You call a raise with from the big blind against an early positon raiser, and hit a great flop of . What do you do? We'll come to the answer soon…..
One of the biggest mistakes you will see made if you watch no limit tournaments is players not getting enough chips into the pot when they hold the best of it. It is also one of the least well-recognised mistakes, because players are simply happy to win a decent sized pot. I would say the chips lost of not getting value from big hands costs players even more than the bad calls they make.
When you flop a monster
Let's go back to the example above, where you flop three queens. What was your reaction? The most important thing is that you do not have the reaction that most players do- they have a rush of blood in excitement, and find their hand quickly tapping the table to check.
The right play here depends on the player, but most of the time here is actually to bet out. If you check, in order to check-raise or to call and lead out on the turn, your move will look strong. Your opponent will credit you with a good hand.
This is of course the opposite of what you want. By betting out, many opponents will immediately assume that you cannot have three queens. It is also the best way of building a really big pot; if you check, an opponent holding an ace may be canny enough to check behind, just to slow the action down in case you do hold a queen.
But I may still be beat?
Your opponent could of course hold one of the three hands that has you beat- aces, AQ or KQ. This is of course very unlikely, but betting could be enough to hang yourself in a big pot. This is the integral part of this lesson, and leads to one very important question:
Do you want to leave yourself any chance of getting away from the hand, if the action gets really scary? Or are you willing to commit yourself?
This question is so important, that I would implore you to ask yourself it every time you flop a big hand. Very often it is right to decide that you there is no way you are going to get away from the hand on the chance you are beat. The beauty of making this decision is that you can then turn all your thoughts to how to get the best value out of the hand.
One of the best examples of confused logic in poker is when people flop a big hand, but over worry about the possibilities that they could be beat. Most of the time, you will see those players not able to get away from the hand anyway, and so the only effects it does have are both negative: it can cost players a lot of value from their big hand, or indeed cause them to give free cards for their opponent to hit a flush or a straight.
We're going to have a look at a lot of examples of what best to do when you flop a big hand. Each time, I want your very first question to be, do you want to leave any chance of getting away from the hand? It is important this is the first question as it then clears your thinking to go down one of two s- either getting maximum value from the hand, or combining value with giving yourself a chance to get away from the hand.
Example #1 and #2- flopping a set
1) In the early stages of a big 10,000 chip tournament, you hold , and see a great flop of . Your one opponent has raised to 250 before the flop, there is 550 in the pot, and the action is to you:
The answer to our important question is NO; our opponent could have pocket nines, but the possibility is so slim that we are going to concentrate on two things- getting the value out of our blockbuster, and stopping our opponent drawing cheaply at one of the many draws available on this well textured flop.
The best strategy by far when you flop this type of set is to bet out. If your opponent holds the kind of hand you want him to (an overpair to the nines), he is very likely to re-raise, and you will have trapped him into a very big pot. A lead out is often seen as weak, and may well be successful in wrongly representing that you yourself have a flush draw.
2) Another great flop at the early stages of a 10,000 chip tournament. You call a raise with , and hit the middle set on a board of . Your opponent bets 250 into the pot of 400. What do you do?
Once again our answer to the question is no- we are playing just for value here. This type of flop is completely different, as there are almost no cards feasible on the turn which could hit your opponent's draw. On such a dry flop, it is right to flat call. If your opponent holds the kind of big hand you want him to (AQ, kings or aces), you are going to win a big pot anyway. There are two reasons to flat call- to induce your opponent to bluff or bet a weak hand again, or to allow him to hit an ace with a hand such as AK.
Why these two examples?
There is an entertaining reason I have included both of these examples- I flopped the middle set in exactly the same two scenarios within the first ten minutes of two tournaments last year- the Summer Freezeout in Brighton, and last year's EPT in Copenhagen. Both times, I was successful at getting all the money in, and amazingly both times my opponent turned over the top set to send me out of both tournaments in last place! I beat myself up about both at the time, but a lot of thinking afterwards made me realise that I could not really have got away- this is the importance of our question.
Example #3- an truly unbelievable flop.
3) Again, everyone is playing a 10,000 stack, and you call a raise out on position from an early position raiser with . You hit an amazing flop of . What do you do?
I don't think there's too much need to answer our first question!
Almost everyone would check here, but it has one big problem. If you follow it with a check-raise, your opponent will probably not give you credit for four of a kind, but he will begin to worry that you have three eights.
It may seem very difficult to bet out here, as it would be just so disappointing to see your opponent pass. However, I think it is the right thing to do. There is one thing is your favour, which you should always remember to realise- there are two spades on the flop. A bet out on a drawing flop will be treated with suspicion from most opponents, and can lead to you building a monster pot.
If your bet is flat-called, I advise on checking the turn. This action of betting then checking looks very weak to an experienced player. It may either cause them to bet to try to claim the pot, or if they do check, a bet from you on the river has perfect timing. This is something I call the bet,check,bet and it is very often read as a bluff by opponents.
Example #4- two more aces popping out
1) You raise with, get one caller, and hit a great flop of AsAc6h. If the stacks are deep as before, what do you do?
The answer to our all-important question is now YES. Although we have a great hand, we are going to allow ourselves the possibility of slowing things down, or maybe even passing, if the action develops in the wrong way. If the board by the river came something like AA698, you would have to be fairly careful as almost every hand with an ace in it would have you beat.
Of course, we are still going to be ahead on this flop most of the time, and so we need to balance caution with getting good value from the pot. One way of achieving this is with the bet, check, bet method. This avoids the one scenario which can give you a horrible decision- that is if you bet the flop and turn, and your opponent re-raises you on the turn.
If you instead bet the flop and check the turn, you give your opponent the opportunity to try what he may mistakenly think is a cunning play. It is called a float, and involves calling on this kind of suspicious flop with nothing, in order to bet on the turn.
If the action is that your opponent calls the flop and checks the turn, his most likely hand is a pocket pair. He will then find it difficult to pass on the end, as it looks like you are taking one more stab at a failed bluff.
Ed note: Stuart Rutter is a regular on the EPT circuit and the sponsored professional at 32Red Poker - join today for a $500 bonus when you make your first deposit