After starting hand selection, the flop is the most important betting round in Texas holdem poker. The 3 cards on the flop can make or break any starting hand. Reading the flop correctly is an essential skill for any poker player.
Flopping a monster hand
A monster hand means you hit a straight or better hand on the flop. This is the ideal time to slow play against aggressive players. You want to get as many players as possible into the bet to ensure the biggest payoff.
You need to be careful with straights and flushes though, you want to make sure you have the highest straight or flush. This is why we muck our low suited cards and low connectors preflop, it is dangerous when you hit your flop but you are drawing dead to a higher flush or straight.
So generally you want to slow play monster hands after the flop and make it more expensive for other players to stay in the pot on the turn and river.
Flopping a set
If you hit your set (3 of a kind) on the flop, it is a great opportunity to slow play the hand. Especially if there is a high card like an Ace on the board that you think helped another player.
There are of course times when you need to raise the pot if you do hit your set. Especially when there are strong straight or flush draw opportunities presented by the flop to other players, like suited or sequential cards. In this case it would be a far better move to jam the pot and win the hand there and then before someone else draws out to you cheaply.
Another case where you want to bet large is when you flop a small set like a set of 3’s or 4’s. Even though you are most likely ahead, the chances are there that someone who paired on the flop could draw a bigger set.
This is an ideal opportunity for a check raise if you think another player connected. Always bet and raise with small sets.
Flopping 2 Pair
If you hit two pair on the flop, it is advisable to jam the pot and bet big. Two pair is strong, but a lot of hands beat it. The rule of thumb is to take the pot as quickly as possible and you do not want to slow play two pair. Be aggressive.
Flopping top pair
If you had a pocket high pair before the flop, and your pair is an overpair after the flop (a pair higher than any other card on the board eg. QQ is an overpair on a J68 board), you should bet hard after the flop. You are most like ahead unless someone hit a set. That is why we bet large with these hands before the flop, to drive out small pairs who might make a set cheaply otherwise.
If you hold two high cards, for example AK and either an Ace or King comes on the flop, you want to bet aggressively as well. With a high kicker, you have a very good chance of winning if someone else also paired but holds a smaller kicker and can’t get out of the pot.
Top pair top kicker is a very strong hand, but not strong enough to slow play. You should always bet with this hand.
Flopping a small Pair
Now we are moving into dangerous territory. If you hit middle or bottom pair on the flop you should bet if it is checked to you. The chances are good that someone hit top pair if there is a strong bet before you, in which case you should most likely get out of the hand.
Another reason for betting here is to test exactly how strong your hand is. If someone calls your bet, be prepared to check and fold on the turn.
Flopping a straight or flush draw
Here pot odds come into play. You only want to check or call small bets to see if you can hit your drawing hand.
Fold your hand if the amount to call is too big. This is also a great opportunity for a semi-bluff if you’re up against another player who you think missed the flop completely. Even if they call your bluff, you still have the opportunity of making your straight or flush.
Any other hands
All other hands should be either checked or folded, including inside straight draws.
If you would like to learn more, you can read this previous tip that I wrote about playing the flop.