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StrategyNo Limit

After the Flop - You Have Initiative

Introduction

In this article we will cover....
  • why you should never play a made hand passively after the flop
  • when you can make a continuation bet
  • why you should never bluff against more than two opponents

Any time you have a strong hand and the opponents in front of you have not indicated strong(er) hands of their own, you raise before the flop. Depending on your position and the number of opponents in the hand, however, you can also raise with a weaker hand. Stealing the blinds, for example, means that a player bets into the blinds, not because he has a great hand, but in order to force them to fold so he can collect their blinds.

This article will focus on post-flop play when you have initiative. Remember, even if you raise first, a raise behind you creates a different situation, which you can read about in the other "After the Flop" articles.

EXAMPLE 1
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are in MP2
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3 and MP1 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • MP3 and CO fold
  • BU calls $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $3.10
 
EXAMPLE 2
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU and SB fold
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BB - Pot: $2.10
 

Being the aggressor before the flop puts you in a unique situation. You will play differently than in rounds in which either an opponent, or no one at all, raised before the flop.

In the following sections you will learn ...

  • ... how to evaluate the strength of your hand.
  • ... what a continuation bet is and when it is sensible to make one.
  • ... how the community cards and your opponents' play influence your play.
  • ... how to play on the flop, turn and river.

Keep in mind that we can't possibly cover this complex subject in a single article. It is critical for you to find as much learning material as you can - as an aggressive player you will most often be the aggressor going into the flop. Making the right decisions after the flop as the aggressor is the key to your success.

PokerStrategy offers diverse learning materials; you can watch videos, visit coachings, post in the forum, etc. Take advantage of these offers and continue to develop yourself as a poker player. It's a long road to the higher limits.

DOWNLOADS

The starting hand chart as PDF file

The odds chart as PDF file

How strong is your hand?

Once the flop has been revealed, the question is, "What do you have?" AK is a strong hand before the flop, but if you miss it isn't worth much.

You will usually be able to place your hand into one of five categories. Keep in mind, these categories are not set in stone - depending on the community cards and the opponents you are facing a weak draw could also be counted as a worthless hand, and vice versa, for example.

The five categories are:

  • Worthless hands
  • Weak draws
  • Strong draws
  • Medium made hands
  • Strong made hands
Worthless hands

A worthless hand is a hand that completely missed the flop. It can be, for example, a small pocket pair on a flop with three overcards, or a strong hand like AK or KQ that doesn't hit and leaves you with nothing but two overcards.

EXAMPLE 3 - TRASH
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU and SB fold
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BB - Pot: $2.10
 
EXAMPLE 4 - A SMALL PAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU folds
  • SB calls $0.90
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, SB, BB - Pot: $3.00
 
Weak draws

This category consists of hands that have little or no potential to win a showdown and that have poor chances at getting better. Weak draws include: gutshot straight draws, small pocket pairs that miss the flop and overcards with a backdoor draw (a backdoor draw means you need to hit the turn and the river to win).

EXAMPLE 5 - GUTSHOT DRAW
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU and SB fold
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BB - Pot: $2.10
 
EXAMPLE 6 - BOTTOM PAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU calls $1
  • SB and BB fold
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $2.35
 
Strong draws

A strong draw is a hand that can't win a showdown yet, but has good chances at turning into a strong made hand. Strong draws include: flush draws, OESDs (open-ended straight draws), and combodraws (a small pair + a flush/OESD draw, or a flush draw + an OESD, for example).

EXAMPLE 7 - FLUSH DRAW
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are in MP2
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3 and MP1 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • MP3 folds
  • CO calls $1
  • BU folds
  • SB calls $0.90
  • BB folds
Flop - Active Players (3): You, SB, CO - Pot: $3.25
 
Medium made hands

The term "medium made hands" can be deceiving. In a raised pot, this category consists of all made hands that are relatively strong and could win a showdown, such as an overpair, top pair with a good kicker, or a high pocket pair.

These hands are strong, but they can be beaten. If an opponent makes his hand, you usually have no chance at catching up again (i.e., you have an overpair but a flush draw completes).

EXAMPLE 8 - Top with a high kicker
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are in MP2
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3 and MP1 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • MP3 folds
  • CO calls $1
  • BU folds
  • SB calls $0.90
  • BB folds
Flop - Active Players (3): You, SB, CO - Pot: $3.25
 
EXAMPLE 9 - OVERPAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU calls $1
  • SB and BB fold
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $2.35
 
Strong made hands

This category is made up of monster hands - it can be anything from two pair to a Royal Flush. As always, the community cards and the number of opponents you are facing influence the strength of your hand. With a draw heavy board and several opponents in the hand your two pair may not be so strong after all - against a single opponent on a drawless board you would have much better chances. You have a strong made hand when: a) you most likely have the best hand and b) it is not likely that an opponent can complete a draw for the better hand.

How do you play on the flop?

Your actions on the flop determine how the rest of the hand will develop. In this section you will learn ...

  • ... what a continuation bet is.
  • ... which flops and which opponents present a good opportunity for a continuation bet.
  • ... how high your bets/raises should be.
  • ... what to do when someone raises in front of you.
  • ... what to do when someone raises after you make a continuation bet.
What is a continuation bet?

The name basically says it all - a continuation bet is a bet made after you showed aggression in the previous round. In other words, you continue to bet.

