When you study poker strategy, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time focusing on play before the flop. At some point, though, you are going to have to learn how to play your poker game a bit longer, post-flop. This means not just looking pre-flop, but at the flop, the turn, and at the river.
Flop Turn River play is a huge part of Texas Hold’em, and something that beginners struggle with, and it’s something that you’re going to have to learn how to deal with. The community cards – those cards that come out the flop turn and river – are going to dictate quite a bit of the game.
Let’s do a little bit of flop turn river guidelines for those who are really new to the game. Under the basic poker rules that you’re going to see in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, the first three community cards that you’re going to see are called the flop.
After the flop comes another card called the turn. The final card that you’ll see in classic Texas hold’em poker tournaments is the river. You might hear the turn and river referred to as fourth street and fifth streets in some places, but it’s really important to know the basic terms, flop turn river.
What this means for you is that poker can first be split into two phases – pre-flop and post-flop (the flop turn river phases). You’ll need to adjust your poker strategy to ensure that you understand how to get the most out of your poker hands in all of those phases.
Realistically, some of your most important decisions in poker are going to happen before the post-flop / flop turn river phases. They’re going to happen before the flop, pre-flop. With that said, pre-flop is easy, post-flop is where the real poker players shine and you’re going to need to know some basic poker rules to deal with those later stages.
Flop Turn River Strategy
If you’ve ever set down to a table with a new player, you probably already have a good idea of how they think of the cards, they basically want to see all of them. Flop turn river play isn’t just an option for some new players – it’s a requirement for these players who insist on seeing all of the cards. Plenty of players call everything just to see flop, turn and river cards, and these players tend to be great cash resources for more experienced players.
Now, there are definite poker strategies out there that require looking at flop turn river play. You just have to know that the odds are in your favor to go down those particular streets. You can’t keep hoping that these cards turn out and wasting your money on bad bets.
Our goal in poker is always to get positive odds when we play and to be active players. We want that post flop play to be the heart of our game – we want to be tight and aggressive before the flop and dominate play after the flop.
When we decide that we’re going to go for the kill before the flop, we’re going to spend most of our time looking at the cards in our hand and our position. We need to know how good they are and what the odds are of winning with just those two cards.
It’s also very wise to learn some patience and discipline at this point. After all, we’re going to have to learn how to fold most of our hands and wait until good spots come around. As such, the flop turn river play is something we’re going to see less often, but you need to be ready and equipped to play post-flop.
Now, we are definitely going to see post-flop play, the flop turn river cards from time to time. As such, we’re going to have to plan for the flop turn river rounds ahead of time, because we do not want to be passive players. We’ve got to constantly look at the odds to figure out what the best poker hands might be.
Let’s look at something simple like building a straight. We know what that looks like, but what if there are already two paired cards on the table? If that’s the case, we know that our straight draw has a really good chance of losing. As such, we know that going into flop turn river play is going to put us at a disadvantage.
For the most part, we’re going to look at folding most of our hands or raising quickly. When we raise, we get information. When we fold, we avoid spending extra money. No matter what we do, we’ll be playing poker in a much better way.
When we’re talking about the post flop turn river play, we’re always going to start by talking about the flop. So, we’re going to look at a theoretical hand – an ace with a low suited kicker. Our goal here is to go for a flush.
What’s interesting here is that we’re not getting our value from the hole cards. Instead, we are largely getting out value out of the flop. We also get information here, as the flop will tell us what five out of our seven cards will look like.
One thing that holds true on the flop – and on all parts of the flop turn river – is that we’re basically putting our money where our mouth is. We talked a game before the flop by raising, and now we need to try to make things pay off. If things are going how we predicted, it’s now that we choose to follow through.
Now, we’re going to need to practice in order to figure out how to consistently plan for the flop. Our goal should be to learn how to move quickly, and we’re going to go through a few steps to get there.
So, we start with a plan. Before we commit any money to the pot, we are going to try to figure out what our best possible hand is going to be and what the other possible hands could be. If we don’t have the best hand, then we have to figure out if our best possible hand can stack up well against what else could be out there.
