 fold
  • UTG3 bets $0.50
  • MP1 calls $0.50
  • MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • You call $0.50
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.25
Flop - Active Players (4): You, BB, UTG3, MP1 - Pot: $2.10
  • UTG3 bets $1.75
  • MP1 folds
  • You call $1.75
  • BB folds
Turn - Active Players (2): You, UTG3 - Pot: $5.60
  • UTG3 bets $4
  • You raise to $10

This time you hit the nut flush on the turn. You could consider calling, since there can't be any better flush draws out there. A raise is better, though, because you want to get him to put all his money into the pot.

EXAMPLE 22 - FLUSH DRAW + GUTSHOT
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the BU
  • UTG1 and UTG2 fold
  • UTG3 bets $0.50
  • MP1 calls $0.50
  • MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • You call $0.50
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.25
Flop - Active Players (4): You, BB, UTG3, MP1 - Pot: $2.10
  • BB checks
  • UTG3 bets $1.75
  • MP1 folds
  • You call $1.75
  • BB folds
Turn - Active Players (2): You, UTG3 - Pot: $5.60
  • UTG3 bets $4
  • You call $4

This is a borderline call. You can't be certain that your opponent will put more money in on the river. You also don't have the right pot odds to play a flush draw.

However, since you also have a gutshot draw you can call. You would have had to fold if the turn card had not given you the gutshot.

EXAMPLE 23 - MIDDLE PAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are the BB
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1 and MP2 fold
  • MP3 bets $1
  • CO calls $1
  • BU and SB fold
  • You call $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, MP3, CO - Pot: $3.10
  • You bet $2
  • MP3 folds
  • CO calls $2
Turn - Active Players (2): You, CO - Pot: $7.10
  • You bet $4

You chose to bet on the flop and got called by a player who didn't have initiative going into the hand. The jack doesn't fit the range of hands he may have called with, which is why you might still be ahead.

Your opponent could have a smaller pair or a draw. You can't afford to give him the river card for free. You also want to get information, which you can only do by betting.

Betting is the only right choice. As always, you will have to fold to a raise and make a new decision on the river if you get called. An ace or a spade on the river would probably help your opponent and be your cue to give up the hand.

EXAMPLE 24 - OVERPAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the BU
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • CO bets $1
  • You call $1
  • SB and BB fold
Flop - Active Players (2): You, CO - Pot: $2.35
  • CO bets $1.50
  • You raise to $5
  • CO calls $3.50
Turn - Active Players (2): You, CO - Pot: $12.35
  • CO and you check

This is another tough situation. If you know your opponent likes to see the showdown and doesn't fold often, you can bet. A better player probably has you beat. He wouldn't just call with a draw out of position and probably has a made hand.

The other problem is that he will probably fold any made hand you beat, but stay in with a made hand that has you beat. The best thing to do is check and wait for the river card before deciding what to do next.

How do you play on the river?

Not much changes in the last round. Continue to play made hands aggressively, give up worthless hands and draws that didn't complete.

Medium made hands will be the source of your woes on the river. Your play will depend on the actions in the previous betting rounds.

Take any chance you can to get to the showdown for free. We already discussed the problem with betting in the turn section: you turn your hand into a bluff. Weaker hands won't pay you off. You need a strong made hand to bet.

The question now is: What do you do when you are in position and an opponent bets in front of you? If he called a bet on the turn and is now betting on the river, he probably has a better hand. You should only consider calling if his bet is minimal in size.

Let's look at a different scenario: You called an opponents bet on the flop, both of you check on the turn, then he bets on the river. You can call a bet not larger than 1/2 the size of the pot. You won't be ahead often enough to justify calling a higher bet, though.

If your opponent has position on you, you have several choices. If you bet/raised on the flop/turn it's unlikely that your opponent will invest any more in a hand weaker than yours. Checking is your best option, if he bets you won't have to think long before folding.

If you both checked on the turn, you should make a small bet, a little under 1/2 the size of the pot. This will prevent your opponent from making a bigger bet himself and you might get paid off by a weaker hand.

This is called a block bet. If he raises, you will know you're behind and can fold your hand.