A bet in general can have three purposes:

  • You want to force everyone to fold and win the pot directly.
  • You want to protect a made hand against draws and make the next community card too expensive for opponents on a draw to see.
  • You have a made hand and want to get money out of weaker hands. You maximize the value of your hand.
EXAMPLE 10 - CONTIBET
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are in MP2
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1 and you fold
  • MP3 raises to $1
  • CO folds
  • BU calls $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): BB, MP3, BU - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks
  • MP3 bets $2.35
EXAMPLE 11 - CONTIBET
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, MP3 and you fold
  • BU raises to $1.50
  • SB and BB fold
  • UTG1 and MP1 call $1.25
Flop - Active Players (3): UTG1, MP1, BU - Pot: $4.85
  • UTG1 and MP1 check
  • BU bets $3

You've probably seen this before, either on TV or while playing yourself. The continuation bet on the flop is a standard move.

It can be a bluff, but it can also be a strong made hand. You will often make a contibet when you don't hit anything, but to do so you need the right flop and the right opponents.

A bluff continuation bet against an opponent who doesn't like to fold on the flop won't get you far. There are good flops for bluffing and there bad flops for bluffing. The most important thing to avoid is bluffing on draw heavy boards.

Which flops are suitable for continuation bets?

Rule #1: Always make a contibet with a made hand, top pair or better. Your goal: protect your hand and get money into the pot.

Rule# 2: Always make a contibet with a strong draw when facing a single opponent. This is a semi-bluff; you can either win here and now by forcing him to fold, or your hand can get better on the turn/river if you get called.

Remember, a semi-bluff is ultimately just a bluff and is only profitable as a tool when you can get players to fold. A draw alone isn't enough to justify a bet/bluff. Unless you have a true monster draw, your chances of winning just aren't high enough.

You will rarely get several opponents, or even a single loose opponent, to fold by betting. A bluff contibet against several opponents is only useful when both conditions are fulfilled: a suitable flop + your opponents can be forced to fold.

If both of these conditions are not met you will have to play your draws according to the pot odds, which you learned in the articles on pot odds and implied pot odds. You check and if someone bets you call if you're getting the right odds, and fold if you're not.

Rule #3: Your continuation bet is a bluff if you have a weak draw, a weak made hand, or nothing at all. Bluffing against several opponents and bluffing against opponents who won't fold is a waste of money. Never bluff against more than two opponents with a weak hand.

You will encounter the next situation quite often: You raised before the flop, one or two opponents called, and you didn't really hit anything big. Should you make a bluff contibet? The answer depends on the community cards and your opponents' actions.

When you look at the board, ask yourself two questions:

  • Can you represent a hand?
  • Could your opponents have hit the board?

If you answer the first question with a yes and the second with a no, you're looking at a suitable flop for a bluff continuation bet. Flops with high cards, are good for contibets, too. You can represent a high pair with your bet.

EXAMPLES OF GOOD FLOPS
A high card
  • You bet
An ace and a face card
  • You bet
A pair
  • You bet

As you can see, a flop that only helps a small range of hands is good for bluff contibets. The board isn't showing any significant draws and it's unlikely that an opponent has a strong made hand. You can represent a strong hand, and your opponent will rarely have the cards to call, even if he is absolutely positive that you are bluffing.

The only strong draw possible in the first example would be an OESD with 43. Your opponent can't have many strong made hands, either. He could have two pair with 52, K5, or K2, but this isn't likely since he called a raise before the flop. Your opponent would need three-of-a-kind or top pair to call a bet - he will most likely have to fold his hand.

The same is true in the second example. No strong draws are showing and you can represent either the ace or the king. It's not likely that your opponent hit a strong made hand and he certainly won't be on a draw.

Your opponent probably doesn't have a strong made hand in the third example either, and the board isn't showing any significant draws. The difference is that you can't represent much more than an overpair. Your opponent is less likely to believe that you have something. This flop doesn't really help many hands at all.

It's possible that your opponent spots your bluff, but he will rarely have the cards to call. His only real option is to bluff himself and raise you. You will often see aggressive players attack such flops. Be careful making bluff contibets on such a flop (drawless and paired) - your opponent might bluff back.

EXAMPLES OF BAD FLOPS
Very draw heavy
  • You check
Very draw heavy
  • You check
Very draw heavy
  • You check

All three examples are titled, "Very draw heavy." You should never make a contibet on a draw heavy board against more than one single opponent.

There's hardly a hand you can represent in the first example. There are also a lot of hands that will want to stay in the hand: 98, 87, 76, 65, 54, 43, 88, 77, 66, 55, and 44, as well as flush draws and overpairs. These are all hands that opponents could have called with before the flop.

There's nothing for you to represent and your opponents probably have playable hands - two good reasons to only invest if you're facing a single opponent and know he can can easily be forced to fold.

The same counts for the other examples. These are flops that help a lot of different possible hands. Your opponent could easily have two pair or even a straight. He could also have a straight draw, flush draw, or a pair and a gutshot draw. Of course, he could also have completely missed the flop, but this is too unlikely. It's best to give up your hand on such a flop and wait for a better opportunity to invest.

EXAMPLES OF MEDIOCRE FLOPS
High card + flush draw
  • You consider ...
Three high cards
  • You consider ...
Ace + possible flush
  • You consider ...