Yes, the flop is one of those times where you can bluff or semi-bluff. If you’re raising with a pair of connectors pre-flop and you end up with nothing on the flop, you’re not going to be checking around when everyone else checks – you bet, this confirms that you have something, even though you have nothing. We represent strength whenever we can.
Now, we’re also going to bet sometimes based on what we hope we draw. We’re going to look at the odds on the table and see if there’s a chance that we get something good. We bet the draw, and we have confidence in that bet. That confidence, however, does have some foundation in reality.
Your goal here is largely to figure out what you’re going to do if your flop comes home or if you miss it. Let’s look at what we do in those situations.
Flop Play When Missing/Weak
If we come into the flop weak and we don’t have much in our way, we might make a continuation bet to show strength. Maybe the other player will call, maybe he won’t. If the board looks like it’s not going to support anything important, we’re likely not in a much worse place than anyone else.
What if we have an okay hand, though? If we don’t have much, but we do have something, we want to bet anyway because there is still a good chance that they will fold. Again, it’s not ideal but it can work. That’s the scary bit about flop turn river play – we work with less information than we need.
Flop Play When Strong/Hitting
If we hit the flop strong, then we are going to have many more options. If we have something big – a set of eights after the flop, for example, we need to bet. Failure to do so is giving away free cards.
We also have the very fun option of setting a trap. If we have a really good hand, we can check-raise in order to build the pot. Once someone else bets, we might even call just to screw with the other player going forward. He’ll keep raising and then we will take him at the end of the flop turn river portion of play. Not bad, right?
Looking at the Turn and River
The second and third parts of flop turn river play are a little weirder than the flop. Each of these parts has its own unique character and methods of play.
The turn of the flop turn river set gets its name because it’s the turning point of the game. At this point, luck can change and players can go from a poor situation to a winning situation.
The river, however, can screw you – it sells you down the river with the fifth card. If the turn is where you make your hand, the river is where it is unmade.
When we play poker, we need a set strategy for each part of the flop turn river trinity. We can’t play each round the same way and we’re going to lose big if we even try. As such, we’re going to look at what we should do once we hit the turn and then the river.
Playing on the Turn
Turn play is fairly complex. There are a lot of different variables in play, including what happened before and after the flop in terms of betting action. It’s a really hard part of the game for beginners to master, but doing so is necessary, again this is where the pros shine.
When we first started play, we should have asked ourselves if we were willing to pay to see more cards. That means we needed to figure out if we could actually get a winning hand with what could come out on the table.
This, by the way, is where new players fall apart. New players bet in the hopes of getting something better. Skilled players bet because they believe that they actually stand a chance of making a winning hand. It might be a subtle distinction, but it’s quite important.
By the way, we can still fold at the turn.
Boy, this one is controversial among a lot of players. We went into the turn with a good hand, and our goal has been to get as much money as possible. At some point during this part of flop turn river play, though, we’re going to see that other players might have a stronger hand. We’ve got to figure out if staying in is worth the potential money we’re going to spend.
If you don’t get something good on the turn, it’s a good idea to figure your odds of making your hand. If you don’t think it’s the right price, it’s time to fold before you lose more money. Sunk costs are awful, but they’re better than the costs that can follow.
When we play here, a card is going to down one of two things – strengthen or weaken our position in the game. Weakened cards are interesting because they don’t necessarily just make our hands worse – they can also make our opponents’ hands better.
Let’s go to a hypothetical in which we have:
and we see a flop:
Not bad – we have top pair. Unfortunately, there are also some flushes and straight possibilities on the board that can potentially beat our hand, including an Ace kicker. There are a lot of variables here that can hurt us going forward.
If we had a better draw, we could be really decisive. Our opponents could have plenty to play with, but so could we. In this case, though, cards that weaken our draw are going to give us a good reason to fold once we see any kind of strength from our opponents.
What if things turn out the other way, though?
We limped in with:
bet out on a flop of:
and get called. If any heart comes out, say the
comes out on the turn, that’s great – this time we can slow down and check, look cautious and represent top pair, and we might be able to win some money if an aggressive player falls for our weakness and bets big.
