Poker is a game of revelations. The first moment of revelation comes when you receive your hole cards. Immediately you have some idea whether you potentially have the strongest hand (in both in-person and online poker hand,) whether your cards are middling at best or junk. This sets up the preflop betting round, in which players bet and grow the pot according to the perceived value of their holdings. Then comes the flop, which reveals whether these bets are well-founded or misjudged. Hitting the flop means you can continue with your strategy. Missing the flop means you have to fold or make a plan. Here’s what you can do in these situations.
What Is the Flop in Poker?
There are no stupid questions in poker, least of all this one. The flop introduces the second round of betting in a hand of poker. After players have either folded or committed themselves to the pot in the preflop betting round, the dealer burns a card and lays the first three community cards on the board. Now that you know what kind of hand you’ve got, you can judge whether you can improve on your hole cards with a potential flush or straight draw or whether you’ve got a made hand.
These happy scenarios don’t always present themselves, though. In fact, two-thirds of the time, you can expect to miss the flop. An event with such a high degree of probability calls for contingency planning.
So what are you going to do when you miss the flop in poker? It’s a postflop question every player should have an answer to. There are three main postflop strategic alternatives. Either you check or possibly call to see the turn, fold or bluff like a raging bull.
A Missed Flop With Potential
A missed flop isn’t always bad news when you’re playing poker games online. Sometimes, in the best-case scenario, a missed flop will bring high-value cards or present other playable opportunities. Say you have the ace and king of diamonds in the hole and the flop comes jack of clubs, 10 of spades and 3 of diamonds. You’ve missed the flop, but your hand now has the potential to draw a gutshot straight or a backdoor flush. These are good enough odds to keep your hand in play but not enough to play aggressively with. If you make a continuation bet, an opponent could simply raise and you’d be in a tight spot. As a result, the best approach is to check in hopes of seeing the turn. If an opponent bets, you can put them on a range and evaluate whether it’s worthwhile getting further involved.
A Missed Flop With an Outside Chance
Another missed flop that may be worth continuing with is the kind that gives you a backdoor and strong overcard potential but not much else. Say you’re holding that same ace and king of diamonds, but this time the flop comes the queen of diamonds, 7 of spades and 5 of clubs. Once again, you’ve missed the flop, but at least you have a backdoor flush draw as well as two overcards for top pair. It’s definitely worth checking to see the turn, although it doesn’t give you much to work with. If, however, after this flop, an opponent raises, the chances are good that they have a made hand. The chances of hitting your draw on the turn are no better than they usually are, so you’ll want to either fold or bluff aggressively in hopes of finding your opponent’s folding point.
A Hopeless Missed Flop
The worst-case scenario is a flop that leaves you dead in the water. Say you’re holding the ace and king of diamonds again and the flop comes 9 of spades, 8 of spades and 7 of hearts. This flop has killed you. The board is wet, with plenty of drawing potential — only there’s none for you. Your hole cards don’t connect with anything and there isn’t an overcard in sight. A great many poker players would simply fold and move on. This is the safest thing to do, unless you choose to bluff with a great deal of aggression. Just be careful that you don’t bluff yourself into deep water against your opponent’s made hand.
Bluffing After the Flop
If you’re in position and the board has a very dry texture postflop, it can pay off to bluff aggressively. Say you’re on the button and the flop comes with an ace and a couple of low, disconnected cards such as 2 of spades and 8 of clubs. The aggressive play here would be to make a continuation bet of a third to half the pot. This is big enough to scare off weak-handed players but low enough to reduce the cost of folding when called. In the long run, betting on missed flops in this way will lose less money than folding all the time. Conversely, fluffing after wet flops — ones with the potential for several draws — is a postflop strategy best avoided.
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