The flop is obviously a very important part of the game, and there's so much to be said about it that there's no way we can do more than touch on some of the things we need to be looking for here. So in today's lesson we'll cover some of the basics.
There are four main categories we'll find ourselves in. The first is when we miss our hand, which will be most of the time. The second is when we have a good draw. The third is when we hit one of our cards to make a pair. And the fourth is when we hit bigger and have 2 pair or better.
So let's start with the first category, missing our hand. There's only two ways we'll be sticking with this hand - if everyone checks around, or if we pull a bluff. Checking around is easy - we're on to the turn. We're going to have to be careful with bluffing though if there's several people in the pot. Down to one or two, depending on the players, there's going to be situations arise where we can take down the pot, particularly if the opponent or opponents left are prone to checking and folding. This move can be made even stronger if we've raised pre-flop, and especially if we do so and there's a high card on the board like an ace or king.
The second scenario is then we don't have anything but flop a good draw. If it's a long shot draw, then this will be placed in the category of not having anything worth playing. The good draws though, as a general rule, will involve 6 out or more - two overcards, an open straight draw, a flush draw, an inside straight draw with an overcard, and so on. Whether we continue with this is going to depend first on how much money can be made if we hit our hand. We want to look to that more than just pot odds since they don't give us the full picture, and can have us folding otherwise profitable draws. There's no hard and fast rule for determining how much will be in the pot at the end, since this is dependent entirely on the play of our opponents. With experience and observation though, you'll get better and better at this. Just make sure you don't overestimate this, as you want to err on the side of caution here.
Here's some simple ideas to get you started here though. This is a combination of implied and effective odds. Assume you're at a table where they fold about half the time on the flop and beyond. Start with what's already in the pot of course. Someone else bets, and we can count on him betting it out. He bets 1 unit, so he'll be betting 2 more on the flop and 2 more on the river. So add 4 bets to that. Each caller after him, add 2 bets each. And for everyone who is to act after you, add 1 bet.
So we take the amount of our calculations for the likely total pot, add up what it will cost us to see the river (this bet plus another 2), and compare them. So if we have it at 24 bets, and it will cost us 3, our implied odds are 5:1. So if our hand wins more than 1 time in 6, we'll have positive odds and should make the play. We'll get into calculating the odds more in future lessons, but it's good to start out thinking more about the overall odds of the hand, as this exercise will allow you to do.
Now, let's look at the third example. We've paired up one of our cards. Ideally it will be the top card, and it will be the top pair. And we want our kicker to be good as well. Or it may be our second card which is top pair. Here we want to bet it out and make sure we don't give any free cards. There will be instances where we may want to disguise our hand here, which we'll deal with at a later time, but for now betting it out is a good rule of thumb. If someone bets, it is usually correct to raise here, but again, this is a rule of thumb, and we'll get into the exceptions to this as well in later lessons.
What if we have second pair though? We're going to have to play this much more carefully. Someone may have top pair and be betting that. If so, very often this will be a fold, as we want them to be the suckers calling with shaky hands, and not us. So the rule of thumb here is going to be to check and fold if bet into, unless there's a good reason to do otherwise.
If we flop 2 pair or better, as a general rule we want to slow down a bit, and look to raise on one of the more expensive streets, usually the turn. It will be harder for opponents to get away from their hands then, and we can collect more of their money. Exceptions to this would be if it's bottom two pair, or if the board looks dangerous.
It is important to keep in mind though that game situations in poker are often complex, and a lot has to do with the particular situations, so these rules of thumb are only to be used as the default decision, where we'll be considering other factors and variations as we go. We have a few basic ideas and general rules here though, which will get us started. In the next 2 lessons we'll go into the situations of playing draws and playing top pair in more detail