We are going to talk about poker flops in just a minute, but can you first imagine playing poker and knowing your opponents’ hole cards most of the time? This would make playing poker hands as easy as making lay-ups during warm-ups. The difference between poker hands and lay-ups is that when you make a lay-up, you make a lay-up. When you know your opponent’s hole cards in poker, it doesn’t guarantee that you will win.
What Does Basketball Have To Do With Poker?
Now that I’m writing about basketball, something just hit me. Literally at this instant while I’m writing this article. I learned something about myself as a poker player, and in order to get better at any kind of poker games, you need to understand yourself. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I had an epiphany (that would require a bottle of champagne), but I will say that this is an eye-opening moment. You want me to spit it out already, don’t you?
When I first started playing basketball, I was terrible. Then I started to be okay. Then good. After good was a very long stretch of streaky. The streaky stretch lasted for years. When I was on, my confidence was so high that I would be unconscious. When things went south, doubt would creep in and I would miss often.
You are sharing a poker life moment with me here because I just realized that this is where I’m currently at in poker. My hot streaks last for several months. When I’m in that zone, I feel extremely confident. I always tell myself that it doesn’t matter who is at the table. It can be Justin Bonomo (below).
I know that I will focus more than anyone there. When I add that to not playing by the book and not caring what anyone thinks about my play, I win. This has led to many victories in poker tournaments.
Unfortunately, I also have my down streaks. This is when doubt creeps in, I begin playing by the book, and I suddenly start caring about what other people think. Being in this place is like being lost in a desert. You’re seeking some kind of reprieve, but there is no water, and there are no friends to help.
The difference between me and most people is that I won’t stop searching until I’m dead. Shoot, I’ll even go zombie mode at that point. Once that oasis is found, my eyes light up, my brain catches fire, and I’m off to the races again. But, when you’re playing Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, this is bad.
Yes … bad. You can’t afford to be streaky when you play poker tournaments for 1/3 of your income. I eventually reached a place in basketball where the streakiness went away. I did that by working harder and practicing more. The real key was lifting weights, which took my inside game to another level. If someone came up to guard the J, I would drive. If they backed up, I’d shoot the J. This is where I (and you) need to be in the game of poker. I need to change speeds.
Now that I have told myself I need to be more consistent, I might do it. Success is a mental decision. That’s it. As far as different speeds go, it doesn’t only apply to offense in regards to poker strategy. It can also apply to defense and reading ability. You need as much information as possible prior to knowing what speed to go. And reading flops is going to help in a significant way.
Reading Poker Flop Begins With Pre-Flop
When my game is on and I’m trusting my reads, I usually know what my opponent is holding. I’ll be as honest as I can possibly be. Based on feedback I have received, this is my reputation on the WSOP Circuit: Tyler is a tight player with excellent reading ability. He’s tricky and will call your bluffs, so be careful. The key to beating him is moving him off hands early because he doesn’t take a lot of risks, but he will jam it pre-flop if has believes he’s comfortably ahead.
When playing late in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, he will sometimes go all-in with a big hand to make it look like a bluff, knowing that many pros see those moves as bluffs. Tyler has a lot of cashes due to his style of play, and he can dominate the lower buy-in tournaments and win outright in those tournaments, but he needs to increase his gamble to win the bigger events.
That is me putting myself in someone else’s mind to see how they view me. I do the same thing at the poker table. So should you. Instead of just figuring out your opponent, you need to figure out how they view you. This will help you tremendously because you will know how they’re thinking they can beat you, but you will already be one step ahead.
Information is power. It’s more powerful than any mathematical poker principle. The 100% math players don’t believe in this concept. Their argument is: “How can you know?” My argument is: “How can you not know when seeing the same patterns tens of thousands of times?”
Two different types of minds, which relates to Erickson’s principle on Seven Intelligences. People are smarter in different ways. I highly recommend going with what you’re good at. It’s not psychology vs. math. It’s what fits you best, but you should always apply both. I’m right-brained, so it wouldn’t make sense for me to force a 100% math game. And it wouldn’t make sense for a left-brained person to attempt a lot of creativity and trickery.
As far as pre-flop and knowing goes, it’s the same patterns over and over again. It’s like Groundhog Day (the movie, not the actual holiday). I’ll give you the answers right here…
- If someone raises at least 3x the BB from early position, they have AQ or better.
- If a Medium Player three-bets from any position, they have AK or better.
- When someone four-bets, they have AA or KK (at least 90% of the time).
If someone jams all-in with a short-stack and it’s a huge overbet, it’s not a premium hand. They will usually put in a standard raise with a premium hand because they don’t want to waste it. The only exceptions are bad players and crafty players. A bad player doesn’t know what he’s doing and doesn’t evaluate the situation.
A crafty player might jam with a premium hand in this spot because he will know that a good player will read his hand as a weak one for the reason given above. The crafty player is putting himself in the mind of his opponent and playing accordingly.
If someone raises pre-flop and flats a three-bet, you can eliminate AA, KK, QQ, and usually AK. They likely have AQ, AJ, JJ, TT, or a middle pair. A lot depends on the player. If it’s a loose player, it could also be a suited-connector or suited one-gapper.
If someone puts in a raise 6x the BB or bigger pre-flop, it’s usually AK or JJ. These are hands they’re afraid to play. I don’t see why. Contrary to popular belief, they’re both +EV. You just remember the bad times more than the good times. A lot of players are like that. I’m the opposite. I remember the good hands more. Focusing on the positives definitely fits into our poker rules for winning.