EXAMPLE 25 - THREE-OF-A-KIND
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are the SB
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • BU bets $1
  • You call $0.90
  • BB folds
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $2.25
  • You check
  • BU bets $1.40
  • You raise to $5
  • BU calls $3.60
Turn - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $12.25
  • You bet $8
  • BU calls $8
River - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $28.25
 

An ugly river card, but you should still go all-in. There are $28 in the pot and you have $11 left in your stack. You won't induce your opponent into betting with a weaker hand by checking, and since you're pot committed, you'll only end up calling if he does raise. There are, however, weaker hands that he could call with.

This is called a negative freeroll. If you have a very strong hand and the pot is so large, that you would definitely call an all-in, take the initiative and bet, even if the river card could have given your opponent a better hand.

If you just check, your opponent can check and see a free showdown, meaning he won't pay you off with a weaker hand. You know you are going to call if he bets, so it doesn't matter if he just caught the best hand.

Any time a draw comes and you know you are pot committed, take the initiative and bet before an opponent does.

EXAMPLE 26 - THREE-OF-A-KIND
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the BU
  • UTG1 bets $1
  • UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • You call $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, UTG1 - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks
  • UTG1 bets $2.50
  • You call $2.50
  • BB folds
Turn - Active Players (2): You, UTG1 - Pot: $8.10
  • UTG1 bets $4.50
  • You call $4.50
River - Active Players (2): You, UTG1 - Pot: $17.10
  • UTG1 bets $8

This time you are in a completely different situation. You slowplayed the flop and the turn and hid the strength of your hand. Your opponent might very well think you have a decent pair of aces. It's time to get aggressive.

EXAMPLE 27 - A MISSED FLUSH DRAW
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the BU
  • UTG1 and UTG2 fold
  • UTG3 bets $0.50
  • MP1 calls $0.50
  • MP2, MP3 and CO fold
  • You call $0.50
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.25
Flop - Active Players (4): You, BB, UTG3, MP1 - Pot: $2.10
  • BB checks
  • UTG3 bets $1.75
  • MP1 folds
  • You call $1.75
  • BB folds
Turn - Active Players (2): You, UTG3 - Pot: $5.60
  • UTG3 bets $4
  • You call $4
River - Active Players (2): You, UTG3 - Pot: $13.60
  • UTG3 bets $5
  • You fold

The decision on the river is easy. Calling on the turn was questionable, and now you have nothing on the river. Folding is the only choice you have.

Don't take an opponent's check as an invitation to bluff. In fact, you should never bluff in such a situation. It won't be hard for your opponent to figure out what's going on and there isn't a hand you can represent.

Bluffing when a flush doesn't complete is one of the gravest mistakes players in low limit games make. Your opponent is in a perfect situation to play "check/call to induce a bluff" on you. Don't fall for it!

EXAMPLE 28 - MIDDLE PAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are the BB
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1 and MP2 fold
  • MP3 bets $1
  • CO calls $1
  • BU and SB fold
  • You call $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, MP3, CO - Pot: $3.10
  • You bet $2
  • MP3 folds
  • CO calls $2
Turn - Active Players (2): You, CO - Pot: $7.10
  • You bet $4
  • CO calls $4
River - Active Players (2): You, CO - Pot: $15.10
  • You check

The river card leaves you with no other option than checking. True, only two gutshot draws may have completed, but there is nothing to be accomplished with another bet. The weaker hands won't call, the better ones won't be pushed out.

Few lower limit players bet on the river after calling twice with a draw. If an opponent does bet, he probably has you beat. You should fold, unless his bet is minimal in size.

EXAMPLE 29 - OVERPAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the BU
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • CO bets $1
  • You call $1
  • SB and BB fold
Flop - Active Players (2): You, CO - Pot: $2.35
  • CO bets $1.50
  • You raise to $5
  • CO calls $3.50
Turn - Active Players (2): You, CO - Pot: $12.35
  • CO and you check
River - Active Players (2): You, CO - Pot: $12.35
  • CO bets $8
  • You fold

The 2 of hearts isn't a good card for your opponent to bluff on. He will usually have a very strong hand in such a situation, for example a pair that is now a full house.

