If you’ve assessed your hand and measured it against the flop, here is how to proceed – be it a made hand or a drawing hand, or a strong or marginal holding. We have seen in this chapter how a flop can affect your hand and potentially improve your opponent’s. And once you have assessed where you stand postflop, you will need to decide how to progress.
As always, there are numerous variables and factors that will inform your decision, and some players will deviate from hard-and-fast rules depending on the specific circumstances. But you should bear in mind a few simple guidelines before making your postflop decisions.
MADE HANDS vs DRAWING HANDS
If you flop a monster or very strong made hand you have two clear tasks:
- Build a big pot for you to win at showdown
- Protect your hand against draws
Remember, a made hand is one that already has the potential to win the pot at showdown. It cannot improve very much and the only way it can be beaten is if your opponent manages to hit a draw. The best way to get more chips into a pot is to bet and raise heavily and to force your opponent(s) to at least match your bets. If you bet and raise the correct amount, you make the pot unattractive for people with draws to continue. They may decide to make a bad play and hold on to their draws in the attempt to beat you, but they are making a mistake if they do so.
With your made hand you don’t need additional cards to improve. You “only” need to be sure you hold the better hand and get to the showdown with as much money as possible in the middle for you to win. It, therefore, follows that betting and raising is almost always the correct approach with a monster made hand. Playing monster made hands are easier than a lot of other elements of poker, but it is still a very valuable skill to acquire.
PLAYING STRONG HANDS & MARGINAL MADE HANDS
Strong hands are often good enough to win at the showdown. This is especially true against only one or two opponents. But unlike with your monster hands, you usually do not want to play huge pots. The chances are that an opponent who is willing to risk all of his chips has a hand that is better than one pair.
Your main task with strong made hands is to make the correct sized bet: one that makes your opponents pay the wrong price to hit their draws but can also be called by weaker hands. Your tasks are similar with marginal hands but now it is even more important to figure out what your opponent holds. Many times you are up against a better hand. In multi-way pots, mediocre made hands are often worthless and you should not risk your chips with them.
If you are the player with the draw, and you suspect your opponent has a made hand, the advice above is flipped on its head. Instead of building big pots, you often want to keep everything as cheap as possible so that you can hit your draw without risking too much, and discard your hand if you do not hit.
If your opponent bets only a little, then you should often call to see if you can make your hand. If he or she bets a lot, then you will need to determine whether or not it is worthwhile carrying on. This will require some simple mathematics, which is explained during a later lesson.
For now, you should focus on making strong hands and getting opponents to pay you the maximum. You can add these other skills to your armory later on.
Obviously these are some very basic concepts and I urge you to research each on a deeper level. The point of this lesson is to get you thinking.