Non-vulnerable “monsters” (four of a kind, nut full house, nut flush, nut straight)

  • With this type of flop your main concern is how to play in order to get the maximum pay-off.
  • Build the pot if no one is taking initiative (often with small bets/raises to give pot odds). When betting 30-50% of the pot in multi-way pots, a lot of players will call/raise with draws and other weaker holdings.
  • If you need to be active to build the pot, be sure to leave ample room for opponents to make a move/bluff.

Vulnerable “monsters” (low full house, non-nut flush, non-nut straight)

  • This hand can be played profitably either by slow-playing until the turn (if the turn card still leaves you with a great hand) or by “jamming it” on the flop.
  • If you decide to jam it on the flop be prepared to back the hand with your whole stack.
  • Sometimes a better strategy is to wait until the turn card and see if a blank hits. If so, you reveal the true strength of your hand on the turn. A disadvantage with this play is that you allow people to outdraw you on the turn by hitting a bigger flush, straight or full house. Also, the action dries up quickly when a fourth suited card hits or it is only one card to a straight on the turn. Therefore, it is important not to get “married to the hand” in case a bad card hits on the turn.

Top/Middle/Low Set (trips using pocket-pair)

  • If the board is highly coordinated (2/3 cards in same suit and/or 2/3 connected cards), you have to make a stand and try to shut people out immediately, as almost any card on the turn will be a scare card. Several players may be chasing, so over-betting the pot at 200-300% is not wrong. If someone has already flopped a straight or flush you still have an approximate 34% chance of improving to at least a full house.
  • If the board is uncoordinated you can set up a slow-play by calling or betting modestly and attempting to lure people in. Betting modestly works best if some cards are in the “playing zone” (for example, 9 and up) as someone usually has a decent holding.
  • Remember, with a “monster” hand you want to leave room for players to try to bluff you as long as you are not in great jeopardy of being outdrawn. Always consider which types of opponents remain in the pot.

Top two-pair or top and bottom-pair (pairing both hole cards)

  • Play is quite similar to playing flopped sets
  • Slow-play this hand often with a modest bet or call (you might get well paid off on later betting rounds).
  • If the board is highly coordinated (2/3 cards in same suit and/or 2/3 connected cards), you usually want to punish the drawing hands. Over-betting the pot is not wrong if there are several opponents
  • If you have hit with a “weak” Ace, let AK and AQ pay to chase.

Bottom two-pair

  • You need to protect this pot by betting and raising. This hand looks strong but is in the vulnerable position of being outdrawn. Generally, you hit this type of hand with connected cards, which always make at least a straight-draw possible. For example, if you hold 98s and the flop is K-9-8, any K, Q, J, T, 7, 5 that hits on the turn will be a scare card and, if you add a flush-draw, it becomes even worse.
  • Watch out if the board pairs on the turn (and you do not make a full house) as someone holding an over-pair has made a better two-pair than yours or it could give someone trips.

Overpair (pocket-pair above highest card on the flop)

  • To extract more money in an aggressive game, often look to slow-play high over-pairs (AA-KK) by limping, calling or making modest bets in the hopes of re-raising someone before the flop. With the big pairs, you want to avoid taking flops with more than one or two opponents.
  • If the board is uncoordinated and you are up against one or two opponents, consider slow-playing your over-pair.
  • If you have a medium overpair the situation is quite different. You want to win the pot on the flop, as your hand is vulnerable to overcards hitting on the turn.
  • Watch out for flops like 9-8-7, T-9-8 and J-10-9, especially if they come with flush draws. Anyone who gives you a lot of action on this kind of flop is likely to either have you beat or is about even-money to outdraw you.

Top-pair, Ace Kicker

  • Most of the time bet on the flop (and continue on turn) as you often have weaker players staying in with weaker kickers or worse hands. Make sure to bet about the same amount as the pot if the board is coordinated in order to protect your hand.
  • Again, there is a huge difference between a flop like K-7-3 rainbow and K-J-9 with a flush draw when you hold AK. In the first case you should consider slow-playing the hand and, in the second case, you have to give action on the flop as almost any card on the turn will be a scare card.
  • For instance, you hold AT and the flop is T-7-2. You want win the pot on the flop or force hands like 89, T9, JT, QT and KT pay to chase you. In addition, any 6, J, Q or K on the turn will be a scare card.

Top-pair, Weak Kicker

  • In an un-raised pot, make a normal bet to take the pot if your hand is the best. If there are four players or more involved in the pot, consider giving it up without a fight.
  • Generally, you should fold when facing a pot-sized bet from a tight player if there is a decent chance that you are out-kicked or (sometimes) facing an over-pair. Be extra cautious to call if there are many players left to act, as you cannot afford to take any heat.
  • Avoid getting heavily involved with this type of hand unless you have a lot of additional value, like a straight draw and a flush draw. For instance, you are holding 89s and the flop is 6-7-8 with two cards of your suit. Although you only have top-pair with a weak kicker, be prepared to back your hand with your entire stack. This hand gives you 20 outs (!) to outdraw someone holding AA, thus making you the favorite to win.