You should fold if you don't have a very good reason not to fold to a particular opponent. You will lose too often. If he had checked you would be able to make a small bet (1/2 the size of the pot) with your hand.

Conclusion

No matter how you try to twist and turn it, calling a raise before the flop is rarely a good idea in No Limit Hold'em. NL Hold'em is a game of aggression, you make a profit by consequently playing good cards aggressively.

There are, however, cases in which it can be profitable to call a raise before the flop. You do this because you have a speculative hand that could turn into something big. Any time you call a pre-flop raise with a pocket pair, for example, you are speculating on a set.

Don't make the mistake of falling in love with a middle pocket pair that is also an overpair on the flop. This isn't the profitable situation you are looking for. You'll have plenty of anger and frustration ahead of you if you can't learn to lay down a medium made hand.

The last article in the Big Stack Strategy introductory series will discuss playing for unraised pots.

Go to this article: After the Flop - No One Has Initiative

 

Comments (30)

#1 andyb43, 14 Jan 09 13:27

Some of the suggested bets seem to ignore the concept of pot odds?

#2 abotond, 16 Mar 09 10:59

I think we can talk about pot odds if you have to call a raise.<br /> The bets seen here are between 1/2-2/3 of the pot size.

#3 Gabinr1, 12 Aug 09 12:12

Excellent article! Ty

#4 jvdonder, 19 Oct 09 18:36

I dont know if I would fold on the last example as he could easily be bluffing or think that he isnt bluffing if he is holding the 5 or a pair of 6's - 8's. I dont see how he would make the call post-flop with a pair of 2's even if he had Thee of a kind with a pocket pair of 5's or 3's whould he really risk slow playing them against the flush draw and could he really have called with pot odds at that stage, if he thought I had the straight post-flop.I would appreciate any comment for my mind to digest. TY

#5 samymanole, 15 Dec 09 10:55

In the last example, I would've call with 99 because I have a full house too an he could bet with a full house made with 3 or 5.

#6 Koshburger, 15 Jan 10 12:31

ok

#7 shumacher96, 20 Jul 10 02:28

This is a great article but on example #29 and #19 he saids u shouldn't risk your stack on these hands but yet in both you have a medium full house and a strong full house in #29, so why wouldn't you go all in? Can someone plz answer my question.

#8 Dostje19, 05 Aug 10 13:09

i do not understand the last example aswell... Defenitaly a call there...

#9 PaTaPaTaPoNn, 27 Oct 10 03:23

because your opponent might have higher pair than yours like JJ<br /> in my experience if opponent bet like the example he usually had it

#10 Vycka73, 01 Dec 10 18:56

I don't understand last example too.. Only TT-AA, 33, 55 beat us.. But he cheked turn, that means:<br /> a) he have draw and want to see a cheap river<br /> b) he have 3 or 5 but he needs small pot becouse his hand isn't enough for big pots<br /> c) if he have TT-AA he makes mistake becouse he give free card for draws.<br /> d) he have 55 or 33 (full house) and making a trap.<br /> So in my opinion on river he dont have TT-AA, maybe he bluffs with not completed draw, maybe he wants to take a pot with full house (holding 3 or 5) and also he can value bet with nuts (33 or 55).<br /> Finally, i guess that we need to make call. Please tell me if im wrong.<br /> P.s. Im forgot smallest pairs than us like 77 or 88, but thats another reason to call, because we beat them.

#11 jozata, 13 Jan 11 09:41

@7 In example 19 it is said to shove the turn not to fold.

#12 mastera11, 18 Mar 11 12:13

In several examples we are BU and call a raise coming from CO with midpair, why not 3-betting?

#13 machine85, 31 Mar 11 12:26

I agree with all above just about you simply dont fold here often enough to write it in an article.