A lot of flops aren't ideal for a contibet, but it wouldn't be out of the question, either. You can represent a strong hand, but your opponents could have hit, as well.

You can see three such example flops above. There are two habits you should not get into on such flops:

  • Always making a continuation bet.
  • Never making a continuation bet.

The right decision depends on your opponents. What could they have hit? What will they lay down? What do they need to call? How easily can they be brought to fold? There's no right way to play this kind of flop. If you're not sure what to do, however, you're better off not taking any risks.

Which opponents are suitable for continuation bets?

There are different types of poker players, each of which reacts differently to a continuation bet. You can generally place your opponents into one of four categories:

  • Loose-passive

    It's hard for a loose player to lay down his hand, which means you can't bluff against them effectively. A loose-passive player will rarely show aggression, but will call a lot of bets. Your strategy against him does not revolve around forcing him out of pots, but rather patiently waiting for a good hand and then putting your money in. You know he will call with a wide range of hands.

  • Loose-aggressive

    A loose-aggressive player has trouble laying his hand down, too, but he also plays aggressively. This type of opponent is also more likely to bluff. They see a paired board (like in the example above) as an invitation to attack the pot. You should refrain from bluffing this type of opponent. Your strategy is to let him pay you off when you have a strong hand. Give him the small pots when you don't have a hand, and take down the big ones when you do.

  • Tight-passive

    You want to make your bluff contibets against tight-passive players. They are quick to fold and only show aggression when they have a strong hand. You will often make continuation bets against them. If it doesn't work, you'll know you're beat.

  • Tight-aggressive

    You are a tight-aggressive player. You play strong hands and avoid marginal situations. This is why you can bluff against tight-aggressive players. This also means players can bluff against you. This isn't a disadvantage - good players have to be bluffable.

    You can attack a lot of pots when facing so-called TAGs, but not as many as against tight-passive players. If he is multitabling, you can make regular contibets against him. He is probably playing his standard game and folding every time he misses the flop.

As you can see, bluff continuation bets are most effective against tight players who only play with very strong hands. Loose-aggressive opponents are the least suitable for bluff contibets. Remember the rule, "Never bluff against someone who can't fold," especially in lower limits where you will often find opponents who have no idea about poker.

Don't make bluff contibets against short stacked opponents. Either he is a poor player, or he plays a short stack strategy - either way you probably won't get him to fold. The less money your opponent has, the less likely he will fold to a bet. Short stacks quickly see themselves as pot committed.

Pay attention to how your opponent plays before and after the flop. Some players patiently wait for a good starting hand, but turn loose as soon as they've seen the flop - a good sign that he won't fold to a contibet. There are also lots of players who like to see the flop with any two cards, but immediately get out of the way when they don't hit. You should like this type of opponent, since he plays often and rarely has anything after the flop.

What do you do now?

Now you have all the information you need to make your decision. The trick is correctly weighing the information you have and making the right decision.

We'll start with the simple stuff: You have a medium/strong made hand (top pair with a good kicker or better). In this case you always make a continuation bet, regardless of the number and type of opponents you are facing. You will often either have the best hand or good chances at getting there.

Always bet with a strong draw against a single opponent and almost always against two. If you're facing more than two opponents, your decision will depend heavily on the community cards and your opponents' actions. Only bet if you think there is a good chance that everyone will fold.

It's hard to make a bluff contibet with a weak draw, a small pair, or when you completely miss the flop. Your cards aren't worth investing in and a bluff has to work regularly to be profitable. Take a good look at the flop and your opponents, if you see:

  • Many opponents - you don't bet.
  • A draw heavy board - you don't bet.
  • A loose opponent who calls every bet - you don't bet.

Good players tend to make contibets between 65-75% of the time, and more often in than out of position. On average, however, a good player won't make a contibet with 25-35% of the hands he raises with. The 65-75% of the time he does it's either a bluff or a playable hand.

You should almost always bet against a single opponent, unless he is loose and won't fold on the flop. You need a good flop before you can make a contibet against two opponents, and then only if you know they can fold. You've already learned which kinds of opponents can be brought to fold and which can't.

Time to try it out. Look at the next four examples and decide whether or not you would make a continuation bet.

EXAMPLE 12 - OVERPAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are the BB
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1 and MP2 fold
  • MP3 calls $0.25
  • CO folds
  • BU calls $0.25
  • SB calls $0.15
  • You raise to $1.75
  • MP3, BU and SB call $1.50
Flop - Active Players (4): You, SB, MP3, BU - Pot: $7.00
  • SB checks

This time it's an easy one - there's no way you're not going to bet. You have a strong hand, but you need to protect it. You want weaker hands to put money in the pot and don't want to give a flush draw the right price for the turn card.

If you didn't have such a strong hand you wouldn't make a contibet in this situation. Three opponents and a draw heavy board are two good reasons not to invest in a mediocre hand.

EXAMPLE 13 - STRONG DRAW
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are the BB
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1 and MP2 fold
  • MP3 calls $0.25
  • CO folds
  • BU calls $0.25
  • SB calls $0.15
  • You raise to $1.75
  • MP3, BU and SB call $1.50
Flop - Active Players (4): You, SB, MP3, BU - Pot: $7.00
  • SB checks

You don't have a made hand, but your draw is very strong. You have the nut flush draw and two overcards. The contibet is a must, even against three opponents.

