Poker Lesson 23

Evaluating the flop in hold'em, part 3
One particular type of flop that scares many amateur players is one containing a pair, and this type of flop deserves a lesson by itself.

A paired flop, such as 8-3-3 or K-Q-K, is first of all paradoxically LESS likely to help any player, than a flop with cards in three different values, such as J-5-8. Yes, there is the risk that one of your opponents just hit the flop hard; but pure combinatorial mathematics say that with a paired flop, there are now only five cards left in the deck which fits it, as against nine cards in the deck with a flop containing cards of three different values. With a paired flop, the "target area" simply is smaller.

An example: With a flop of 8-3-3, there are now three 8's and two 3's (five cards) that can match it. With a flop of J-5-8, there are now three Jacks, three 5's and three 8's (nine cards) that can match it.

If you have an overpair such as J-J or 10-10 and a flop containing all lower cards including a pair hits the table, and a player before you bets out, you in general have less reason to fear that you are up against trips – and many player also slowplay such a hit (= they prefer to let others do the betting, so that they can call with a hand that appears much weaker than it actually is, saving the heavy betting for a later round) instead of betting out with it. Be on your guard, however, against players who deliberately do the opposite as a sort of double bluff!

There are however paired flops and there are paired flops, and it is important to notice the difference. If you as in the example above have J-J in hand and the flop is 8-3-3, chances are usually quite small that another player will have one of the particular hands A-3, K-3, Q-3 or J-3, or, the poker gods forbid, 3-3 (and a slightly higher chance, but still not a large one, that your opponent will have 8-8); thus you should in general not be afraid to bet out here, or even raise with your overpair.

If instead the flop is K-Q-K, watch out even if you have A-A in hand. Should you in this situation be up against two, three or even four other players in a raised pot, it is indeed risky business. Do not bet out automatically here; instead, think and evaluate carefully before you act. Since players in general will stay in the pot with high cards rather than low ones, the "hit percentage" goes up dramatically with flops containing a high pair instead of a low one. Now you may very well indeed be up against trips!

And what if the flop consists of trips in itself, such as 7-7-7? Now there is only one card left in the deck, the fourth 7, which fits it. If you have it in hand, the others are practically dead in the pot, so play carefully here in order to conceal the strength of your hand and maximize your profits! But usually, a player with a pair among his or her hole cards will win in this situation. Beware however if you have a low pair, as another player can have started with a higher pair, or with two higher cards and hit one of them on the turn or the river. Be prepared to bet out here if you have a pair in hand, but also to carefully assess the betting from your opponents.