This article covers ways to improve your results after the flop playing Texas holdem, but you can use the same information to improve your play in any poker game with a flop, like Omaha. Many poker strategy articles focus on playing tight before the flop, and playing all of your hands in an aggressive manner.
But the best Texas holdem players know how to play well after the flop, and this is where they make most of their profits. While playing tight before the flop is very important, it’s only one of many areas you need to do well in if you want to win more playing poker.
Aggressive play is good in many situations, but the best poker players understand when they should be aggressive and when it’s more profitable to back off and let an opponent lead the way. It’s dangerous to blindly follow any piece of poker advice, because there’s almost always an exception.
Here’s a list of four ways you can improve you post flop play in Texas holdem.
1 – Fold More Pre Flop Hands
The best way to improve your post flop play in Texas holdem is to put yourself in the best position to win at the start of the hand. This means that you need to stop playing hands that don’t have a good chance to win after the flop.
You’re going to learn more about expectation and expected value in a different section, but you need to look at every starting hand and try to determine if it’s profitable to play it. In other words, if you were in the exact same situation with your current starting hand hundreds of times, would you make more than you lose if you enter the pot every time.
Most poker players don’t look at starting hands this way, but this is actually the exact situation you’re in. Over the course of your life you’re going to play many poker hands. Instead of playing hundreds or thousands of different playing sessions; you’re actually playing one long game of poker that never ends until you die.
This means that you may play the same starting hand hundreds or thousands of times.
Most Texas holdem players know that pocket aces and kings are profitable to play in the long run, and hands like seven two off suit aren’t profitable. But what do you know about pocket sevens? Are they profitable in the long run? Will this effect your casino bankroll management?
In some situations pocket sevens are profitable, and in some situations they aren’t. The key that unlocks your long term profits is learning when questionable hands can be played for a profit and when they can’t.
Many things go into learning this, but for now you can start improving by playing fewer starting hands. Until you start winning consistently, only play your best starting hands, and only play most hands from late position.
By improving the average value of your starting hands, you improve your chances to have a good hand after the flop.
2 – Use Your Position Better
The best Texas holdem poker players are always aware of their position and know how to use it to their advantage. Winning poker players know that they can only play their top starting hands in early and middle position, because these positions make you weak and you can be manipulated by players in later positions.
On the other hand, when you play most of your hands with position on your opponents you can manipulate them and use your position to your advantage. Consider all of the advantages that having position at the poker table gives you.
The largest advantage of having position is that you have more information than your opponent or opponents have when you have to act. You already know what your opponents did before you have to act, so you have additional information. This is a strong advantage that winning poker players understand.
Another advantage is when you’re the last to act; you have more control over the pot size.
Learn how position changes the value of your starting hands and it makes it easier to decide which hands to see the flop with and which hands you should fold early.
3 – Pot Odds and Expectation
The most profitable tools in every poker player’s belt if they want to win more are pot odds and expectation. And these tools are of the most value after the flop.
When you see the flop, you know the value of five out of the seven total cards that you’re going to use to make your best five card hand. You also know how your opponents have played the hand up to this point, so you have a large amount of information.
With this information you can start formulating the odds of winning the hand, make correct decisions based on pot odds when one of your opponents makes a bet, and use expectation, or expected value, to make all of your decisions.
Pot odds are a simple way to determine if you should call a bet. You compare the odds of winning the hand, either with your current hand or improving to a better hand, with the size of the bet against the size of the pot. Every winning Texas holdem player uses pot odds to some degree, so if you’re not using them now the best way to improve is to learn how to use pot odds.
Expectation or expected value is the most important concept you need to learn. Expected value can be assigned to every decision you make at the Texas holdem tables. It starts before you receive your starting hand, and runs throughout each hand until the showdown.
Every decision you make at the poker table is either profitable or unprofitable. When you raise with pocket aces before the flop it’s profitable because in the long run you’re going to make more than you lose. If you limp into the pot with two seven, it’s a negative expectation play because you’re going to lose more than you win in the long run.
When you make decisions based on pot odds after the flop, you’re using expected value. If the pot odds are correct, it’s profitable to stay in the hand. When the pot odds aren’t correct, the most profitable long term play is to fold.
The odds are high that you’re not currently using expectation and expected value as well as you can. Learn how to improve your use of expectation and it automatically improves your post flop results at the Texas holdem tables.
4 – Bluff and Fold Less
If you only see the flop with hands that show a long term profit, use your position at the table correctly, and use pot odds and expectation, most of the hard work to becoming a profitable post flop Texas holdem player is done. The only two things you need to know to complete your transformation are you need to bluff less and fold less after the flop.
The reason I include both of these things in the same section is because they’re closely related.
As it turns out, if you play your hand correctly through the turn, your decision on whether to fold on the river should almost always be made before you see the river. If you know you’re behind and have received the correct pot odds to stay in the hand, you either hit your hand and bet or miss your hand and fold.
If you reach the river and have a decent hand, it’s rarely correct to fold to a reasonable sized bet. You only have to catch your opponent bluffing a small percentage of the time when you have a decent hand to make a call profitable.
This is also why you need to bluff less after the turn. Your opponent or opponents only need to catch you bluffing a small percentage of the time in order for bluffing to be a bad play. Of course, there’s a big difference between making a semi bluff on the flop or turn and making a naked bluff on the river.
Semi bluffs are often profitable, but naked bluffs are dangerous. The only time you should consider making a naked bluff is when it has a very high chance of success.
When it comes to folding on the river, if you find that you have to make this decision often, you need to consider what you’re doing before the river that’s creating the issue. This is almost always an indication that you’re making mistakes earlier in the hand.
The best place to start improving your post flop results at the Texas holdem tables is to stop playing weak starting hands. Learn how to use your table position to increase your chances to win, fold less on the river, and bluff less after the flop and your results will also improve.
Finally, learn how to use pot odds and expectation and you’re going to see immediate improvements. Few poker players use pot odds and expectation; and few poker players win in the long run. These two things are related, and if you want to win you’re going to need to start doing what winning players are doing.