EXAMPLE 14 - BLUFF AGAINST TWO OPPONENTS
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are in MP2
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3 and MP1 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • MP3 and CO fold
  • BU calls $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks

This is a borderline case. If you know you are facing a loose opponent, you should give up your hand. If you're not sure, or if you do know they are both tight, you can make a contibet. The flop is safe and you have outs for top pair.

EXAMPLE 15 - NOT BLUFFING AGAINST TWO OPPONENTS
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are in MP2
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3 and MP1 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • MP3 and CO fold
  • BU calls $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks
  • You check

The best thing to do on this flop is to give up the hand. There is almost no sense in making a bluff contibet, unless both of them are extremely tight; you probably won't be able to make them fold. A wide range of hands could have hit the flop and you can't represent much at all.

How much should you bet?

Now that you've decided to bet, the question is, "How much?"

In general:

  • The stronger the draws/dangers on the board, the higher your bet.
  • The more opponents involved, the higher your bet.

Your bet should always be between 1/2 and the full size of the pot. 2/3 of the pot is usually a decent size. You can bet the full pot on a draw heavy board against two opponents to give your hand maximum protection (don't think about bluffing in this situation).

1/2 the pot is a good size for a contibet against a single opponent on a drawless board. If you have a made hand, there is no need to protect your hand. If you don't, a 1/2 pot bluff contibet is relatively inexpensive, which means it doesn't always have to work to be profitable.

EXAMPLE 16 - BLUFF
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU and SB fold
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BB - Pot: $2.10
  • BB checks
  • You bet $1.25

In this example you bet a little over 1/2 the pot. The flop is harmless, or dry in poker jargon. If you had a made hand there would be little need to protect it. You can represent the ace with a small bet. This bluff isn't very expensive, which means it doesn't always have to work to be profitable.

Your opponent can hardly stay in the hand without an ace or a seven. You also have position on him. He will usually have no choice but to fold.

EXAMPLE 17 - OVERPAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are the BB
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1 and MP2 fold
  • MP3 calls $0.25
  • CO folds
  • BU calls $0.25
  • SB calls $0.15
  • You raise to $1.75
  • MP3, BU and SB call $1.50
Flop - Active Players (4): You, SB, MP3, BU - Pot: $7.00
  • SB checks
  • You bet $6

Remember this example - a clear case for a contibet. The flush draw on the board makes your hand vulnerable. You are also facing three opponents, two of which have position on you. Your bet has to be big; in our example nearly the entire pot.

EXAMPLE 18 - BLUFFING TWO OPPONENTS
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are in MP2
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3 and MP1 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • MP3 and CO fold
  • BU calls $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks
  • You bet $2

We already explained why a bluff contibet is questionable in this situation - you could easily just check. If you do decide to bluff, your bet should be around 2/3 the pot size.

What should you do when someone bets ahead of you?

Your opponents won't always check to you and give you the choice of making a continuation bet or not. Often enough, opponents will bet ahead of you, something called a donk bet. Your reaction depends on the size of the bet.

  • You are facing one opponent and his bet is small in relation to the pot (usually 1-3 BBs).

    This move usually indicates a weak or middle strong hand. If your opponent is short stacked (less than 2.5 * pot), you probably won't be able to bluff him off the hand. He will usually feel pot committed and won't lay down his hand. You should only continue to play by raising with made hands and strong draws.

    You can raise with a weaker hand if your opponent has a middle or large size stack. Of course, you shouldn't bluff if he is too loose and you should be sure his bet wasn't meant to provoke a raise. Such a bet from a tight aggressive player, who usually wouldn't make such a move, could easily be a trap.

  • You are facing one opponent and his bet is relatively large

    In this situation you should raise with strong draws and made hands (top pair with a good kicker or better), and fold the rest.

  • You are facing several opponents

    Bluffing is no longer an option. You can raise with strong made hands and strong draws, or you could consider calling with a medium made hand like a weak top/middle pair. You'll have to fold, though, if your hand doesn't get better.

You're in a really hairy situation if a second player raises ahead of you. The only hands that can still be played profitably are strong made hands (two pair or better) and strong combodraws (especially a flush draw + OESD). You can fold anything less, even pocket aces. Whatever you do, your decision will, as always, ultimately rest on the board and your opponents.

A raise signals a very strong hand. What draws are possible? If your opponent is particularly aggressive he may not have the best hand. Could he have raised with a hand weaker than yours?

EXAMPLE 19 - A SMALL BET
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU and SB fold
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BB - Pot: $2.10
  • BB bets $0.50
  • You raise to $2

The BB's bet indicates a weak hand, you could still catch an ace or a draw on the turn if he calls - a good opportunity to raise.

EXAMPLE 20 - A BIG BET
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU and SB fold
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BB - Pot: $2.10
  • BB bets $1.50
  • You fold

Same cards, same board, but this time your opponent's bet is much higher. He probably has a strong hand like top pair; or maybe something like 88 or A9.

EXAMPLE 21 - WITH SEVERAL OPPONENTS IN THE HAND
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU folds
  • SB calls $0.90
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, SB, BB - Pot: $3.00
  • SB checks
  • BB bets $0.75
  • You fold

In this last example the BB's bet is relatively small, but there is another opponent in the hand, as well. Since you haven't hit anything, folding is the best choice. Bluffing several opponents probably wouldn't work and would be a waste of money.

