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Post-flop: Flop Textures
IntroductionIn this article
- Important textures
- How well the board cards play together
- How many hands can hit a given board
The texture is defined as the structure and "interaction" of the community cards. This means for example, which and how many draws they allow.
The flop is a critical point in any hand of Texas Hold'em. Together with the three community cards, the value of your hand can undergo sudden drastic changes. While you might have held a medicore hand pre-flop, you could be holding a monster on the flop.
The flip side is that a previously strong hand might have turned into a medicore or even a trash hand on a particularly unfavorable flop. An important skill that every poker player should possess is the ability to quickly analyse flop situations, and to evaluate how his and his opponents' hands relate to the community cards. The flop texture plays a major role in this analysing process.
There are three main flop texture categories:
How many cards of the same suit (suited) does the board have? Are flush draws or is a made flush possible?
How many connected, or closely joined cards are there on the board? Are straight draws or made straights possible?
- High Cards
How many high cards, picture cards, or aces are there on the board? High cards are played a lot. The more high community cards there are, the higher the chances that someone hits something.
First, you should evaluate the suitedness and connectedness of the board cards. The next important aspect is the number and rank of the high cards and pairs on the board.
A first step towards assessing the flop texture is to determine how many suited cards the flop brings and how high the cards are. Are flush draws or made flushes possible?
There are three different configurations in this case:
- Rainbow flops - All three flop cards are of different suits.
- 2-suited flops - Two flop cards are of the same suit
- 3-suited flops - All three flop cards are of the same suit.
In 40% of all cases the flop is rainbow: 3 different suits. In such cases, there are no flush draws possible. Backdoor draws: those that need to improve on both the turn and the river, only hit in 4% of all cases.
Two typical forms of rainbow flops are those with either one high card or flops that are all rags, meaning three cards of 8 or lower. There can of course be more high cards or even a pair.
If you hit a relatively weak draw, such as overcards, middle pair or bottom pair on such a flop, you have a relatively good chance of winning because of the absence of flush draws. With the right pot odds, you can try to see a showdown on rainbow flops.
Rainbow with one High Card means that the flop consists of 3 unsuited cards, one of which is a high card. This relatively common flop is rarely helpful, as only limited straight draws and no flush draws are possible.
Top pair is often a strong hand on these flops because the chances that draws will hit are rather low.
If there are only few players on the flop and you hold a middle or bottom pair, this is often the best hand at this stage and you should raise. If you flop a set, you have an extremely strong hand that can sometimes be slowplayed.
However, if the pot is already big or if there are calling stations in the hand, you should never slowplay. Instead raise directly.
Because a rainbow flop with one high card seldom hits our opponents' hands, it is usually a good setup for a bluff.
A typical example: You are in the big blind and the flop comes: K75 rainbow. Apart from you, there is only one limper and the small blind in the pot. The small blind checks after you. Now you can make a semi or pure bluff. Since there are 3 small bets in the pot and you have to invest 1SB to win it, your opponents have to fold only 25% of the time to make a bluff profitable.
This kind of flop rarely helps anyone who hasn't had a free play, because they will usually hold high cards. However, a limper might have hit a set and a loose player could easily have at least one pair.
A very strong hand here would obviously be a set, or a two pair if you are in the blinds. With a two pair you should always bet out or check/raise (check, then raise an opponent's bet), since these hands are too strong to justify slowplay. When you hit a set, you should also usually bet and raise directly on the flop, so as to extract maximum value for your hand.
If no one has such a strong hand, then an overpair is usually the best hand. Overpairs on the flop are strong yet vulnerable hands, and must always be protected by betting and raising.
Bluffing is usually less succesful on this type of board, as opponents will often continue to play with virtually any two cards. Indeed, there is no high, scare card.
You will often flop a weak top pair if you get a freeplay from the big blind. For example, T6 on a 652 rainbow flop. Against one or two opponents you should always bet, since there is a good chance that you hold the best hand.
With more opponents in the hand it is usually better to check and then evaluate what to do, in case someone bets. Depending on how the hand is played, a check/raise might be advisable to thin the field. If, for example, a hand is checked around the table to the button: an aggressive player who bets, then you should check/raise to get some opponents out of the hand. If someone is in an earlier position and check/raises, then you have an easy fold since you will very rarely be ahead.
In just over half of all cases (55%), the flop will be 2-suited, e.g. contain 2 cards of the same suit. This means that flushdraws are possible if someone has two cards of the same suit as the board. If you have a flush draw, then you should usually play until the river.
Flush draws are strong hands, which will in 35% of all cases to become a very strong made hand by the river.
Flush draws are significantly weaker if a pair shows up on the board, since there is a risk that opponents with a two pair or a set will have hit a full house to beat your potential flush. Nevertheless, even in this case a flush draw should be played, even though you should play less aggressively with it.
Made hands, most of all top pairs, are somewhat weaker on 2-suited flops than on rainbow boards, because of the risk of an opponent hitting his flush draw. Nevertheless, top pairs should normally be played aggressively as from the flop by betting and raising. Even if your opponent doesn't fold his flush draw, it is very important to make him pay as long as we have the best hand.
Because of the possible flush draw, weaker draws should only be played with better odds than on rainbow boards. Often, overcards, gutshots, or small pair outs can be misleading if they also bring the flush. There is also the danger of hitting one's hand on the turn, and still losing because someone will hit his re-draw on the river. Because of this reason, you should part more easily with weak draws and only play them with very good pot odds.
