Postflop fundamentals for beginners
Some key considerations:
- Connecting with the board
- Hand categories
- Deciding what to do
Connecting with the board
Who does the board favor, you or your opponents?
Use equity (your winning chances without more betting) advantage and nut advantage (frequency of very strong hands, usually two-pair or better) to gauge. This is done by comparing your range against the opponent’s range, either in a tool like Flopzilla or in a solver like GTO+. High-card boards usually favor the preflop aggressor, while low or medium-connected boards favor the preflop defender. In general, with equity advantage we can bet more often, with nut advantage we can bet bigger.
We open raise in the button in a cash game, 100 bb stacks. BB calls.
The flop is:
Button open range
BB calling range
This flop has a high card and is very disconnected. We have an advantage as preflop aggressor. The equity of our range against villain’s range is 53%. We also have more really strong hands, like KK, AA and AK. Villain would mostly have raised those preflop. This gives us a nut advantage.
- Premium hands: Strong hands with high winning chances.
- Decent hands: Fairly strong, but vulnerable to stronger hands.
- Draws: Potential for strong hands with future community cards.
- Trash: Weak hands with little to no potential.
It is important to consider relative strength rather than absolute strength. What this means is that our straight that has good absolute strength does not have good relative strength on the turn when there are four cards to a flush and a lot of action.
When starting out in poker, we can tend to (with many exceptions as we learn more):
- Bet with premium hands.
- Semi-bluff with draws.
- Check or call with decent hands.
- Mostly check/fold trash, occasionally bluff.
Acting after opponents (in position) offers a clear advantage as you see their moves first, aiding pot control and bluffing. For more information, see Introduction to position.
- In position: Bet more often.
- Out of position: Check more often.
Deciding what to do
Beginners can follow this guideline:
- If in the blinds and your last action preflop was a call, check the flop.
- If you are the preflop aggressor against the big blind, bet ⅓ of the pot with your whole range on favorable flops like paired boards or boards with broadway card(s) with few draws possible.
- In other cases you need to think.
You raised on the button. Big blind called.
The flop is:
- Both ranges connect with the board, but it is better for us
- We have equity advantage with 55% equity
- We have nut advantage since we have more hands like KK, TT, 99 and AK
- Our hand is decent (50% equity against villain’s range)
- We have position
When deciding what to do, we need to consider the best action (with the highest EV). In this example, the board is better for us and we have position, which are arguments for betting. But our hand is only decent, which is an argument for checking. All things considered we should check. If we bet we will mostly be called by better hands and some hands that can outdraw us. Many of the hands that would fold, would be worse than our hand.
A seasoned player is going to consider many more things than the ones mentioned here. For example, villain tendencies, stack sizes, future run-outs, pot odds, implied odds, balancing value bets with bluffs, optimal bet sizing, blockers and unblockers, table image, game dynamics, payout structure and more.
The more you study and practice, the easier it will be to make the most profitable decisions postflop. The good news is that because learning to play postflop well is challenging, most players are not doing it!