If all you take from this section is these four points you will still have significantly improved your chances of winning.
Once you understand right preflop Texas Holdem strategy, the postflop poker strategy becomes significantly easier. When you play weak hands from poor positions poker is quite difficult; nobody likes to play Q7 from out of position (Out of position means you act first, so your opponent will have more information than you)! However, if you play only a narrow range of hands from good starting positions, as is recommended, poker will become a much simpler prospect.
Postflop, there are many factors which we must take into account before we make a decision. The number of variables makes each decision quite complicated for a beginner. However, there are a few guidelines and concepts which can be understood which will help you in the decision-making process.
Postflop Poker Strategy – The Basics
One of the most important considerations is if we are in position (IP) or out of position (OOP). We will cover this in more detail in Position is king.
Secondly, we should be considering what our opponent may be holding. Does our opponent have only strong hands if he is a tight player? Does he play lots of hands meaning his ‘range’ of hands will be quite weak? See more on how to hand read.
A whole book could be written on hand reading, so I won’t go further into it. But it is important as a new player to begin thinking about what your opponent may have. Do not only consider the hand you are holding.
Postflop poker strategy Tip 1: Always consider what your opponent could be holding.
Next, we should consider the board texture. For example, is the board likely to have improved your hand or your competitors? Is the board likely to change very much on the turn or river? These considerations will be detailed further on in this guide.
Another consideration is how many players made it to the flop. If the flop is heads up (only you and your opponent) the strength of each hand is much better than if five or even six people made it to the flop. The more players that see the flop, turn, and river the less likely you are to win at showdown with a weak holding such as one pair. For more information on the differences between multiway and heads up pots, head over to pokernews.com.
Postflop poker strategy Tip 2: The more players there are in the hand, the less likely you are to win and the weaker your holding.
Finally, we need to consider how many chips are in the pot, how much we have left behind in our stack and how many chips our opponent has.
After these considerations, we can make a decision on how we are going proceed in the hand.
So first let’s have a look at board texture:
Postflop Poker Strategy: Notation
Before we discuss postflop poker strategy and board composition in detail we need to make sure the notation is clear to everyone.
In some cases, pictures will be used to show board textures, but often just text will be employed. When describing the board with text (i.e. letters and numbers), each card rank is represented by either its number or the first letter of its name. To take an example, the board:
This texture is described by 5♥ K♣ 5♦ and is often shortened to 5hKc5d. It is sometimes shortened further to 5K5r. Here the ‘r’ means rainbow (the flop is all different suits). When the flop has a flush draw (i.e. not a rainbow board) the board could be represented by 5K5s. Here the ‘s’ represents suited.
There are many types of boards, but in general, they can be broken down into two types: dry board textures and wet board textures.
Dry Board Texture
Dry board textures are ones which the players in the hand are less likely to have connected with the community cards. Also, dry also means a board which the strength of your holding is unlikely to change over the course of the hand.
Examples of dry board textures are:
Why are these boards considered dry? Well on the K55 board there are not many hands that will change the strength of your opponent’s or your holdings. If for example, you held KQ, then the only way your opponent can now beat you is if he has:
Well on the K55 board there are not many hands that will change the strength of your opponent’s or your holdings. If for example, you held KQ, then the only way your opponent can now beat you is if he has:
If for example, you held KQ, then the only way your opponent can now beat you is if he has:
- An Ax (e.g. Ace-Queen or Ace-Seven) hand and hits an ace on the turn or river.
- A pocket pair such as 77 which hits his set on the turn or river (unlikely).
- A hand such as QJ which hits a runner runner straight (two cards in a row – for example, the turn is a Ten, and the river is an Ace resulting a straight Ten to Ace) or runner runner full house (two Queens or two Jacks).
The most important factor is that neither of these two board has many straight-draw or flush-draw possibilities. The lack of draws means that if you have a hand like A5 on the K55 board or 44 on the 742 board you are very unlikely to be beaten by your opponent if he is behind on the flop.
Additionally, dry flops are inherently difficult to hit and hence makes continuation betting as the pre-flop raiser (you raised first, and someone called your raise) especially useful on dry boards. Continuations bets will be detailed further on in this section.
Wet board texture
On the other hand, wet board textures are boards where the board is very likely to change over future streets.
Looking at the QT9s board, there are many cards which will modify the strength of many hands. If we have AQ or TT on this board we have a strong hand; but on many turn cards such as a K, J, 8 or any heart, the strength of these hands will significantly degrade. Also, there are many hand types that your opponent may have hit this board with:
- Any 8 or K is an inside straight draw (4 cards will complete the straight).
- Any J is an open-ended straight draw (8 cards will make a straight)
- The majority of opponents plays Queens, Tens, and Nines.
Therefore, your opponent is likely to continue with a large proportion of his hands on this board.
We can directly translate all these points to the 432s board; except for the last as this board has cards of lower ranks. On the 432s board, however, every Ace has an inside straight draw. Aces will be played quite frequently by most opponents.
Every other board type will be somewhere in between the dry K55r and the wet QT9s. Understanding how wet or dry a board is and adjusting your strategy correctly is the key skill at play in this scenario. For more information on board textures, see this excellent article.
A continuation bet, as its name suggests, is when you follow up on your previous aggressive action with another bet. For example, you raise pre-flop and then continue to bet on the flop. Continuation bets are extremely useful postflop poker strategy for two reasons:
- It is tough to connect with most board types; therefore player who bets first will often win the pot
- The player who last raised pre-flop will typically have the strongest hands; thus will get the benefit of the doubt when he bets again.