How should you react to a raise?

Another common situation you will encounter: you make a contibet and an opponent raises behind you.

You will obviously have to fold any weak or worthless hand, such as a small or middle pair, or a weak draw. You can continue to play a strong combodraw, such as a nut flush draw + OESD, or nut flush/straight + a pair, aggressively. With more than 12 clean outs you can even go all-in.

You can call with just a flush/OESD/double gutshot draw if you're getting the right (implied) pot odds.

If you complete your draw, you can expect to win another 1/2 of the pot size on the turn by the showdown. As a general rule: you can call as long as you don't have to pay more than 3/4 of the pot size (including actions before you).

You can expect to win even more from passive opponents, whose raise indicates a strong hand. Any poor players still in the hand are also likely to pay you off. In such a situation you could pay as much as the full pot size (including actions before you).

If a made hand, top pair or better, the cards in the flop should be of particular interest. Raise and protect your hand on a draw heavy board. You could just call on a drawless board to keep your opponent in the hand if you think it's likely that he has a weak hand or is bluffing.

You can usually fold weak hands like top pair with a low kicker to a raise. You should only consider staying in the hand if you know your opponent is very aggressive.

EXAMPLE 22 - AA OVERPAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are UTG1
  • You raise to $1
  • UTG2, UTG3 and MP1 fold
  • MP2 calls $1
  • MP3 and CO fold
  • BU calls $1
  • SB and BB fold
Flop - Active Players (3): You, MP2, BU - Pot: $3.35
  • You bet $2.50
  • MP2 folds
  • BU raises to $7.5

This isn't the simplest situation. Several draws are on the board; your opponent could have hit the king for top pair. The best option is reraising. You can go all-in, since you are going to be pot committed either way.

EXAMPLE 23 - STRONG COMBODRAW
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU calls $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks
  • You bet $2.50
  • BU raises to $8
  • BB folds

You have a strong flush draw + OESD; 15 cards would probably give you the best hand. With this many outs you can go all-in. This wouldn't even be a semi-bluff; even if your opponent is guaranteed to call, your hand is profitable.

EXAMPLE 24 - TOP PAIR AND HEAVY ACTION
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU calls $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks
  • You bet $2.75
  • BU raises to $8
  • BB and you fold

This time it's a completely different situation; you may have top pair with a good kicker, but a wide range of other hands could have hit the flop better. Imagine already facing two pair, three-of-a-kind, a completed flush/straight, or even just AT on the flop.

And even if you do have the best hand right now, your opponent's chances of catching up are too good for you to stay in the hand. Remember the rule: big pots are for big hands, small pots are for small hands. Your hand is too weak for this large of a pot, it won't be profitable to to stay on it.

How do you play on the turn?

Once the turn card comes it's time to reevaluate your hand. Is it still strong/worthless? Could it get better? Could your opponent have completed a draw on the turn?

  • Continue to play strong made hands aggressively.
  • If you bluffed on the flop, quit investing on the turn.
  • You can play a strong draw aggressively against a single opponent, passively against several.
  • Bet with strong pairs. You can check/call on a drawless board.
  • Be cautious if a card comes that may have completed a draw. Bet and fold to a raise with a good made hand that is already as strong as it will get.
  • Don't try to bluff if an opponent bets in front of you. If you have a very strong made hand, you can raise.
Continue to play strong made hands aggressively

If you still have a strong made hand, two pair or better, you continue to play aggressively. If a draw card comes, you'll have to choose between betting and folding to a raise, or checking and calling a bet.

EXAMPLE 25 - THREE-OF-A-KIND
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are in MP2
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3 and MP1 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • MP3 and CO fold
  • BU calls $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks
  • You bet $2.50
  • BU and BB call $2.50
Turn - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $10.60
  • BB checks
  • You bet $8.50

You still have the best possible hand on the turn, but you have to protect it against a flush/straight draw. You also want to get money into the pot. You know what to do; bet.

EXAMPLE 26 - A FLUSH/STRAIGHT DRAW COMPLETES
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are in MP2
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3 and MP1 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • MP3 and CO fold
  • BU calls $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks
  • You bet $2.50
  • BU and BB call $2.50
Turn - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $10.60
  • BB checks
  • You bet $8.50

Flush and straight draws may have completed, but you could still catch a full house on the river. You also have to protect; your opponents may not have a flush or straight yet, but might have hit a draw for one on the turn.

Either you are ahead and protect your hand, or you are behind and still have 10 outs for a full house or four-of-a-kind.

You can't play a combination of a strong hand and a strong draw passively. There are too many hands that will call and pay you off, and you will win often enough when you do get called and are behind to make an investment profitable.

Don't bluff a second time on the turn

If your bluff on the flop got called, don't try it again on the turn. Weak draws aren't worth playing, either. Any bluff would have to be expensive and you will usually end up losing the hand.

EXAMPLE 27 - A FAILED BLUFF
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU calls $1
  • SB and BB fold
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $2.35
  • You bet $1.40
  • BU calls $1.40
Turn - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $5.15
  • You check

Your bluff contibet on the flop didn't work and the turn card didn't help you at all. It's time to give up the hand. Granted, you might be able to win with another bluff, but doing so would greatly increase the size of the pot - something you never want to do.

