Experienced no limit Texas Hold’em players understand the importance of reading flop texture. So should you. In this column, we’ll examine how your playing strategy should change depending on the type of flop that hits the board.
Okay, let’s assume you’re dealt a high pocket pair like aces or kings. Here’s what you need to look for on the flop.
High flops like K-Q-9, K-J-10 or Q-J-8 are dangerous to pocket aces. That’s because these flops will more likely to connect with the range of hands that your opponents will typically play, like 10-J, K-Q, 10-10, or 9-10.
It’s best to proceed cautiously if you have an overpair to this type of board. If you play a big pot with this kind of flop, you’ll either be way behind or just slightly ahead. Yes, you might be in the lead after the flop but not by as much as you think.
Paired flops can be either very favorable to a big pocket pair or very risky. Because a flop like J-J-4 presents no real draws, your pocket cowboys will win this pot a high percentage of the time — unless your opponent has one of the remaining jacks.
The danger of paired flops is directly related to how high the pair is; there’s less risk in a flop like 2-2-7 than Q-Q-8. Why? Because most players will fold a hand that contains a deuce but will play hands that contain a queen like A-Q, K-Q, Q-J, or Q-10.
While you’re in good shape with pocket kings against a low paired flop, if you’re raised on a flop of Q-Q-8, seriously consider folding your hand. If your opponent has a queen, you’re obviously in deep trouble.
Flushed flops that contain three of a suit pose a risk to high pocket pairs unless your hole cards contains a card in that suit. For example, if you hold red aces and the flop comes 9h-6h-2h, you’ve got a very powerful hand that should be played aggressively.
Change those aces from red to black, however, and you’ll find yourself in a treacherous situation. Not only would you be dead against a made flush, a fourth heart on the board would leave you guessing. Does he have a heart or not? That’s a situation where folding might be the best option.
Play black aces against a red flush draw by waiting for a safe turn card before making a move at the pot. If a fourth heart hits, you can still get off the hook cheaply. If it doesn’t, and if you think your opponent is on a draw, you can protect your hand with a big bet.
Straight flops are scary to high pocket pairs; the higher the flopped cards, the scarier the situation. But even a 4-5-6 board can cause anxiety. Play defensively on a board like this because a 2, 3, 7, or 8 on the turn can beat you or force you to be bluffed out.
Dead board flops are most favorable to big pocket pairs but they, too, can be very dangerous. A board like 8-2-3, 9-4-2, or 7-5-2 looks good to an overpair but might give your opponent trips if he’s playing a small pair himself.
Now, if your opponent raises in this situation, you can usually put him on a smaller pair than yours, two pair, or three of a kind. You’ll be faced with making one of the most difficult decisions after the flop: call or fold. The right decision will often be determined by your ability to get a good read on your opponent.
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