#14 Harnas31, 09 Jul 11 10:56

I play microstakes.<br /> <br /> Example 25<br /> River decision:<br /> I have Invested 14 $ so far.<br /> I believe that on such texture set is beaten.<br /> If i have passive opponent should i still bet and hope he will check or bet small , or should i still bet ?<br /> This idea about betting because of negative freeroll is unusual for me. I cant agree that I have to bet here.<br /> <br /> It looks for me that it doesn’t matter if it is *8 scary card or blank on the river. I should bet ?<br /> This doesn’t make sense for me.<br /> <br /> Example 28 <br /> Here article says: check – there is no talking about negative freeroll.<br /> I think example 25 is more serious , more dangerous for us and there should be check as well on the river.<br /> <br /> Example 29<br /> So you think he raised with 55 or 33 and now has a bigger full house ?<br /> I can agree –and even if he has 88, 77 in microstakes I think bet on the river would be much smaller with lower pair.<br /> I would fold because I haven’t invested much – I read turn x us trap, he wasn’t scare of raise on flop, and bets river – I believe I am beaten.<br /> <br /> <br /> thank you

#15 hasenbraten, 12 Jul 11 12:47

Well try to follow the argumentation. Assume you are ahead. If you check it gets checked through and you loose 11$ since ur opponent can be expected to call like everything for 11 into a total pot of 50$ (like AJ, AA and the like). Assume you check and he bets. Then you are the one getting 11 into 50 total. Will you just check/fold it? what if once in a while he valuebets worse like said AA or JT.<br /> <br /> If that does not convince you, im sorry :-(<br /> <br /> What exactly is it in "The river card leaves you with no other option than checking. True, only two gutshot draws may have completed, but there is nothing to be accomplished with another bet. The weaker hands won't call, the better ones won't be pushed out." you dont buy?<br /> you cant compare 25 to 28, the situation is entirely different...<br /> <br /> This example needs to be changed, should already have happened in the german version - its about the initial flopraise which is bad. Aside from that the river is just a fold because we expect to be beat here, if its TT+ or something else doesnt matter a lot

#16 churchilland, 20 Oct 11 18:57

on example 11 - according to pot odds you should fold, so I'm curious if this is not a mistake in article?

#17 churchilland, 20 Oct 11 19:59

I tkin people dont get that in last example oponet can have too a pair but since your is just 99 he as agressor from preflop can have a bigger pair

#18 eetwidomayloh, 30 Mar 12 12:50

article is very good and helpFULL.<br /> Busted flush bluff very good tip.

#19 ellamcc, 01 Jan 13 22:38

just a note to myself that I have notes on this

#20 Boruzh, 21 Aug 14 14:51

Thanks for the writter

#21 Honda70, 28 Nov 14 13:13

good ,good... nice tip

#22 toske1, 13 Mar 15 18:40

ok

#23 mirth, 03 Apr 15 10:36

i am also a bit unsure with the final example. pre-flop, he raises. this, to me, puts his range at 22+, a10+ (and possibly a few suited connectors). river removes 22 from his possible hands. (i lose to 33,55,1010,jj,qq,kk,aa, and win against the rest - ak alone has 16 possible combos) which does he check at turn after cont betting? 10+ can someone explain why he checks them with the draw heavy board? is he now putting me on calling his pre-flop raise with a 2 because one came on the turn? if the board were not so draw heavy, maybe he is worried with 10s, for example and slows down. but so many drawing hands call here, that it seems to me he bets his over pair again at turn. <br /> <br /> so, my question is: what hands does he check at turn that he raises pre-flop and bets on flop. and then that same hand that bets on river? i am very curious. <br /> <br /> thanks

#24 MrPink578, 24 Nov 15 10:46

Great article.

#25 bubamarasr, 25 Jan 16 03:32

Read it. Thank you!

#26 hassux, 25 Jan 16 21:12

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#27 msp3101, 25 Apr 16 11:37

very informative thanks.

#28 Lacolinos9, 19 Oct 16 12:56

Really useful article - thanks. One thing I'm not sure of though is how you can be so certain in example 19 that we have the best hand when the second J hits. What's to stop UTG from having AJ, KJ or QJ and calling the flop with top pair?

#29 Lacolinos9, 19 Oct 16 13:12

Really useful article - thanks. One thing I'm not sure of though is how you can be so certain in example 19 that we have the best hand when the second J hits. What's to stop UTG from having AJ, KJ or QJ and calling the flop with top pair?

#30 adisalibabic, 27 Oct 16 01:06

I love poker