Today I'm going to show you a clear framework for approaching flop strategy in your study sessions. It might not be sexy, but it's incredibly effective.
If you've ever raised preflop with AK and then completely whiffed the flop, you're definitely going to want to learn this approach. You'll shift your thinking from how your hand has or hasn't connected with the board to evaluating the flop texture, how it interacts with both players' ranges and what that means for your overarching strategy.
You don't need a perfect flop strategy - you need a way to study flop strategy so you can simplify the process and make better decisions later in the hand.
Unfortunately, studying poker isn't quite as fun as playing.
Many players don't even recognise that studying flop strategy is that important
Do any of these sound familiar?
You don't have a clear framework for flop strategy
You approach all flops and situations the same
You can't see the benefits of putting in the work
You focus on your exact hand rather than what your range wants to do
You can't work out the 'why'
You struggle to identify exploits
Today I'm going to help you overcome all of these problems by introducing a 4-step framework.
Here's how, step by step:
Step 1: Identify the overarching strategy
Many players struggle with this first step because they're too focused on their exact hand rather than zooming out and seeing what the overarching strategy looks like.
Let's say we raise to 2bb from the LJ off about 25bb and just the BB calls. The flop comes AJT flush draw. Notice how I've hidden Hero's hole cards - this is to force you to think about the overarching strategy first rather than what you would do with your exact hand.
What do you think our overarching strategy look like 25bb LJ vs BB on on AJT flush draw board?
a) Pure big bet
b) Pure small bet
c) Mix of big bet and small bet
d) Mix of big bet and check
e) Mix of Small bet and check
f) Mix of all three options
Answer: Our overarching strategy in this spot is to bet 100% of the time, mainly for a big sizing.
Your end goal for studying these spots is to be able to describe any situation and its overarching strategy. So if I ever asked you, "Hey, what do you do 30bb single raised pot BTN vs BB on a TT2 rainbow board?" you would be able to tell me.
This week's action: Hide your hole cards when studying flop strategy and identify the overarching strategy first.
Step 2: Figure out why the strategy looks like this
Your next job is to try to work out why your overarching strategy looks like this and come up with some questions to answer, like:
Why are we betting 100% of the time?
Why are we using the big bet most of the time?
This next step is the most important if you want to understand a better understanding of the 'why' so you can make better decisions in the future.
So why does our range want to bet 100% of the time, and mainly for the big sizing?
In this spot, AJT is an incredible board for our range. We have ~70% equity and a bigger proportion of very strong hands like two pair, sets and straights. This means we have a huge equity advantage and a huge nut advantage.
By betting big with our better hands we can extract maximum value. For example, when we bet big with a set of Tens, we can get value from all two pair and top pair hands, together with all flush draws and most straight draws.
By betting big with our bluffs we can generate folds from better hands. For example, if we bet big, the BB has to fold a lot of Jx and Tx hands that don't have something else to go along with it like a straight draw (e.g. QJ/KJ) or a flush draw (e.g. Tx of spades).
By understanding the situation and figuring out why your overarching strategy looks like this, you're then ready to explore what your exact hand wants to do. Don't make the mistake of starting the analysis the wrong way round.
This week's action: work out who the board is better for by looking at equities (equity advantage) and proportion of strong hands (nut advantage) and what effect this has on your overarching strategy.
Step 3: Explore what your exact hand wants to do and why
If your overarching strategy is just one action or bet size, then you don't need to even worry what your exact hand wants to do. If it's a 100% small c-bet then you just c-bet for a small size without even looking at your hand. If the solution makes use of more than one action (e.g. big bet and small bet, or small bet and check) then you will have to find out what your exact hand wants to do and work out why.
Hero has Ac8c in this actual hand. On the AJT flush draw board, Ac8c bets big 81% of the time and small 19% of the time.
If we bet big on this board, the BB should fold 68% of their range, which includes hands as strong as Jx and Tx. They should continue with top pair, flush draws and pair+straight draw hands (like QJ or KT). So by betting big with Ac8c we can extract value whilst denying equity to the BB's mediocre holdings that could improve, but are forced to fold.
Remember that the BB is at a significant equity and nut disadvantage and they're playing the whole hand out of position.
If we bet small, the BB folds 58% of their range and continues more frequently with Jx hands with a backdoor flush draw (like Jd7d or Jc8s). So we could bet small sometimes to extract more value and force the BB to continue with more hands and play turns with a wider and weaker range.
Top set, on the other hand, wants to bet big 53% of the time and bet small 47% of the time.
AA blocks a lot of the BB's continues, so if we ever do we want to bet small, putting top set in there makes a lot of sense to encourage the BB to continue more frequently.
This week's action: make a commitment to identify the overarching strategy and why it looks like that before you explore what your exact hand wants to do.
Step 4: Think about any exploits
Let's say that this particular big blind is incredibly sticky and doesn't understand that they have all the disadvantages (equity, nuts and position) and will call with all Jx and Tx hands and all draws.
Betting big with Ac8c 100% of the time now makes a lot of sense because we are maximising value. We're not worried about blocking the most common continues or forcing weaker hands to continue by betting smaller when our opponent is going to continue with too many bad hands. We're exploiting the fact that our opponent is too sticky, and is completely ignoring the fact the board is so bad for them. They will really struggle to continue on many turns and rivers.
It's very difficult, maybe even impossible, to think of any exploits before you understand what the hand looks like at equilibrium. This is why I am confused by some poker players who say they are "Team Exploit" rather than "Team GTO" and refuse to explore a solver solution. You can't do one without the other.
Explore the equilibrium solution first, then identify some exploits.
This week's action: try to identify one or two exploits you could make against different player types.
If you're struggling with flop strategy, focus on these steps instead:
Step 1: Identify the overarching strategy
Step 2: Figure out why the strategy looks like that
Step 3: Explore what your exact hands wants to do, and why
Step 4: Think about any exploits
When executed effectively, these 4 steps can help you completely transform your approach to and understanding of a variety of different flop textures and situations.
Good luck out there!