I can go on and on with poker tips for pre-flop reading, but this article is about poker flops. Sorry for the delay, but I needed to set the stage before getting to those poker flops.
Reading Poker Flops Correctly
The best way to teach you how to read poker flops is by situations.
Situation #1. You’re in the big blind. Everyone folds to a Medium Player in middle position. He raises 3x the BB. Everyone folds to you. With Kh 9h, you defend your big blind.
Flop: Kc 3d 2s
You bet out for two reasons. One, you’re likely ahead and want equity. Two, you want to see where you stand. If you checked there and he bet, you would have no clue if he had a hand or not because he could just bet due to you showing weakness.
To your surprise, he raises three times your bet. Let’s look at this situation a little deeper so we can figure out his hole cards.
Remember, he’s a Medium Player. Therefore, he’s playing by the book. It’s easier to read poker flops against Medium Players (the majority of the field). Notice that despite him having raised 3x the BB pre-flop and you betting into him, he still raised you. This situation is very easy to read.
There is no way he’s holding 33 or 22 in this spot. A Medium Player doesn’t raise 3x the BB from middle position with those hands. They want to see a cheap flop, and that’s only if they didn’t fold. The top poker pros also have a rule not to play below 44 unless in late position. So, even the best players in the world are folding there. Only bad poker players would raise with 33 and 22 pre-flop, but this isn’t a bad poker player, so we can eliminate that possibility.
It’s a rainbow flop, so he’s not betting on the come with a nut flush draw. A5 is a long-shot possibility, but it’s a real long-shot. First, a Medium Player doesn’t raise with that hand unless in late position, and even that isn’t likely. Second, a Medium Player isn’t likely to bet out on a gut-shot, even if it’s heads-up. And there is no way he’s holding 45 because he never would have raised pre-flop with that hand.
By process of elimination, we now know that our opponent has a king. Do you really think he raised 3x the BB pre-flop with K8 or weaker? No chance! And this player probably wouldn’t raise with KJ from that spot. It’s possible, but it’s more likely he’s holding AK or KQ.
There is another reason we know this. He raised three times your bet on the flop because he knows you bet out with a pair or a straight draw. He doesn’t want you turning two pair or a straight. He’s protecting a made hand that he knows is stronger than yours. It’s a fold.
I hope those poker tips make sense to you. If you want to know your opponent’s hole cards, establish his identity, look at pre-flop action, then watch flop action. You will have the answer more times than not. This is basic poker strategy for poker flops. A lot of people just play their cards, but if you want to move to the next level, then you need to apply this kind of poker strategy for poker flops. It fits into our poker rules for winning.
Situation #2. Let’s say you’re the one in middle position now. Everyone folds to you and you’re holding As Ts. Not the ideal situation, but you raise 3.5x the BB. This is more than the standard raise, but there was a reason for it. It makes it more likely you will isolate, it makes it more likely the big blind will fold, and it makes the rest of the table think you’re holding something stronger than AT-suited.
An aggressive player on the button three-bets and everyone else folds back to you. This isn’t a good spot. He might have you outkicked and you’re out of position. I don’t like it, but let’s say you’re feeling ambitious and call anyway, partially because your cards are suited.
Flop: 4c Jd Td
You flopped a pair, but you have no clue where you stand. You need to know so you bet half the pot. Your aggressive opponent flats. This is very, very, very bad. I needed to write the word ‘very’ three times for you to comprehend this. Aggro players usually bet/raise when they miss or have a good (not great) hand. They only flat when they have a monster.
Tough spot. I would check, but you decide to bet half the pot again. Understandable. He jams it. It’s an easy fold, but since this is all about poker flops, we need to know what he flopped. In this situation, we have more information because we saw the turn and how he acted based on that card.
This one is relatively easy. The story tells us that he raised pre-flop with JJ, flatted because he flopped a set, then jammed it because the turn could have given you a straight draw and he wanted you off the hand.
If you want to know how to read poker flops, then you must begin with pre-flop. Combine the pre-flop action with your opponent’s style of play. Get into their mind (not what you would do, but what they would do) and figure out why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Reading poker flops isn’t as hard as you think as long as you remember that your opponent is always trying to extract as much value from you as possible. This could be in the form straightforward betting (usually when they’re protecting a made hand) or trickery (when they flopped a monster).
In order to win in poker games, you need to change speeds and adapt. If you put yourself in your opponents’ spots in the two examples above, would you play it how they played it? If you did, a strong player would be all over you. They would know your hole cards. That’s why you need to change speeds.
As far as reading poker flops, remember to evaluate the type of player, then combine that with his pre-flop and flop actions. That should give you the answer most of the time. You won’t be correct every time, but if you stick to the poker flops strategy here, you will be right more often than not.
Poker Flops – FAQs
A: The flop is the first three community cards the dealer puts on the table.
A: You want to read you opponents, not the flop, but the flop will give you information. For instance, if you’re playing against an amateur, watch their eyes when the flop hits. Humans tend to shift their eyes toward what attracts them. If they have top pair on this flop: KQ3, their eyes will shift to the King.
A: The small blind “acts first”, but does not necessarily bet first.
A: Too many variables. Everything will depend on your opponent(s) and what you sense they’re holding.
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