Second-pair (pocket-pair between the flop’s high and middle card)

  • Typical fold or bet hand.
  • If you have late/last position with no more than two opponents that checked the flop, you should bet an un-raised pot. Weak/loose players who chase could chase on middle-pairs or draws. Tight players might fold weak top-pairs or other non-made hands.
  • Fold if a strong player bets in front of you, especially if players behind you are left to act.
  • When betting, in most cases you should release your hand if you get raised. The only exception is when you strongly suspect that a weak/aggressive player is drawing. You should then re-raise or call and wait to see what unfolds on the turn.

Middle-pair, Ace Kicker

  • Bet out or check-fold, depending on the board, players and number of opponents.
  • If you are last to act and it is checked to you, consider betting.
  • This situation arises quite frequently when you are playing the Axs hands. It is important not getting heavily involved on this type of flop.
  • With the Axs hands you want to hit two-pair, trips, a pair and the nut flush draw, etc. Then you can trap weaker flushes, AK (when you hold two-pair) and trips with a weaker kicker than the Ace.

Middle-pair, Weak Kicker

  • When there are only two or three players in the pot either check-fold or make a position bet when checked to you.
  • Sometimes take a free card when it is checked to you in the hopes that you hit at least two-pair.
  • Fold if an opponent bets.

Third-pair (pocket-pair below the flop’s second card)

  • Either check-fold or make a position bet when checked to you and there are only two or three players in the pot.
  • Sometimes take a free card when checked to you in the hopes that you hit at least two-pair.
  • Fold if an opponent bets.

Low-pair, Ace Kicker

  • Fold to any action. You might be chasing two outs (for trips) as the Ace can make an opponent a higher two-pair. Either way, you only have 5 outs at best.
  • If you decide to bet, it should be solely on “bluff merits” (few players, position, no face cards on the flop, etc.).

Low-pair with Low Kicker

  • Fold to any action.
  • Do not position bet.
  • Bet or check when checked to you in last position depending on the circumstances.

Nut draws with 9 outs or more (ace flush draw, two over-cards and a straight draw, straight flush draw)

  • Instead of calling, always consider putting pressure on your opponent by betting, raising or check-raising. An aggressive move is preferred against only one or two opponents who can fold decent hands. With 12 outs (such as a flush draw with an Ace kicker, giving you 9 nut outs and 3 top-pair outs), you will have an almost 50% chance to hit on turn and river combined. By putting an opponent all-in on the flop, you will often make money as you are almost even-money if called and you have a good chance of winning the pot on the flop. But remember to set your opponent all-in and do not call all-in.
  • Late position gives extra advantage with this type of hand, as you can decide whether to re-raise, bet, check, call or fold depending on the action in front of you.
  • If you are short-stacked and the pot is decent sized consider moving all-in, even if you are the first to act.
  • Note: to call a 75% pot bet heads-up, pot odds of over 30% (14-15 outs) are required. Even counting “implicit pot odds” with potential extra winnings on the river, you still do not like a heads-up bet of more than 80%.
  • Remember to draw for the nuts. Be certain not to “draw dead” against the nuts.

Non-nut draw with 9 outs or more

  • Be prepared to fold your non-nut draw, particularly in raised multi-way pots. You do not want to chase and end up loosing your entire stack if you hit.
  • For the most part you should avoid betting or chasing on a second or third-best draw, especially on flush draws where you may frequently find yourself up against a suited Ace.
  • With a second-best draw you can make a decent bet in an un-raised pot by trying to win it right away.

Non-nut draws with 8 outs or less

  • Do not chase as you have low pot odds and might be “drawing dead”. You want to see the turn as cheaply as possible and find out if you make your hand.
  • Raise, bet or fold depending on the board, players, actions and number of opponents. Do not call off your money.

Overcards – AK, AQ, KQs, AJs

  • These hands should be played with caution against both strong and weak opposition. Strong players know that you, as a tight player, will often be holding overcards when the flop comes with low cards. This makes you susceptible to steal raises from the good players and the weak players will call/chase down with mediocre holdings.
  • If the board comes with no face cards (Ace, King, Q ueen or Jack), you can bet about 70-80% of the pot as a bluff/semi-bluff, representing an over-pair. In particular, you should follow through as the pre-flop raiser against no more than two opponents.
  • Avoid making it a (expensive!) habit to bet this hand against suited/connected flops with no face cards and several opponents. You will loose money and “bluff equity”, to be used when better served.
  • Remember that your overcards might still be the best hand against one or two opponents with a flop of rags.