Aggressiveness on the flop with strong hands
To many players with experience, I may simply be restating the obvious. But to some players who are learning the game, consider this to be solid advice. I want to discuss when you should bet and raise and reraise on the flop - "Come out firing" with strong hands.
When you flop a small or medium flush
If you have 8h-10h and the flop is --, start raising on the flop. This has a triple benefit:
- it gains you money from people with no or few outs
- it gains you money from people who are drawing and
- it can push dangerous hands out of the pot
On this third point, many may wonder how this tactic will really push dangerous hands out of the pot. We all know full well that a person with an ace of hearts in the hole will call bets and raises on the flop because he has the nut draw. I don't disagree. But sometimes, there is no ace or queen of hearts in anyone's hole cards. However, one player may have the jack of hearts. Now this is your real danger in this pot. If you were holding the jack of hearts on this flop and there was a bet and raise in front of you, it would be very difficult expect that your flush will be good if it hits. Therefore, many opponents (even fairly loose opponents) will be much more inclined to fold.
This is exactly what I want to happen when I become aggressive on this sort of flop. I know I'm not going to get top two flush draws out of the pot. But due to the fact that I am not always up against opponents holding either of these two cards, I want to put pressure on the remaining hand(s) that could beat me. I recall several pots where I have flopped a small flush with 5-6 suited (or something like that) and become very aggressive on the pot. A couple of opponents fold behind me and when a fourth heart comes on the river and I showdown my hand, it still wins. The opponent who called me on the flop and turn had a strong hand, but no hearts at all. An opponent who folded on the flop slaps the table and says "I threw away the //...etc" But because I raised on the flop, they think that either me or the original bettor has an ace high flush draw. Since, most players are smart enough to fold when they think that they are drawing dead, playing aggressively on the flop in this situation can prove beneficial. Occasionally, they will even throw away a queen high flush draw in this situation. But it depends on how tight they are.
What should you do if you are reraised by the original bettor? You may begin to think that he/she may have the bigger flush. Well here is my analysis and approach. If I flop a small or medium flush and an opponent bets, I'll raise straight away (as you now know). If this player then reraises me, I'll cap it with the intention of then checking and calling the whole way to the river. I find that a lot of the time, this player had AK or maybe a set and they are reraising you on the flop because they think you don't have a flush yet. As a result, they try to apply as much pressure as possible. On the other hand, you don't want to trap yourself here. Further, if they have an ace-high flush draw, they will not fold for a raise on the turn. Best to simply check and call the whole way.
By the way - one small note. If I cap on the flop and this player then checks to me on the turn, I am inclined to bet. However, you must keep in mind that, if this player has a nut flush, they may use this opportunity to attempt a check-raise. So if you are check-raised on the turn, you are in a very difficult spot and it is a little unlikely that they would checkraise you without a flush. Difficult to laydown and difficult to make two crying calls after being check-raised. Usually it comes down to the type of opponent.
Flop a set
I bet sets on the flop. Many people say you should slowplay. But you must consider why you are slowplaying a hand. If I flop a nut flush, I slowplay occasionally to lure players in and pick up a few more callers on the turn. However, I am slowplaying because I want to disguise my hand. If I have 3-3 and the flop is J-9-3, how many opponents are honestly going to put me on a set of threes when I bet or raise on the flop? The strength of my hand is ultimately disguised. I say: start building the pot there and then. I especially like it when I am able to isolate one or two players with top pair. Against this sort of hand, I am a big favourite. I will then bet all the way to the river and raise anyone who bets into me, unless the board gets really really ugly - eg.. J-9-3-10-Q.
If someone raises my bet on the flop, my reaction depends on my position and the type of opponent I'm up against. If I bet a set in an early position and a player then raises me, I might decide to call and then check-raise on the turn. The thing you have to be absolutely certain about is that your opponent will bet if you call the flop and then check on the turn. If this is a tricky or tough player that may have raised you on the flop for a free card, it may be worth reraising on the flop and then betting out on the turn.
Flop a straight
Please see my article "I flopped a nut straight" on a fuller analysis of flopping a straight and why it is important to be very aggressive with this hand on the flop.
What about AK with a good flop?
I actually use a different approach with AK than I do with the hands above. Let's say I start with AK and the flop is A-7-6 or K-8-10. Many players believe that you should keep firing away at the flop. I am usually interested in seeing who likes the flop. If I have position and a middle position player bets, I may just call and try to encourage him to bet again on the turn. If he does, I can raise and isolate - kick out all the draws behind me. Most hold'em games can be a bit loose and while a raise on the flop will not always narrow the field, a raise on the turn usually separates the men from the boys. AK, is some respects, has its vulnerabilities against a lot of opponents, even when you flop and ace or king. Better to isolate an opponent with a weak kicker and three outs. If you raise the flop and then bet the turn, opponents on draws or middle pair may call you on the flop and turn. So instead of facing one opponent on the river with three outs, you are facing three opponents who collectively have 14 outs against your hand. You tell me which outcome you would prefer?
So in a nutshell, I will not always be aggressive with AK on the flop. I sometimes like to wait until the turn when I have more chance at kicking out draws.