Play strong draws passively

You can't play a strong draw aggressively against several opponents. Check and see if someone bets. You already know how to calculate the pot odds, so you know what you can call.

You can make a semi-bluff against a single opponent with a strong draw. As always, only bluff an opponent who can lay down a hand. If there's a good chance that he will call, check and see what happens next.

Remember, as strong as your draw might be, you are only going to see one more card, which means the chances of completing are much lower than on the flop.

EXAMPLE 28 - A STRONG DRAW AGAINST A SINGLE OPPONENT
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU calls $1
  • SB and BB fold
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $2.35
  • You bet $1.40
  • BU calls $1.40
Turn - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $5.15
  • You bet $3.25

Your contibet on the flop was a pure bluff, but now you have a flush draw on the turn. You can bluff again on the turn since there aren't too many strong made hands possible on this board.

Top pairs and overpairs

With a pair, you can either:

  • Bet and fold to a raise.

    A bet on the flop could indicate a draw or a bluff. A raise on the turn, however, usually indicates a strong hand, especially in lower limits. But there is one exception - loose aggressive players, or maniacs, are aggressive enough to bet with weak made hands, draws and with nothing at all on the turn. You can continue to play top pair or an overpair against such a player, as long as no draws could have completed.

  • Or, you check

    If you have position on your opponent and he checks, you can check behind. Depending on the river card, you can consider calling a bet, should your opponent bet. If you're not in position, check/call is your best option. Reevaluate your hand and make a new decision on the river.

EXAMPLE 29 - YOU BET
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU calls $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks
  • You bet $2.50
  • BU calls $2.50
  • BB folds
Turn - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $8.10
  • You bet $6

It's always a good idea to bet when your opponent has position on you, and/or when you don't want to give the river card away for free. A flush draw may have already completed in our example, but your opponent doesn't necessarily have a flush; he might just have one heart and could now be on a flush draw.

You have to bet and protect your hand. You can assume your opponent has you beat if he raises. You would play this hand the same way if, for example, a ten of clubs had shown up on the turn. Once again, if your opponent raises, folding is your best option.

EXAMPLE 30 - YOU BET AND FOLD
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are in MP2
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3 and MP1 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • MP3 and CO fold
  • BU calls $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks
  • You bet $2.50
  • BU calls $2.50
  • BB folds
Turn - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $8.10
  • You bet $6.50
  • BU raises to $15
  • You fold

The best move to make on this turn card is betting and folding to a raise. It's too unlikely that your opponent is raising with a weaker hand. Checking isn't an option either; you would only be giving your opponent a free chance to catch a better hand. Even 22 has 14 outs to beat your jacks.

If your opponent calls, you can either check/fold or make another small bet and fold to a raise on the river.

EXAMPLE 31 - YOU CHECK
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU calls $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks
  • You bet $2.50
  • BU folds
  • BB calls $2.50
Turn - Active Players (2): You, BB - Pot: $8.10
  • BB checks
  • You check

This is a good move to make when you are in position and the board isn't showing any big draws. The best draw an opponent could have on this board is a gutshot; there is no need to protect your hand on the turn.

Checking has two results:

  • You keep the pot small and pay your opponent less if he does have a better hand.
  • If your opponent has a weak hand, maybe the gutshot or a weak ace or an eight, he will probably fold to a bet. Your check signals weakness and your opponent may be tempted into bluffing on the river. He might also think his weaker hand is good and bet on it. Furthermore, he's more likely to call a bet on the river if you checked on the turn.

You can't do this, however, if a draw might have completed on the turn. If, say, a third card of the same suit shows up, you will have to rethink the hand. It's quite possible that your opponent just completed his flush. You can bet with a strong made hand that probably won't get any better, but you'll have to fold to a raise.

If you have a hand that could still get better, such as a pair + flush draw, you can check and call a bet when you're out of position, or check and call a bet on the river if you are in position.

You should only continue to play strong made hands, two pair or better, when an opponent bets in front of you on the turn. If a draw completed, you should probably just call instead of raising. The only exception is when you have three-of-a-kind and a straight or flush draw completes.

How do you play on the river?

As always, you will have to reevaluate the strength of your hand on the river. Could your opponent have completed a draw? Continue to play strong made hands aggressively, unless you have reason to believe that your opponent has you beat.

If you have top pair or an overpair and got called on the flop and turn, there is little sense in investing again on the river, unless you know your opponent is loose. Normally you should just check and call a bet behind you depending on its size. This is a particularly good move to make when a flush/straight draw didn't complete by the river and you think your opponent is aggressive enough to make a bluff.

If a draw does complete and you are out of position, your best option is betting yourself and folding to a raise. You can get money out of weaker hands that would have otherwise just checked when you do have the best hand, and will know you're beat if a raise does come and you can get out of harm's way. You can check/call against aggressive players. And as always, if you have reason to believe your opponent has you beat, don't waste any more money on the hand.

A bet or raise on the river is rarely a bluff. If a flush draw completes on the river and an opponent raises your bet, you can safely assume he does have the flush.

With two pair or better you should bet, in order to get money out of opponents with weaker hands. Your bet doesn't have to be as high as on the flop and turn, since you don't have to protect your hand against any more. 1/2 the pot is a good size bet for the river. Don't be tempted to bluff on the river - it will rarely work.

