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No matter the subject, Elite Poker University is home to quick, impactful lessons that will improve your skills and make you a better, more profitable poker player!
Back in Elite Poker University, Lesson 4, I discussed why keeping it simple is the key to playing profitable poker. By sticking to the fundamentals you will find yourself in fewer “tough” situations, making it easier for you to steadily make money, survive deep into tournaments, and be a more profitable player.
That lesson focused on your preflop decisions, as I feel it’s the weakest area of the average player’s game. In this lesson, we’ll begin discussing our postflop decisions, and how we can simplify even the most complex situations we’re likely to face.
In Lesson 6 I introduced the “baseline” concept and why embracing its tenets will make the game much easier for you. That concept will come in handy here, as we’ll be using it to simplify our postflop play so we can navigate even the most complicated decisions.
In Lesson 4 I walked you through each of the table positions and discussed the range of starting hands you’d want to be looking to play from each of them. This lesson will assume you’ve been heeding my advice, and are therefore seeing most of your flops either with the lead in a hand against 1 or 2 opponents (you made an aggressive preflop raise and only 1 or 2 people called), or as a passive participant in a hand against 3 or more opponents (you limped in with a more speculative hand after a few others already had). The fact that you’re seeing most of your flops under these conditions should already be making the game simpler for you, and now we’ll simplify it even more by making good, fundamental postflop decisions.
Your Most Common Postflop Situation – You have the lead in a hand against 1 or 2 opponents
Let’s be clear: Having “the lead” does not refer to the strength of your cards, it refers to the fact that you are currently the most recent aggressor in the hand, and therefore have made the move that represents the most strength. In almost all hands, the person with the lead (the person who makes the bet/raise that everyone else calls in order to see the flop/turn/river) will be checked to on the subsequent betting round, giving them the most “power” in the hand, as they’ll usually get to decide how much it will cost everyone to continue playing.
For example, it is rare to see someone in an early position check on the flop, then call a bet made by another player, then come out and bet on the turn: If they check-called on the flop, it is very likely they will also check on the turn.
Since we’re following a solid, tight-aggressive strategy before the flop (right?), most of the flops we see are going to feature us as “the lead” (because about 80% of the time we enter a pot it’s going to be with a preflop raise, not a limp in).
See? We’ve already made our lives easier by reducing the number of times we’ll see a flop and then be faced with a bet from another player. If we’re seeing a flop, it’s likely we are going to get to decide how much it costs to see the turn, which leads me to today’s lesson:
If we took the lead preflop, we’re almost always going to be betting the flop.
I say “almost always” because I try to be precise with my words and I know there are, technically, times we will not bet the flop, but for all intents and purposes, though, we’re always betting the flop.
We’re betting the flop because it keeps us in the lead of the hand, and having the lead is not just something we want in order to satisfy our egos: There is a simple, practical reason for it. By having the lead, and betting it, we get the opportunity to force a decision on our opponents. In every betting round, we’re the guy who makes the bet, not one of the guys who has to respond to the bet. Think of it like this:
When we have the lead going to the flop, and it is checked around to us, our decision (in order, from safest to riskiest) is whether to 1) check, or 2) bet.
For everyone else in the hand, the decision (safest to riskiest) is to 1) fold, 2) call, or 3) raise.
See the difference? By being the guy who makes the bet, we force our opponents into a situation where the easiest and safest thing for them to do is fold.
If we don’t bet — especially after we were aggressive preflop — we’re telling them that we’re no longer as strong as we used to be. This gives them an invitation to bet right now (if they’re positioned after us) or to come out and bet into us on the turn (if they’ve already checked to us on the flop), turning them into the leader and making us the ones who have to respond (and whose safest choice is to fold). We don’t want to be one of the responders. For the responders, the only way to win the hand is by getting to the river and turning over the strongest cards. For the leader, the hand can be won by having the best cards OR by simply having everyone else fold.
As far as how much to bet on the flop after taking the lead preflop, see my lesson on baselines (or just bet 70-90% of the pot size!).
Next week, we’ll discuss what should be the second most common postflop situation we see: When we’re a passive participant in a hand against 3 or more opponents. Stay tuned!
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