Long term online poker success with winning strategies – register for free!

The best strategies With the correct strategy, poker becomes an easy game. Our authors show you how to succeed, one step at a time.

The smartest thinkers Learn from and with internationally successful poker pros, in our live coaching sessions and in the forum.

Free poker money PokerStrategy.com is free of charge. Additionally there is free poker money waiting for you.

You are already a PokerStrategy.com member? Log in here!

StrategyFixed Limit

Heads-up on the Flop OOP – the value of initiative


In this Article
  • The value of initiative on the flop
  • Implied bluff
  • When to give up the initiative on the flop?

We're heads-up on the flop and have a playable hand, this means that depending on whether we have initiative we'll bet or check-raise.

The opponent raises or 3-bets ut. What is now the correct play? Often it is worth it to snatch the initiative directly on the flop with another raise. 

The value of initiative on the flop

1. Minimizing the disadvantage of position with made hands

Say we have a marginal made hand, e.g. a middle pair on a board where draws are also possible, e.g. T9 on a J95 board. We bet and the opponent raises. Let us compare two modes of play:

a) Calldown. We call his flop raise and check the turn. If he plays check behind we'll value bet the river. If he bets the turn, we'll call the turn and the river. 
In this way we allow the opposition to spare a BB either on the turn with a check behind or on the river with a free showdown, should he have a weaker hand than us. If he has a stronger hand, however, we'll be taken to the bank.

On the other hand, if our opponent has a drawing hand and doesn't hit it, we'll often bring him to bluffing extra money into us. This effect is usually smaller and more seldom than the effect mentioned above that occurs because of the disadvantage of position.

b) 3-bet flop, bet turn, bet river

This mode of play often negates the oppositions advantage of position. He will only call down with both better and worse made hands. In comparison to a) we'll often lose 1 SB more against better hands, but against worse hands we'll make 3 SB extra. Additionally, after this action we'll be able to fold against a turn raise from the opposition should he have a particularly strong hand, thereby saving money.

2. The implied bluff

As an implied bluff I refer, in this context, to aggressive play on the flop in the hope that the opposition folds on the turn. Suppose we have a flush draw on a board of T72. We bet, he raises. Here we should definitely 3-bet, even if we are sure that he has a better made hand. If e.g. a K or A falls on the turn, the chance is great that our opponent will fold a hand like 87or 66 against another bet. Even if the turn is a blank, the 3-bet on the flop followed by a turn bet gives us the fold equity that is so necessary for a heads-up flush draw.  

When should I give up the initiative on the flop?

There are a few situations in which it is correct to call with a playable hand against a flop raise. This is the case when the effects named in cases 1 and 2 are overshadowed by bluff induction. If the chance is great that the opposition has either a hopeless or very strong hand on the flop, then aggression on our side is counterproductive: we would only give the strong hand more value and cause the hopeless hand to shy away instead of letting him bluff further.

The following conditions must be satisfied so that it is worth it to give up the initiative:

  • We are in a way-ahead-way-behind, meaning the opponent will not fold better hands or call with worse hands and has no outs if he's behind.
  • The opponent is aggressive and capable of bluffing on the turn and river.

An example: we raise pre-flop from the SB against the BB with KQo. The flop is AK2 rainbow. We bet and the LAG in the BB raises us. The LAG is capable of making a move with nothing on such scary boards. Here we have a   way-ahead-way behind situation against a LAG and should switch directly to calldown mode. This way we avoid getting bluffed by worse hands and bring him to continue betting hopeless hands and save ourselves money against strong hands.


That's not the entire article...

With a free membership at PokerStrategy.com, you'll get free poker money to play poker with and therefore the chance to gain access to hundreds of strategy articles such as these - and of course poker videos, live coaching sessions and strategy forums. Register now for free and start playing to enable all our offers.

Register now