Postflop strategy is an incredibly broad topic, so I’m going to keep things pretty general on this page. I’ll cover individual topics in more detail on other pages, so for now this will serve more as a guide of how to think when playing after the flop.
If you get yourself into the right mindset for postflop strategy, you will find that more of your postflop decisions become easier to make. That same mindset also makes it easier to absorb and comprehend more advanced strategy discussions.
The Tight-Aggressive Mindset
The tight-aggressive mindset is the key to winning money after the flop. The things you do before the flop are important, but postflop is where all the money is made. If you learn how to play a strong postflop game, you will make a lot of money in poker.
Being tight-aggressive after the flop means you either commit fully to hands or you drop them. There is no in-between area in which you call bets and hope to see what happens later in the hand. Instead, you fold all your weak and marginal hands and then play your legit hands with aggression. Think to yourself that if a hand isn’t worth betting or raising, it’s not worth checking and calling.
However, there are exceptions to every rule in poker. If you have a draw to the nuts and you think your opponent(s) will pay you off if you hit, it may be OK to chase. Remember to take the pot odds into consideration if you do decide to chase a draw.
Postflop Strategy with Made Hands
By “made hands” I mean anything equal to top pair, top kicker or better. Your default play with most made hands should be to start betting and raising right away. The goal here is to start building a pot and to charge your opponents to draw against you. Slow playing should be reserved for monster hands that have little chance of being outdrawn.
Hands such as top pair, two pair and three of a kind are strong but they are not invincible. You want to bet and get as much money in the middle as you can while your hand is still the best. Plus, you also get extra money from people who are chasing draws. If you wait until the river to bet, you’ll miss out on bets from people who are chasing draws.
Top pair and two-pair hands require a little caution. These hands are good to see, but there are no guarantees they are the best. If you start getting action from an opponent, you need to be very cautious going forward. This is especially true when you start getting action from tight, quiet players. There is nothing wrong with folding top pair (and sometimes even two pair) if you have a strong feeling that your opponent has you beat.
Stronger hands such as flopped full houses, straights and flushes can either be played fast or slow depending on your opponents. Sometimes you will want to let your opponents catch up a bit so they at least catch something decent and make a couple of calls. Other times you may want to start betting right off the bad to keep your opponents off guard (and to take advantage of calling stations).
How to Play Marginal Hands
Marginal hands are hands such as top pair, low kicker, second pair and so on. These hands really aren’t worth much in no limit poker. You might occasionally get action from weaker hands, but most people won’t put much money in the pot unless they have you beat.
The best strategy with marginal hands is to check and fold or attempt the occasional bluff. There’s a chance you catch a lucky break and improve your hand on one of the next two streets, but it’s not worth putting any money in the middle. If you can’t see the next cards for free, just fold. Marginal hands are not moneymakers in no limit Holdem.
Draws after the Flop
Draws are trouble hands for a lot of players because they look so attractive. The potential to catch a big hand is always a great thing to see, but restraint needs to be used when playing draws. Remember that draws are not made hands and they will miss more often than hit.
The key to playing draws successfully is to have a firm grasp of pot odds. The basic idea is that the pot has to be large enough relative to the size of any bets for it to be worth calling and chasing. Otherwise, you will lose money over the long run by just chasing draws willy-nilly. Here’s a basic overview of how draws and pot odds work:
Every draw has a certain chance to hit. The odds can be written in fraction format. For example, a flush draw is roughly 4:1 against hitting on the next card. You can find these odds all over the place on the internet, and we recommend you just memorize the most common draws. It’s not too difficult.
Now, to figure out whether or not you should call a bet, all you do is compare the drawing odds to the pot odds. If an opponent bets $100 into a $500 pot, you are getting pot odds of 6:1. That’s because there is now $600 in the pot and it costs you $100 to call. If you have a flush draw, you could call this bet profitably. The pot odds (6:1) are greater than the drawing odds (4:1). Over the long run, you’ll make money calling this bet.
If the pot odds are smaller than the drawing odds, you should fold your draw. The only exception to this rule would be if your opponent has a huge stack and that opponent is known to pay off big hands. In most cases, though, you should fold.
If you are up against timid opponents who fold easily, you can also semi-bluff with your draws. Semi-bluffing gives you a chance to win the pot outright by placing a bet right now. If your semi-bluff fails, there is still a chance that you will hit the draw and win the pot. But remember not to semi-bluff calling stations and known fish – they’ll just call and make it more expensive for you to draw.