EXAMPLE 32 - A FAILED BLUFF
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU calls $1
  • SB and BB fold
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $2.35
  • You bet $1.40
  • BU calls $1.40
Turn - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $5.15
  • You bet $3.25
  • BU calls $3.25
River - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $11.65
  • You check

As we said, you should always give up your bluffs by the river at the latest. In this example, the flush draw on the turn is it the only thing that made it possible to bluff again at all. Now you can't expect your opponent to fold to a harmless two on the river after having called you down so far, either. You will hardly ever win with another bet.

EXAMPLE 33 - TOP PAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU calls $1
  • SB folds
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (3): You, BB, BU - Pot: $3.10
  • BB checks
  • You bet $2.50
  • BU calls $2.50
  • BB folds
Turn - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $8.10
  • You bet $6
  • BU calls $6
River - Active Players (2): You, BU - Pot: $20.10
  • You check
  • BU bets $10
  • You fold

This is a close call. You could make a small bet on the river and fold to a raise. You keep the pot small if he calls with a weaker hand; if he raises it's probably not a bluff.

On the other hand, the chances of him bluffing are already small, he called the flop and the turn. If he bets on the river, he probably has you beat. Most opponents wouldn't bet with a weak pair on this board and would prefer to go to the showdown.

When they do bet, they usually have a straight or a flush. If you're lucky they only have three-of-a-kind or are bluffing. You can just check and fold to a bet, or call if the price is low enough.

EXAMPLE 34 - TOP PAIR
Before the flop - NL25 Blinds: $0.10/$0.25
You are on the CO
  • UTG1, UTG2, UTG3, MP1, MP2 and MP3 fold
  • You raise to $1
  • BU and SB fold
  • BB calls $0.75
Flop - Active Players (2): You, BB - Pot: $2.10
  • BB checks
  • You bet $1.40
  • BB calls $1.40
Turn - Active Players (2): You, BB - Pot: $4.90
  • BB and you check
River - Active Players (2): You, BB - Pot: $4.90
  • BB bets $3
  • You call $3

Here you see a typical example of pot control. You raised before the flop and hit top pair with a decent kicker on a drawless board. You make a contibet and your opponent calls.

The turn doesn't change much. Your opponent checks and you follow suit. Then he bets on a harmless river and you call. A standard move to remember: Bet flop, check turn, call river.

There's no need to bet the turn in this example, not even against a bad opponent. You will most likely only make all weaker hands fold. Only a 9 or a K could keep an opponent in the hand. Since your opponent called on the flop before the flush draw came on the turn, you don't have to worry about him having two hearts.

You clearly don't need to bet and protect your hand. Your check might induce an opponent to bluff with a weaker hand on the river and it keeps the pot small in case you don't have the best hand after all.

Conclusion

The key to success in NL Hold'em is playing a controlled, aggressive game of position. The most important situation for you as a TAG is being the aggressor and having initiative on the flop.

Whether or not to make a continuation bet is a decision you will continually face. This article taught you the basic guidelines to follow. Always bet between 1/2 and the full pot size with strong made hands and strong draws.

Play all other draws passively. The articles on pot odds and implied pot odds taught you everything you need to know to do so successfully. Never bluff against more than two opponents or against loose players who can't lay down their hand.

Give up your bluffs on the turn. Continue investing in strong made hands. Play draws passively and only for the right odds, unless you have a strong draw and only one opponent is still in the hand. Bet with pairs when you are out of position; check once on a drawless board when in position.

You can then call a bet on the river. If you bet with a pair on the flop and turn in position, don't bet a third time on the river, check and take the showdown.

If you probably have the best hand you obviously continue to play aggressively on the river. The only thing you should change is the size of your bet. 1/2 the pot is a good size for a bet on the river.

The next article in this series will focus on the exact opposite situation - when you call raise before the flop.

Go to this article: After the Flop - An Opponent Has Initiative

 

Comments (47)

#1 therockerman, 25 Jan 09 21:53

mind boggling lol....<br /> lot of info here.

#2 TheBrood, 19 Feb 09 00:48

Im silver atm and I learned more than a couple of things from this article =)

#3 usun, 03 Mar 09 02:48

very good article

#4 aisyx, 26 Mar 09 14:29

very nice! Thank you!

#5 Gabinr1, 04 Jul 09 08:04

Excellent article! One of the best I've read by now.

#6 theboydave, 21 Jul 09 13:48

covers a lot of if not all after flop plays nice one.

#7 Jdz, 22 Sep 09 11:51

Playing SSS, should I cbet short stacks?

#8 Jdz, 22 Sep 09 11:51

Playing SSS, should I cbet short stacks?

#9 AFARON, 28 Sep 09 09:59

Is this article for SSS or BSS?

#10 ammmc, 18 Nov 09 01:24

Really helpful. It is for BBS.

#11 Koshburger, 15 Jan 10 11:43

ok

#12 N3mm, 17 Feb 10 16:35

jdz depends rly of the flop.<br /> you should know sss handrange yourself, therefore is alot easyer to guess opponents hand. i mean, they wont play less than broadway cards, if you raised preflop. even then, they shouldnt call to see the flop - either push preflop or fold :) so conti-bet between two SSS players shouldnt be possible at all.

