Thursday, July 05, 2007

Assigning a danger rating to a flop

Just wanted to jot down my thoughts on playing dangerous flops, this will probably be a mish mash of various scholar’s ideas, just hope some of it is useful. No original thoughts on this area yet, obviously you shouldn’t always play predictably and you need to tailor how you play dangerous flops according to your opponent’s tendencies.

Most players will be familiar with the defining characteristics of good hands for NLHE, namely that non pocket-pair hands improve according to High-Card Strength(H), Suitedness(S) and Connectedness(C). For a hand to be deemed generally playable, it should rate strongly in at least 2 of these 3 criteria. Admittedly, not all players adhere strictly to this advice, and can be found playing strange holdings for obscure reasons.
For example, people playing J5 offsuit will probably confuse nearly everyone who isn’t keen on hip-hop. That said, however, most people will usually be folding hands that don’t conform to these guidelines, and this has a direct correlation to how likely a particular flop is to have hit their hand, and thus how ‘dangerous’ that flop is.
Basically, a flop becomes more likely to have made someone a strong hand if it displays the same characteristics as those used to rate the ‘playability’ of hole cards, namely the attributes of the aforementioned rating categories H, S and C, and whether a card (of any rank) is paired.
For the more experienced player, evaluating the dangers of a given flop and deciding how to react will be something they do instinctively, however for those newer or less experienced players, the following should hopefully prove a useful guide to calculating risk, and furthermore provide sound advice on using that risk rating effectively.

I’ve had a play with assigning numerical value to flops and using this to calculate overall risk, but I think an easier method is to split the potential Risk for each category into Small, Medium, Medium-Big and Big(L, M, MB, B). Say the flop brings 3 cards all of the same suit, then there is a level B risk for the Suited category. If the cards are ranked 5 6 8, there is also a MB risk for the Connected category. If a flop has a risk of MB or greater in 2 or more categories, and you have a vulnerable hand (such as TPTK or an overpair) caution is advised, and you should probably want to use probe bets or checks to keep the pot small. If the same dangerous flop comes and you have a very strong hand (such as a set or a straight) which may already be second best or favoured to lose by the river, a display of strength is normally
advised, maybe through an overbet or large check-raise so that your opponent cannot draw profitably or will hopefully ‘announce’ their made hand so you can save some money.

In addition, any paired flop is of course inherently dangerous, especially in an unraised pot, when limping and completing can be done with literally any 2 cards. If the pot is raised, probe bets on a paired board with a made hand are usually advised, as you will both appear suspiciously strong when you are ahead (or when your opponent thinks you are), and mean you will build (and probably lose) a smaller pot when you are behind. If the board pairs a broadway card, particularly an A, you need to be cautious: whether you have the A or not! If you have the A and build a pot, in my experience the times you are getting called you are already behind! Either they flopped a full house or have a weak A but paired their kicker. Whenever the board has paired, if you get raised allin, even if you have trips with the best kicker, evaluate your opponent and ask if they will push with less than a full house. The answer is usually a resounding NO!

This stuff should be common knowledge to a lot of you, but for those that haven't read or thought about this, I suggest making it a permanent part of your game.

Good luck at the tables, and for those who blog, keep up the good work!

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