Poker Lesson 19

The flop as a defining moment: "Fit or fold"
In future lessons I will return to the play before the flop, and examine more closely various finesses and certain situations; but for now we have come to a defining moment in every hand of Texas hold'em, and that is when the flop hits the table.

If you are still in the hand – and eight or nine times out of ten it should be with a good starting hand, if you have taken my previous lessons to heart – then suddenly over 70% of your final hand, five cards out of seven, will be defined. Usually, this will only have cost you a moderate amount of chips in the first betting round. Now after the flop you will have to be prepared for some serious betting, as the stakes escalate rapidly (in no-limit) or the size of the bets and raises will double after the turn (in limit poker). As a rule of thumb you will have seen 70% of your hand for maybe 1/5 or 1/6 or even less of what the total cost will be in order to stick around all the way to the final betting round.

Or to put it another way: in order to look at the remaining 30% of your final hand, you may have to pay 5 or 6 times (or even more...) the amount you have put into the pot so far.

This is the reason why many players, especially beginners, often want to stay in and take a look at the flop as cheaply as possible. The flop can, in one stroke, turn even the lowliest and weakest starting hand like 9-3 och 7-2 into a monster full house, or even four of a kind in rare cases. This is of course one of the reasons why you should use the raising weapon right from the start in the first betting round, in order to drive out those optimistic players who want to take a low-cost shot at the pot with a mediocre hand. Remember, the more players who are in the hand against you, the greater the risk that one of them will have a hand that fits the flop better than yours does.

Your actions from the second betting round on should to a great deal have its basis in how well the flop goes together with your two starting cards: "Fit or fold", as the saying has it in American poker jargon! It is worth repeating some cold, hard facts from a previous lesson:

The chance of flopping one pair, when you hold two cards in different values, is 1 in 4.

The chance of flopping a set (three of a kind), when you hold a pair, is 1 in 8,5.

The chance of flopping four cards to a flush (a flush draw), when you hold two cards of the same suit, is 1 in 9.

The chance of flopping two pairs, when you hold two cards in different values, is 1 in 49.

The chance of flopping a finished five-card flush, when you hold two cards of the same suit, is only 1 in 119.

Or, to put a general number to it, you will be "disappointed" three times out of four when you look at the flop, since it has not improved your hand in any significant way – but on the other hand, the same rule of thumb applies to each of your opponents! This you should keep in mind.

More on evaluating the flop in the next lesson here at GP Inc!