The rate at which you continuation bet should, be on a very basic level, determined by the wetness of the board.
The dryer the board, the less likely your opponent hit and therefore the more often we will want to bet to win the pot.
But we should also be more prone to bet when we have a chance to win the pot when called. In other words, we have pot equity in the form of a draw or overcards.
Postflop poker strategy Tip 3: The dryer a board texture, the more likely we are to win the pot by continuation betting (cbet).
Example 1: A Good Spot To CBet
So let’s take a few examples of good examples of continuation bets. Continuation from our previous example of JTs from UTG (click the picture to see the full replay):
We opened to 3bb from UTG and got one call from the Button. On the flop of 9h7s3s, we have an inside straight draw and two overcards. This board is ranked medium for wetness and how the opponent connects; our opponent can have a few straight and flush draws as well as top pairs.
JTs is a good hand in this situation as we can make robust pairs on the turn and river and also can make the nut straight. Thus this is a good spot for a cbet as a bluff. We expect him to fold hands which are better than ours. However, if he does continue, we have a good chance of making a stronger hand with a J, T or 8.
We should keep bluffing to a minimum when playing small stakes and especially at play money poker. But in this case, it is almost a perfect situation for a bluff.
Example 2: Another good spot to CBet
Another situation for a good cbet is below:
We raised with 22 from the Button and got two callers from the SB and BB. Both check to us on the flop. This situation is a clear spot to value bet (value betting and bluffing are discussed in the next section). The flop is relatively wet, and two players can draw out us with straights and flush draws. Therefore, we want to charge them to see them next card.
Also, we have a robust hand (the second or third strongest depending on whether our opponents will re-raise KK preflop). We can get lots of value and win a big pot by betting; thus this is an excellent spot for a value bet.
Cbetting for value is a fundamental aspect of our postflop poker strategy and is one of the primary sources of profit at small stakes. Ensure you understand and utilize continuation betting fully by reading our in-depth article.
Example 3: A bad spot to Cbet
Below is a dangerous situation to continuation bet:
We raise a limper with 98s and get a call from the BB and the player who limped. The flop is terrible for us as we have a small amount of equity and this board is likely to have hit one of our opponents. Thus it is not a good spot to continuation bet (cbet), and we should check behind and fold to any future bets.
Postflop poker strategy Tip 5: Do not cbet on board textures where your opponent is likely to call, and you have little chance of improving on later streets
Continuation bets can also apply to the turn and the river. For example, we refer to betting the flop, turn and river as river continuation bet.
Continuation bets are how a significant proportion of your winnings will be generated at small stakes and free money poker. People often give up when they do not hit anything so take advantage of this fact.
The number of chips you have bought in for or currently have on the poker table is known as ‘stack depth.’
If you are playing ‘short stack’ poker, it means you are not playing with very many chips on the table – for example, 40bb. We do not recommend shallow stack play. Shallow stack poker means we have fewer chips on the table and hence we can win fewer chips from the weak poker players at the table.
Conversely deep stacked play means you have a lot of chips at the table – e.g. 200bb deep.
The shallower your stack depth, the more likely you should be to go all in. In poker terms going all in is called ‘stacking off.’
Stack depth has a profound effect on your preflop and postflop poker strategy so ensure you are aware of your stack depth at all times.
For example, it would be appropriate to allow yourself to get all in with post flop with top pair good kicker such as KQ on K72 if you had a stack depth of 40bb; however, not if you had a stack depth of 100bb or greater.
Postflop poker strategy tip 5: The greater your stack depth, the stronger a holding you need to stack off. Always be aware of your stack depth before entering a pot.
Before playing a hand preflop, you should be checking the stack depth of you and your opponents. Checking stack depth ensures you understand how many chips are at play.
One mistake often made by new players is not considering effective stack size: if you have 100bb and your opponents has 40bb then the effective stack size is 40bb; this is because your opponent can win no more than 40bb from you. Hence your effective stack size can vary from hand to hand, and you must adjust you postflop poker strategy accordingly.
Betting is the fundamental aspect of poker which makes it an exciting game to play. The ability to wager money as a bluff inducing your opponent to fold is one of the biggest selling points of the game; it is the first thing people think of when discussing poker!
But it’s not all about bluffing as Hollywood has led you to believe. A lot of a winning Texas Holdem strategy just involves getting your bets in when you have a better hand than your opponent.
Before betting, consideration should be made as to why a bet is being made. Can worse hands call our bet and provide us with value? Can we get better hands to fold? If neither is the case, you typically shouldn’t be betting. This concept is integral to correctly implementing a solid poker betting strategy.
This concept can difficult to grasp as a new player. But generally, you should be just betting with your strong hands; and if you are playing small stakes or especially free poker, keep bluffing to a minimum. People at low stakes or even play money poker do not fold; thus bluffing at these stakes is a complete waste of money.
Bet sizing is one of the most complicated parts of NLHE and is one of the most challenging aspects to grasp for a new player. For simplicity sake there a few rules to stick to which won’t lead you too far wrong:
A big mistake new players often make is using the same bet size as the pot grows on each street. For example: betting 5$ into a $10 pot on the flop and then betting $5 into a $20 pot on the turn. Your bet sizes should be relative to the pot! As the pot grows so should the size of your bet. Think fractions, not dollar amounts!