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Playing The Flop

Fit or Fold

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The flop is the first three community cards turned over by the dealer. Choosing to play a starting hand is the biggest decision you will make while playing Texas Hold'em. Deciding whether to continue playing after seeing the flop will be your second biggest decision. It can also be one of the most costly decisions if you continue after the flop with an inferior hand.

There are 19,600 three card combinations that can appear on the flop. Combined with the two cards in you hand and you have 2, 598,960 five card combinations. The sad reality is that after waiting patiently for a good starting hand, you probably won’t like the flop.

The flop defines your hand because after the flop your hand will be 71 percent complete. Where does this figure come from? Assuming you play your hand out to the end, it will consist of seven cards. After the flop you have seen five cards or 5/7 of the final hand, which is equal to 71 percent. With this much of your hand complete you should have enough information to determine whether to continue.

Author Shane Smith coined the phrase, "Fit or Fold." You will want to use this criterion when deciding to continue playing the hand. If the flop fits your hand you will continue playing. If the flop does not fit your hand you should fold. The flop can fit your hand three different ways.

1 It improves your existing hand.
The flop may make you a complete hand that is capable of winning the pot without any further improvement. You could make top pair, two pair, trips or any other complete hand.

2) It gives you a good drawing hand.
The flop may give you a good hand to draw to. This could include a four-card flush or straight draw. With three or more players in the hand you will be getting correct odds to draw to this hand.

3) Your hand beats the board.
This means that the cards in your hand will beat the cards on the board. If you hold an overpair to the board you have top pair in the pocket.(An overpair is a pair that is higher than the highest card in the flop) Sometimes with just overcards higher than the board cards you can continue playing.

This may sound very simplistic because there are other considerations you need to evaluate even if the flop fits your hand. The make up of the flop will be a determining factor as to whether you continue playing or not. Many players in low limit games will play any two suited cards. If the flop shows two cards of the same suit there is a good chance one of the other players could be on a flush draw. If the flop gave you an open- ended straight you could be drawing dead if the other player makes a flush.

There is no single correct way to play your hand after the flop. There are just too many variables you must take into account. You should also be aware of some other considerations in every hand you are involved in before making your play.

How many players in the hand?
If you are on a draw you want enough players in the hand to make it worth your while to continue. If you have top pair you want to limit the field if possible because the more players in the hand the bigger the chance that someone will complete a drawing hand.

Your position.
You should always be aware of your position. The number of players acting after you may have a bearing on whether you check, bet or raise. Any time you are in late position you have an advantage.

Was there a raise?
If there was a raise during the previous round you need to know who made it and what position the raiser is in. Is this player a solid player or a habitual bluffer? If there is a raise on the flop you need to read the board carefully. Many times a player will raise with a flush draw in hopes of gaining a free card on the Turn. You will to determine if this may be the case.

How much money is in the pot?
You need to know approximately how much money is in the pot at all times to determine if you are getting the correct pot odds to continue playing. Usually three or more players will give you the odds you need after the flop.

Here are two common mistakes that are made by players after the flop.

Continuing with a small pair.
Small pairs are lousy hands if they do not improve to a set on the flop. If there are overcards and more than one player you should throw your hand away if there is a bet in front of you. There are only two cards in the deck that will help you. The odds are 11:1 against making a set on the Turn and 22:1 on the river. These are not good odds so go by the rule; No Set, No Bet!

Betting out with nothing.
After the flop you have nothing. Everyone has checked to you. Many players will bet in this situation in hopes of stealing the pot. Don’t waste your money. The reality is that in a low limit game with a multiway pot you will find someone chasing. Save your money and take a free card.

As I said at the beginning of this article, continuing after the flop is the second biggest decision you will make while playing Texas Hold’em. Take the time to fully evaluate your hand

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