Key Factors Which Affect How You Play Post Flop In MTTs
This article continues my ‘poker tournament basics’ series which includes starting hands and a MTT pre-flop strategy primer. Today I am covering some of the key aspects of play after the flop. This is aimed at newer players, and those looking to plug leaks and improve their games. You can find plenty more articles from beginner through to advanced level in my Online Poker Tournaments main page here.
Play on the flop depends on several different factors, many of which overlap. These include the ‘texture’ of the flop (high cards and number potential straights / flushes), the number of players still in the hand, stack sizes, the strength of your cards (and so whether you want to encourage action or end the hand fast) and the known tendencies / experience level of your opponents.
While making the correct decisions comes with experience, this article outlines each area and explains how each one affects your post-flop tournament decision making. This will give you a solid foundation on which to build your poker tournament success!
Post Flop Play In Poker Tournament – The Texture Of The Flop
When the flop comes down the first thing you will do is compare it to your own cards and see how well they fit. Good players do not stop there, they also judge how likely the flop is to have hit the hands of their opponents.
Since we know that players (especially in lower buy-in poker tournaments) like to play suited cards, hands with aces and broadway cards (picture cards)– flops that contain these cards are more likely to have hit our opponents than a low card flop with 3 different suits.
An easy way to categorize flops is between ‘wet’ and ‘dry’. A wet flop would be something like A-Q-10 with 2 diamonds. This will hit a lot of those high card hands, and even if an opponent did not directly hit this flop, they could have a number of draws to straights or flushes. This is a potentially dangerous flop if you hold an under-pair or matched just one high card.
Dry flops are the opposite – think 2-6-J with 3 different suits. There is just one high card and not many legitimate pre-flop calling hands will have hit this flop hard.
Flop texture should affect your play in 2 ways. It should help you determine whether to continue with the hand or not, if you missed on a wet flop and there is a bet and call ahead then you should be less likely to continue in the hand (for example with a high-pair) than you would if the flop were dry. The texture of the flop will also affect your bet sizing, if there are no draws available then you do not need to bet as big as you would if the flop made it possible for opponents to need only one card to complete a flush or straight.
Of course, we can combine flop texture with the number of opponents and strength of our own hand – making the decision on post-flop play even clearer. The key take away here is to ask ‘How likely is this flop to have hit the type of hands my opponent(s) would call with?’ – your post-flop decision making will seem much clearer!
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Post-Flop Tournament Strategy – The Number Of Players In The Hand And Whether You Act First Or Last
Multi-way hands are common in online poker tournaments. We have all been there, you raise with 2 red aces, only to find yourself first to act of 5 opponents on a 8-9-10 flop with 3 spades! It is not only the number of players who see the flop which has a big effect on your choice of action, whether you act first or last makes a big difference too.
In the above scenario acting first is not a good situation, you have no idea how well your opponents hit the flop – or whether they will check behind to take a free card if you do not bet. If you were last and saw a raise and re-raise ahead then your action would be far clearer (for me this would depend on whether one of my aces was spades).
For newer players my advice is this – be far less likely to continue with the hand with more than 2 opponents – especially on a ‘wet’ flop. 1 opponent would be ideal, 2 players make things interesting, with 3+ you need to have a good hand and / or a strong draw to continue. If the bets are small then you could make a case for seeing the turn with a mid-strength hand… as long as you are prepared to fold if the action heats up! The key take away here is not to build a big pot in a multi-way hand without a very strong holding.
Post Flop In Poker Tournaments – Stack Sizes
Here is something that newer players often overlook when playing post flop – the size of player’s chip stacks relative to the size of the pot. One extreme error is betting an amount that could force you (due to pot odds) to call a re-raise.
For example, you start with 14 times the big blind, raise 2.5c and get called in one spot and by the big blind. The pot is now 8.5 big blinds and you have only 11.5 times the big blind left. If you bet half of the pot (say 4.5 times the big blind bet) and get re-raised all-in then you will be looking at calling off your last 7 big blinds to win a pot of 24.5 blinds total – these are HUGE odds (almost 3.5/1). If you can win the hand more than 28% of the time then you have to make the call here… if you are strong this is great – however in many situations an assessment of the stack sizes before you act would have shown that a standard ‘continuation bet’ was not the best move here.
One more thing to note, if you are in a hand with only one opponent and his stack is smaller than yours then you should use his stack size to make your decisions. This is known as the ‘effective stack size’.
Post Flop Play In Online Poker Tournaments – Known Tendencies Of Your Opponents
Judging the likely actions and holdings of your opponents in certain situations is vital to long term success in tournaments. As an improving player you should be looking for opportunities to gather information.
Several extreme cases affect your post-flop decisions, for example an opponent who calls and calls and calls (known as a calling station) is not a good candidate to bluff into those times you miss (though if you hit the flop you should certainly bet for value). At the other extreme overly aggressive opponents will do the betting for you, allowing them to build the pot without scaring them off with a re-raise too early is a handy strategy.
Opponents will often act predictably where they took the lead before the flop. If you observe closely you will find many players who (for example) always continuation bet, or bet one amount when they are strong and a different amount when they are weak. If you are observant enough to find and use this information you will find yourself deep in many tournaments very soon – this information is like gold.
Post Flop Play For Online Poker Tournaments – Bringing It All Together
I suggest working on each of the factors above separately to begin with. You can get used to flop texture, position and opponent numbers, stack sizes and known tendencies separately while you play.
To really profit you will need to bring them all together – thinking in terms of multiple factors will alert you to unclear situations before they happen, and will also lead you to great opportunities to steal or re-steal to take down many more pots.
Solid post-flop play will take you to the next level, however there is one more factor which can make a big difference to your tournament success. Choosing a tournament site on a network which has traffic from ‘sports betting’ brands ensures that there are always more novice than pros at the tables.