#13 antonin87, 04 Mar 10 09:51

very nice article, lots of info here :D<br />

#14 mancamanca, 26 Apr 10 17:50

my head will explode :)

#15 Ace8dia, 29 Apr 10 21:44

Great article! a lot of info to take in! cheers

#16 drslowhand, 08 Jun 10 21:38

if I only could have checked this out before I destroyed my stack:)

#17 alister15, 07 Jul 10 16:09

just re read for the first time. good to brush up on the basics every now and then.

#18 shumacher96, 19 Jul 10 06:31

very nice article, been very helpful in cash games and lots of information to take in.

#19 MichaelGotAA, 15 Nov 10 01:04

Excellent article. A must read for beginners.

#20 jozata, 09 Jan 11 16:43

yep.just reread it myself.still found a couple of useful things

#21 JohnDoe1313, 22 Jan 11 16:23

Awesome article, it helps a lot.

#22 DrDunne, 22 Jul 11 15:15

so just to clarify.... If you hold an FD/OESD/DGS draw on the flop and your C-bet was raised, you may call if you don’t have to pay more than ¾ of the pot size??

#23 hasenbraten, 27 Jul 11 07:52

As usual, its actualy not that easy. Not only the raise-size is of importance but also the remaining stack if u call as well as the exact structure of the board / ur exact hand (AKcc on 2c6cTh is worth more then 2c3c on AcAdQc) of course.

#24 SillySaurus, 27 Jul 11 13:11

Really great article. I have learned so much from this site, can't thank you guys enough. :)

#25 totalfish, 28 Jul 11 20:46

very useful article!<br /> i will keep this on my mind:The key to success in NL Hold'em is playing a controlled, aggressive game of position!<br /> this sentence is everything!

#26 furculision, 07 Aug 11 11:34

a lot of things don't really make sense when it comes to ingame situations,but that's probably because it is for beginners.<br /> <br /> for example,why raise against a single opponent + a large bet with a strong draw (OESD/FD)? if he re-raises we will have to fold a nice hand and if we get right odds,why spoil them?Anyway,raising is probably -EV since we won't make our draw THAT often and our opponent might not bet on the turn or river if a draw completes and he has TPTK/two-pair.<br /> <br /> am i wrong here?

#27 badluck13, 18 Aug 11 11:32

Very well written and informative article.

#28 Gnawkie, 25 Aug 11 15:04

Good article, I just have one question regarding Example #22 with an AA overpair and K 7 4 on flop. When the opponent re-raises, is it really smart to re-raise again? Aren't odds quite big that he hit a three-of-a-kind?<br /> <br /> Thanks in advance,<br /> Gnawkie

#29 Elertar, 31 Aug 11 20:48

On "How do you play on the flop" - "How should you react to a raise" says:<br /> <br /> "As a general rule: you can call as long as you don't have to pay more than 3/4 of the pot size (including actions before you)."<br /> <br /> I don't understand what "including actions before you" refers to. Can someone explain? Thanks.

#30 Gnawkie, 10 Sep 11 19:43

#29 I guess they mean the pot size before any bets + the amount of bets before you.<br /> <br /> Example<br /> Pot size: $1<br /> UTG bets: $0.75<br /> <br /> Pot size: $1, but including actions before you, you count it as $1,75

#31 david2655, 10 Nov 11 06:53

probably the best most informative article ive read so far, gonna reread a couple of times i think to get it all to sink in. massive thankyou to the writer :)

#32 rbunce, 18 Nov 11 15:03

Good article. They're all pretty helpful. I've won a few thousand from mtt's on pokerstars before i found this site but i'd never won a penny playing cash. Then I started using the sss and bss strategy on everest poker with the bankroll management tips and i've increased the bankroll by 30 percent in 2 days :)

#33 Sprattel, 18 Jan 12 14:35

This article is soo long, and soo informative, hard to take all of it in :P but once I do I'm sure it will be helpful, very. :)

#34 Th334, 12 Dec 12 15:07

How come small pockets that missed the flop are weak draws? Especially when in your quiz to this article you clearly say that they are trash, not weak draws.<br /> <br /> You use a category "weak made hands", but you don't define it anywhere.<br /> <br /> "Medium made hands" are defined differently in your next article. Very differently.

#35 ellamcc, 01 Jan 13 20:18

I have the same question as Th334 -- I thought when reading "preflop play" that we'd basically trash any small pr that didn't hit in a FR on the flop. Perhaps it's b/c this is the initiative part? Gonna keep reading.

#36 VerseD, 24 Mar 13 13:38

Good stuff.

#37 audzejs, 24 Jan 14 13:09

This is great. Def will help with the game. I do approve :))

#38 toske1, 13 Mar 15 18:39

ok

#39 toske1, 13 Mar 15 18:39

ok

#40 toske1, 13 Mar 15 18:39

ok

#41 toske1, 13 Mar 15 18:39

ok

#42 mirth, 02 Apr 15 16:04

i like the five categories, helps me place a one pair hand.

#43 AudKa399, 24 May 15 00:56

bybis

#44 AApoKKer, 04 Dec 15 18:33

Is interesting article for beginner like me (playing poker for almost 4 months). I would like to apply this into my game play. Cheers

#45 bubamarasr, 25 Jan 16 03:31

Read it. Thank you!

#46 hassux, 25 Jan 16 21:03

nice

#47 twisted13666, 09 Jun 16 05:00

good article