Posted by Junelli 3:43 PM
Should You Continue After the Flop?
by Andrew Shykofsky
Regardless of the hand with which you decide to come in, once the flop has been spread, you need to make a quick decision on whether to continue in the hand or not. Weak players often continue too long, and good players, trying to play well, often bail too early. Here, I will present some middle-limit hold'em situations with analyses, followed by brief recommendations.
Preflop action: no raise, five players
Flop: Ac 8 7
Now facing: early-position bettor and one caller
Analysis: I personally like to see 10-to-1 pot odds in order to call with a gutshot-straight draw on the flop. I might get it with two players behind me, but the 9 may cause me a whole lot of grief. The ace pretty much nullifies my pair possibilities. With only three outs to the nuts, this is an easy laydown. Replace the ace with a deuce, and I would consider raising to take control of the hand and hopefully shut out the players behind me.
Hand: Ac Jc
Preflop action: no raise, four players
Flop: Qc J 10
Now facing: you bet, an aggressive player raises, and a weak player cold-calls
Analysis: Typically, this type of flop presents lots of challenges. It seems to have hit everyone in some way. The raiser probably doesn't have A-K, since there was no preflop raise. He may hold two pair or a similar hand to yours; for example, K-10 (a pair and a straight draw). The player cold-calling the raise is a definite concern. Your jacks are probably not the best hand. The pot contains nine bets, giving you 10-to-1 on a call. A king is welcome (four outs), or possibly another jack (three outs), although a king may result in a split pot. A club would keep you in until the river.
Recommendation: Call, but be prepared to bail without help on the turn. If the turn offers no help, and the raiser fires and the caller calls, you will be facing a call of two bets to win 16 (or 8-to-1 pot odds). That would mean you'd need six solid outs to justify continuing. Even though I'm making this hand up, it still appears that you're drawing for a split pot, or if you catch another jack, there's the possibility that an opponent will have filled up.
Preflop action: raised by you, three players total
Flop: Ac 10c 10s
Now facing: checked to you
Analysis: The question is whether to bet, representing an ace, or to check and take one off for free. It would depend on your opponents and your image at the moment. If you bet, representing an ace, it will likely lull anyone holding a 10 into going for the check-raise on the turn. Then, you can check the turn when it's checked to you, and avoid spending a bundle on the draw. Plus, there's always the chance that your bet will be respected and both players will fold.
Recommendation: Bet, and plan to check the turn if no help comes. Note that with one or two more callers, you should definitely check the flop and likely not even call a single bet. Multiway, even if you hit your jack, you'd be nervous about a full house.
Position: small blind
Preflop action: no raise, six players
Flop:K J 7c
Now facing: a bet, a call, a raise, and a three-bet
Analysis: Here's a situation that will cause lots of average players much frustration. There's the illusion that the flop was good for you — a flush draw and a gutshot-straight draw. But with so much action, you'd be unable to confidently lead out even if you hit a 9 for the jack-high straight (which would lose to Q-10), or a heart, giving you the third-nut flush. You're facing three bets in order to win 16 to 21, depending on if the players who are already in continue. That's 5.3-to-1 to 7-to-1.
Recommendation: Muck. It's tempting to play for the swollen pot, but in truth, it is more like gambling than solid poker. What could those four opponents be holding? By the same token, you might call if you've been running real good and try to ride your rush.
I purposely selected hands and situations that tend to tempt us by the allure of hitting the flop. These marginal situations require the ability to think through how the rest of the hand will likely play out, in order to avoid getting trapped. Top players have a well-developed feel for when it is wise to continue in situations of this nature. I believe this feel comes from playing thousands of hands and from being tuned in to their opponents at the very moment of decision. You must not let your hunger for the pot put you out of sync with reading the situation. Remember what I wrote a few columns back: Don't hope for the best, create winning situations. Your decisions in scenarios such as these should generally be influenced by the price you're getting and a sense of how the card you want may aid another player. You should continually improve in assessing these factors.