This is the most important street in hold’em in my opinion. Many people might argue that the turn or river offer more critical decisions. And they are right in a sense. But in full ring poker, most hands that go beyond the flop are big hands which sort of play themselves. The flop sets up everything else that happens in the hand and is the source of either massive spew or massive profit. Let’s see if we can make sure that you are strongly in the latter category.
Planning Out a Hand
Before I continue on with anything else I want to discuss a broad topic that I feel is very important; planning out a hand. This section could have gone in a lot of different places in this book. You should be doing some planning preflop for instance. But as I just said, I believe that the flop is kind of the control center for everything in the hand. The majority of your planning should take place here and that is why I want to talk about this now.
One of the best habits that you can develop for your game is to view each hand as a whole rather than focus on an individual street. No limit hold’em is usually played 100bb deep and this of course creates the opportunity for multiple streets of betting. With shallower stack sizes like in tournament play for example, there often isn’t enough firepower for multiple betting rounds. So this concept doesn’t apply quite so much.
However in 100bb cash games we need to remember that the big money goes into the pot on the later streets. If we make poor decisions on earlier streets, we could pay dearly for it later. It is very much a snowball effect.
So the main idea here is to make your decisions for later streets before you actually get to them. And you should do this on the flop. If you choose to go beyond the flop then you should be ok with potentially playing a big pot. Don’t call or raise the flop if that is not your intention. If your intention is to play a small pot and your opponent is raising and won’t let you, then you should fold.
Whichever path you choose is fine. Just don’t choose the gray one. Choose black or white. Don’t say things to yourself like “I will call and see what happens.” Instead say things like “I am going to call the flop with the intention of raising the turn on X, Y and Z cards. And I will call the turn and river for value as long as A, B or C cards don’t come.”
See the difference between these two sets of statements? The latter one shows purpose and clarity. The former is just tossing in money and hoping for the best.
I want to be absolutely clear though.
In general when facing aggression at the micros you should simply fold right then and there the vast majority of the time.
But I will get into all of this in much more detail shortly. The main point of this section should be clear though. Make a plan for the hand on the flop and stick with it throughout the hand.