Once the preflop betting round ends, the flop is dealt. The flop is everything in Texas Hold’em. Wagers have been placed, all cards have been dealt preflop, and three community cards are dealt face-up. At this point you must decide whether you can take the pot with your hand. And if not? Be gone, or you shall have your feathers plucked.
Tip One: The Flop is Crucial: The flop is the key point in a Texas hold’em hand. Up to the flop you will usually have invested only a small percentage of your stack in the pot and can let go for a reasonable penalty. In a low limit game you must learn to read the flop quickly to determine whether or not you’re the favorite or the underdog. In general if you’re hand doesn’t improve on the flop, someone else probably hit something, and you should consider folding. If it does improve, and you feel you have the best hand at this point, you must aggressively protect it. Don’t slow play anything but the strongest, most unbeatable hands. Personally, I don’t slow play even very strong hands in low limit, I try to get as much money in the pot as I can, while eliminating as many players as I can. I will only slow play with the absolute nuts, in which case I’ll wait for the turn and check-raise if possible. Force your opponents to make calling errors when you have the best hand. That’s where the money is in all games of poker.
Tip Two: The Free Card Play: Here is a very useful play to be aware of on the flop. Keep in mind that the betting will not increase until the turn. You can raise here for the price of one small bet. If you’re in late position, and have a good but speculative hand, that’s what you should do. When the turn comes chances are the other players will check to you because of your previous raise. This means you have the option of checking yourself if you don’t make the card you need on the turn. This saves you a bet: A free card! For example, say you have two suited cards in the hole, and the flop comes with two more of your suit, giving you four to a possible flush. If you’re in late position you should raise with this hand. You can do it here for the additional cost of only one small bet. Then when the turn comes without completing your flush, the other players will usually check around to you. Then you can also check and probably see the river for free also! A good bargain don’t you think? If on the other hand, you do make your hand on the turn you’ll bet right out which will surprise no one since you raised the flop. In low limit you will usually get calls anyway. It’s a beautiful thing. Keep in mind you should only use this play in late position, but it comes up quite often and you need to know it, use it, and be able to recognize when it’s being used against you.
Tip Three: Use the Flop To Gather Information: You can sometimes use the flop to gain insight about the other player’s hands. For example, say you have a pair of Queens you raised in mid position. If an Ace comes on the flop you should bet right out to get information. Anyone who doesn’t have an Ace is likely to fold. You may win the pot right there. Anyone who does is likely to call. That’s the information you needed. If anyone calls you’re probably up against an ace or a big hand and on the turn you should check to any skilled opponent and fold if he bets. Since you raised preflop to begin with there’s a good chance that the other player will think you are attempting to check-raise and also check, especially if he has ace-no kicker, which is often the case in low limit. Either way your bet on the flop prevents some costly guessing here.