Texas Hold'em Post-Flop Strategy

We talked about Texas Hold'em pre-flop strategy in a previous article. To be an effective holdem player, you must be very selective pre-flop and take only a small percentage of your hands with you through the flop. In addition you must play aggressively pre-flop, putting in raises frequently to make sure weak hands fold before they are able to outdraw you. In this article we advise you on how to play your hand after the flop.

When the Flop Hits You

In hold'em when? you flop top pair or better with a good kicker? or? you have pocket pair that's an overpair to anything on the board, you probably have the best hand. Your goal should be to get money into the pot as rapidly as possible and tax players with lesser hands that decline to fold. From early position you should look to check raise? frequently when the flop hits you. Sometimes you will want to wait until the turn or even the river to spring your trap, especially when you flop three of a kind or better. From late position you need to be betting and raising with top pair. It's vital that you get bets into the pot and not give a free card to? other players who are on a draw. Top pair or overpair can easily turn into underpair with a single card so you need to give your opponents a chance to fold, or at least force them to commit chips to the pot when they have nothing but overcards. There's no excuse for checking around (except when looking to check raise from early position) when you flop a top pair or better in holdem.

When you Flop a Draw

If you flop a flush draw or a double-sided straight draw then you have the potential to make a monster hand. Your goal should usually be to see the turn and river for the cheapest amount possible, betting heavily as soon as you make your hand and folding when you can no longer make your hand. One common strategy to see to the river as cheaply as possible is to raise on the flop if you have position on the bettor. On the turn he will often respect your raise and check to you, at which point you can check (or bet obviously if you made your hand) and see the river card for free. This strategy is known as buying a free card. You raise on the flop so you don't have to call on the turn when the stakes are doubled, saving you a single bet. Also don't forget to evaluate your pot odds to determine if maybe you should fold. Often times you do not have the pot odds to call a bet when the pot is small and you're up against only one or two players (especially if they are raising back and forth).

When the Flop Misses You

In Texas Hold'em you need to know when to fold'em. Often it's time to fold when the flop misses you, leaving you with underpair or just overcards. You may be able to call a bet with just overcards if you have a strong hand like AK, but when just a single overcard you probably don't have the pot odds to make the call. If you have middle pair and an overcard then your hand is a bit stronger. If you have middle pair and no overcard then you need to tread very lightly and fold if there's a lot of betting action. Routinely calling down players when you have only middle pair is hazardous to your bankroll. Obviously if the flop misses you entirely then its time to get out in a hurry. It's almost never good poker to call a bet to make your runner-runner straight or flush draw.

Staying Aggressive

If you established yourself as the aggressor pre-flop and the other players are weakly calling your bets rather than doing any raising, you need to stay aggressive and try to steal the pot. One of the worst common amateur mistakes in Texas Hold'em is not staying aggressive when you are dealt AK and the flop misses you. When you raise pre-flop, bet or raise the flop, and then say "check" on the turn, you might as well put a sign on your head that says "I have big slick and I missed". Stay aggressive, make the other players fear for their lives that you have a monster hand like AA or KK. Obviously if you run into a raise you will need to evaluate the hand from a pot odds perspective and consider folding. But if you've established yourself as the aggressor and nobody is challenging you then just keep on betting and try to steal the pot.

Here are some links to good Usenet posts on the subject of holdem post-flop strategy:

Pre-Flop vs Post-Flop Decisions

Re-Raising Post-Flop

Post-Flop Play