A player with an Ace or a King, of the same suit as the 2 suited cards on the board, holds a backdoor flush draw which will hit by the river about 4% of the time. A backdoor flush draw alone is not strong enough to be played, even though it might be slightly stronger than marginal hands.
About 5% of all flops are 3-suited, which means all three cards are of the same suit. In these cases a flush on the flop is possible.
If you get lucky and hit a flush directly on the flop, then you should always (except with the nut flush - highest possible flush) bet and raise in order to protect your hand from a possible draw to a higher flush.
On the other hand, if you hit the nut flush, you hold a very strong hand and should evaluate which play is best. Here again it is usually advisable to play aggressively, both for value in case someone hits a lower flush or a set, and because a fourth flush card on the turn could kill the action. If you suspect your opponents have weak hands however, a slowplay with the nut flush is sometimes justified.
If you hold the highest or second-highest flush card along with an unsuited card, you can usually play your hand until the river and a semi-bluff might well be profitable. Smaller flush draws however should be immediatley folded, because of the very high risk of losing the pot, despite improving your hand (i.e. you are drawing dead).
If no one has a flush, then the player who has a set or a straight will of course be ahead very often. A top pair is still playable on a 3-suited flop, although it should be played more conservatively. Weaker hands such as middle or bottom pairs and straight draws should be folded every time.
The second step in evaluating a flop texture is to figure out how connected the board is: how close together the cards are, which straight draws are possible and whether there are any made straights. The two main types are:
- 2-connected flops - They have two connected cards, e.g. JT
- 3-connected flops - They consist of three connected cards and make a made straight possible
About 40% of the time, the flop will be 2-connected. This makes straight draws possible, as well as making a two pair more likely, since most poker players prefer to play connected starting hands.
First of all, an OESD on a rainbow flop is a relatively strong hand. It will become a straight 32% of the time.
When a straight draw also comes with overcards, it is a very strong hand on the flop and should be played aggressively.
A typical example is KQ on a JT2 rainbow flop. Another playable drawing hand would be a gutshot with two overcards, such as AK on this board.
3-connected flops make it possible for a player to have a made straight. Because of this, this type of flop is very dangerous for any other hand.
The nut straight (highest possible straight) is not quite as strong as the nut flush, as it can also lose at the showdown against a flush. In addition to that, if more straight-cards appear on the turn or river, a player with the nut straight on the flop could only split the pot, or even lose against a higher straight. A flopped straight should therefore always be played aggressively.
Straight draws should only be played if they are on the high-end of the straight and not on the lower end (also known as the idiot end). Otherwise, there is a good chance of losing against a higher straight.
Overpairs and top pairs should be played cautiously, since they are also in danger of losing versus an opponent with a two pair (most players like to play connected cards).
Overpairs are significantly stronger when they are combined with a straight draw, e.g. JJ on a 987 flop. Sometimes, you can even play two overcards with a gutshot.
17% of the time, the board will show a pair. Obviously, trips are very strong cards on such a flop. However, should you have trips with a weak kicker and face a lot of action, you must be careful. An opponent could have trips with a better kicker or even a full house.
Flush and straight draws lose a lot of value because of the increased risk of full houses and stronger re-draws.
Very rarely (one in every 425 hands), the board will show three of a kind. A player with quads will then of course have the best hand. Most of the time however, no-one has quads. In these cases, pocket pairs are strong and the higher the card value the better. If no one has a pair, then a high ace will be the best hand.
Especially dangerous is a flop with a high pair, as high cards are the most played. If several players in the hand are investing money, in most cases at least one of them will have trips.
With few players on the flop, an overpair, a top pair or even a high ace will often be the best hand, since a paired board only allows combinations with five cards, rather than nine as on other boards.
The same usually applies with a high pair on the flop. However, it is unlikely for a solid player in an early or middle position to hit trips on such a board. On a flop like T44, a tight player will rarely hold a 4. In these cases, an overpair or top pair can be played aggressively. On the other hand if either loose players or the blinds are in the pot, you should consider trips as being part of their range as well.
With a small pair on the board in an unraised pot, it's a good opportunity to bluff from the big blind position, e.g. when the flop comes with a J44 rainbow. If three opponents see such a flop and the small blind isn't in the hand, or has checked, there is a reasonable chance that no one has a good hand and you can very well play trips from the big blind.
Only high cards
Another special flop is a board with only high cards, e.g. AKT or QJ9. In order to play in this case you need a better hand than on other flops.
The reason for this is that most players will usually play high cards and therefore hit a high flop harder than a low one.
In order to win a showdown on a flop with only high cards, you usually needs at least a top pair with a good kicker.
Weak draws such as middle or bottom pairs should be folded, because the risk of improving and still losing is too big. Because three high cards will be closely coordinated, there is a relatively big chance of being up against a straight.
SummarySuitedness, connectedness and high cards are three of the main criteria by which to evaluate the texture of a board. Additionally, the board may also present you with a high or low pair.
How many starting hands connect with the board? How dangerous is the board for my made hand? How likely is it that my opponent's hand connected with this board? These are some of the questions that you must be able to answer. This does not come naturally, but must be learned the old-fashioned way with practice, forum discussions, coaching, articles and hand evaluations.
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