The FLOP is where most decisions are made. Depending on where you are in the betting sequence, the flop will determine how you play. Many pros talk about playing the player instead of the cards, so the seeds of doubt are planted here. You have to look at a flop according to whom it may have helped and what are the perfect cards needed to give the best hand possible. Hitting a straight-flush on the flop is 64,973 to 1, if you get one, better slow play it, and a royal flush is 10 times harder to get, but because of the high cards and high probability someone has something, you don't have to slow play it. Most players miss the flop and end up with some type of a drawing hand or are looking at two over-cards, so this is where players represent what hands they want you to believe they have. Some who actually hit something are more likely not to have the top pair or their top pair can be beat on the TURN or RIVER. Whether it's the FLOP, TURN, or RIVER, this is where the possible bluff starts and the more players in the hand, the less likely a bluff will hold to the river.
FOUR RULES FOR READING THE BOARD
1. Unless there is at least ONE PAIR on the board; it is impossible for any player to have Quads or a Full House.
2. Unless there are at least THREE SUITED cards on the board; it is impossible for any player to have a Flush.
3. Unless there are at least THREE cards on the board that have two or fewer gaps between them; it is impossible for any player to have a Straight.
4. If none of the above premium hands are possible, then the Nuts would always be a pocket pair that makes a Set with the highest card on the board.
A couple of things about the 2 most loved cards in the deck, the Ace and King.
It's about 220 to 1 that Kings will be beat by Aces. It's about 110 to 1 that any specific pair will be dealt, like AA or KK, so if you think someone has a higher pocket pair, the odds go up about 2% to 4% for each pair from 22 to KK that your pair has been cracked. At a full table AA will win about 35% of the time and KK will win about 31%. At a full table there is about an 87% chance that at least one person has an Ace and about 70% that 2 players have an Ace and you can reduce that by about 5% for each person less than the full table. Most books you read show the odds of getting that 4 of a kind or Full House or Flush or anything that could win, but the real odds are in the cards players are likely to play and the cards that are flopped. There may be a 46 to 1 chance of making a set, but if everyone plays the high Broadway cards, which means those cards don't get mucked, and two of the Broadway cards appear on the flop, then the odds are higher that someone may have made it. Some players don't play low pairs and some don't play low kickers, so if a 4 or two fours come out on the flop, there is a slightly less chance of it helping most of the better players, it's more likely to help a poor or loose player. If a 9 came out on the flop, there is a higher percentage of players that could have paired it and more that will get the set if 99 come on the flop, then it's all about the kicker.
So lets look at Flop textures:
If the 3 cards are a SET, something that rarely happens: It could be someone has 4 of a kind, there's less than a 1% chance though. There's about a 1% chance of making a Full House, if someone has a pocket pair, then someone is more likely to have at least a Full House by the turn, possibly more than one person will hit the Full House by the River, if the betting was heavy. 4 of a kind with an Ace kicker will be slow played by everyone except weak players. Someone holding a King kicker probably won't slow play it, they will most likely make some kind of a raise or probe bet, looking for the player with the Ace kicker.
3 Suited Cards, again not the normal type of flop: It's about 500 to 1 that anyone hit the flush on the flop. Most likely if someone has a flush they will slow play it if there are no other danger cards. Many will have a flush draw and play it to the river where it's about 100 to 1 that they will hit it. With suited connectors and a straight flush possible, some will chase both the straight and flush to the river.
3 Connected Cards, usually doesn't happen, more likely there's at least one gap: It's about 250 to 1 that someone hit a straight on the flop. If the 3 cards are consecutive, like 7-8-9 or J-Q-K, then the scare is out on the high end that at least a pair has hit because many players will play any 2 cards if one is a Jack or higher. Most players will play any 2 cards if both are an eight or above. So you have about half of the deck being played by all of the players. Out of the 52 cards in a deck, over half are an eight or above, 28 of the 52 cards. If 3 cards are dealt on the flop that are close to a run with only one gap, there is a possibility of a made straight, but more likely a big draw to the straight, and that may last all the way to the river.
PAIRS on the flop, probably happens on the same frequency as someone getting pocket pairs. With the odds of someone being dealt a pair at about 16 to 1, it's not likely anyone hit quads on the flop. It's about a 10% chance someone with pocket pairs will make a set, so they are more likely to miss the set than make it. It's about a 16% chance that someone may get 2 pair by the river if they already have a pair. Phil Gordon has a neat formula to calculate the odds of someone holding higher pocket pairs, preflop. He calls it the "Gordon Pair Principle".
If you have 99, there are 5 higher pairs that can beat you, if there are 5 players left to act, you multiply the numbers, 5x5 = 25, then divide by 2, for 12.5, which means there is a 12.5% chance of someone beating your pairs. It's not rocket science, but something good to use when it comes down to a hard preflop decision.
Suited Connectors: Will it hit the Flush more likely than the Straight?
This flies in the face of the odds. There are 13 cards in a suit and 2 suited cards hit the board, so there are 11 out. Since a flush beats a straight, more people are likely to chase the flush than the straight and since many players play connectors, it's more likely that the flush side will be hit.
- On the straight side there are 24 cards that can help, but the cards are specific, 3 from each side. They must have the two end cards for the straight, either one on each end or 2 on the same end. With 2 cards to come and only 8 cards that can really help, it's a bigger gamble to go for the straight.
- On the flush side there are 11 cards still to be played and any of the eleven will do. If they are holding the normal 2 suited cards, they have 9 outs that they are playing to, with about a 36% chance of making the flush. Keep in mind that there is only a 25% chance of a flush before the deal.
Non-Suited Connectors: Likely to hit a Straight about 48% of the time by the river, if they already have 2 of the 24 cards needed, considering that there is only about a 38% chance of making a straight before the deal. That's 5 cards needed to make a straight and 4 ways to make it, for about 20 cards that are needed, and if you have one, then there are 16 cards that can help and if you have 2, then 12 that can help, which may really bring it to about 32%. We can leave it to the math guys like Sklansky and Block to give the real odds, but you will see lots of players take anything at 3 to 1 or better, as long as they still have half their chips left if they lose.
RAGS: At a full table, with 3 cards dealt above a seven, it's likely someone hit a pair and more likely that more than one person hit a pair. If the flop has an A, K, Q, or J and the other 2 cards are low and it's a rainbow, then most will bet their pair or represent that they got the pair. Everyone fears the Ace, most don't fear the King and less are likely to fear the Queen or Jack. 3 cards below an eight are most likely going to get many callers and the type of hand someone with a low set doesn't want to slow play.
I Never Bluff