Now, we always want to know the difference between a card that makes us a little stronger and one that makes us an awful lot strong. If we have something that’s going to make us a lot stronger, most of the time we bet. If it’s not a monster, though, we need to be aware and smart about what’s on the board.
Finally, we get a third possibility – a turn that doesn’t make a difference. It happens from time to time, and it’s weird. We need to bet regardless of what’s going on if we’re going to stay in the lead, otherwise we look like we were bluffing on the flop.
On this one, we’re sitting with:
and we raised before the flop and got one caller.
We bet again and get called, so what do we do when we see
on the turn? Well, we have to bet because the other player is almost certainly has top pair (KQ, KJ, KT) or drawing to a flush Ah Xh and we need to continue to show strength, he might think we have AK since we raised before flop, so he is playing cautious, unless of course he a set, but he probably would have re-raised with the flush draw on board.
The turn is always going to be the weirdest part of the flop turn part of the scenario. If we can survive this part, though, we can start thinking about how we are going to play on the river and ultimately how we are going to end up winning the hand.
Strategy for the River
It should come as a relief that the strategy for this part of the flop turn river combo is actually pretty straightforward. By this point, you actually know what you’ve got and you should have a really good idea of what the players who are still in could possibly have.
From this point, you’re going to be trying to figure out how to play based on a few other factors as well. You need to know what condition you’re in and against what types of player you are playing.
Now, the easiest part of this type of flop turn river poker play is when you have the best possible hand. If you’ve got the nuts you are in the right position, it’s time to win the hand and a good pot sized bet should be called. Or go for an overbet and make player think you missed and are just trying to buy the pot. Just try to stack the pot as much as you can get away with to increase the size of your stack.
If you think you have a losing hand and are facing a pot sized bet, you need to go against your gut and fold. You should only be bluffing if you are one hundred percent sure that you can get away with it. At this point, your most logical move is to stop the bleeding.
What do you do if you don’t know what kind of hand you have, though?
Well, you surely don’t bet. After all, better hands are going to call you and worse hands are going to fold, so you won’t actually get anything out of the process. Instead, you’re going to want to call or check when you’re in position, or check-call or check-fold when you’re out of position.
The sad thing about this is there’s not really a hard and fast rule you can use here. You’re going to have to learn from experience, and experience can be a very expensive teacher.
We can, however, start looking at strategies when we want to bet.
Our goal here is value betting. Most players who get called on the earlier stages of play tend to be super careful on the river, usually just checking. This is a safe way to play, but it’s not a good way to make more money.
You need to understand that you can and should bet when you actually have a winner. If you don’t have a winner, don’t bet! It’s just a good way to lose some money.
Bet and raise when you can, fold when you cannot. It’s not hard, even though folding might be a big blow to your ego. Try to keep your ego out of the river, because having it take up too much space is a really good way to lose a big part of your stack.
Just try to be as smart as you can when you hit the river. Honestly, you really do have this part – if you’ve been wise getting here, you just need to either see it through or throw in your cards.
River play can and should be an important part of your game, study the dynamics well, so you make sure that you’re treating it with the respect it deserves. This may not be a spot that you want to see very often as a beginner, but it’s a huge part of poker and you must understand all the intricacies of post-flop play.
At some point, you’re going to realize that the basics of poker are actually fairly easy. Before you get to that point, though, you should spend some time going through theoretical questions and figuring out whether you know the answers.
The end goal for every good poker player is to figure out his or her own play style, to learn how to deal with what’s likely to follow on the table, and how to deal with basic poker hands. If you can do all of that, you’ll be way ahead of the game. See you at the WSOP!
Flop Turn River – FAQ
What is the Flop Turn River in poker?
The flop in three community cards placed on the the board and the second round of betting (after pre-flop). The turn is the next community card placed on the board after the flop. The river is the final community card placed on the board after the turn.
Who bets first before the flop?
We never know who will bet first, the player UTG acts first.
Who bets first after the flop?
Once again, I think you're asking who acts first after the flop. That would be the small blind.
What is a good poker strategy for playing the flop?
Too many variables. I will say this, though, with more than two other players in the hand, play your cards. With 1-2 other players in the hand, you can mix in more bluffs.