Basics to Reading the Flop

John Mehaffey - February 17, 2013

One of the first things online poker players need to learn is how to read a flop. The flop is the first three cards shown after the initial betting round. The flop shows players where the hand is going and what cards are worth holding and drawing. It is important to read the flop and the hands that are worth holding and which ones need to be mucked before investing more money.

The first action a player should make when the flop is shown is to compare it to their hand. Did the player make a pair or better? Is the player four to a flush or straight?

Once the player has determined how they hit the flop, they should then consider how well other players may have hit the flop. Are there straights, flushes or higher cards on the board that may help others?

Once this has been established, a player should decide how likely the flop was to hit other players. The preflop action will typically give clues as to how players may have hit the flop. For example, if there were raises before the flop, then a flop that contained an ace and king would be trouble for pocket queens. On the other hand, pocket queens would love a flop like 2-5-7.

One thing that newer players tend to overlook are straight draws on the flop. A flop involving three unpaired cards nine or higher can bring multiple straights or straight draws. Players might flop a queen and a jack or a ten and a jack that make a lot of straights. If you flop two pair into a higher flop, then you should be careful if you get raised.

Overplaying the flop can also be a problem. This is especially true for players that have big pocket pairs. It can be easy to be blinded by pocket aces and not pay attention to the board. If a pair of face cards, three connecting cards, or three suited cards are on the flop, it is time to slow down. Do not be afraid to miss a bet if it can keep you out of a trap check raise. It is better to win one less bet than it is to lose two more bets.

Even after the flop comes, it is time to pay attention. If a player cold called the flop and raises into a board that favors mediocre hands then it is time to slow down. Keep in mind though that a hand that is drawing to four to a flush or straight may be trying to get a free card later in the hand. If you feel a player is raising a draw on the flop and you have top pair and a good kicker you should consider reraising them, especially in limit.

Texas Hold’em is not the only game with flops. Omaha is a flop game as well. Pot Limit Omaha has become the second most popular game behind No Limit Texas Hold’em at most rooms. Reading the flop at this game is especially important. Being able to read what the nut hand is on the flop is imperative. Flopping a set is usually a good time to bet or raise the pot to keep flush and straight draws from drawing out on you. On the other hand, if you flop a good draw, the goal is to keep the pot within a reasonable range so that you and other players do not get priced out on the turn.

Omaha High/Low players should take Pot Limit Omaha flops into consideration, as well as low draws. Omaha High/Low players should see where their low cards would fit into a potential low if it comes or if it already flopped. Nut hands are even more common in Omaha High/Low, as many more low straight draws will be held and chased by players. Low connectors are often folded in Omaha Hi games.

The flop is the key point of all Texas Hold’em and Omaha games. Decisions made on the flop can affect the rest of the hand. It is important to know where you stand on the flop and where your draw stands with others.