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Strong or Weak, Bet the Flop!

A very effective tactic

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Apr 01, 2010


Phil's Hand Durrr
A useful tactic that is both old school and new school is the flop bet. Whether you are strong or weak, or somewhere in between, betting the flop can be a very effective tactic. When you bet out when weak (a bluff), you oftentimes will pick up the pot uncontested. When you bet out when strong, you are giving yourself a chance to control the size of the pot.

Top-notch new-school player Tom “Durrrr” Dwan bets tons of flops; he bets the flop when he is strong, and he bets the flop with great effect when he is weak. Over and over again, I have watched him win pots with a flop bet when he had absolutely nothing. How does he keep inducing his opponents to fold? Well, oftentimes his bets on the flop put his opponents in a tough spot.

For example, someone raises preflop with 10-10, two players call, and Durrrr calls from the big blind with J-8. Then, the flop comes down Q-9-2. Durrrr bets out, and puts the player with 10-10 in the middle. The player with 10-10 cannot very easily call Durrrr in this spot, as he has to worry about the other two opponents who called his raise preflop, and he also has to worry about an almost certain bet from Durrrr on the turn (a call on the flop seems weak, so Durrrr will probably fire on the turn). The player with 10-10 has to ask himself how much money he is willing to commit with 10-10 and a queen on the board. So, Durrrr’s well-timed bet here causes the player with 10-10 to fold more often than not. Part of the effectiveness of Durrrr betting out on the flop is that he is able to gauge an opponent’s strength, and if he senses weakness, he pounces with another big bluff. And when Durrrr actually has a strong hand (for example, A-Q on this flop), his flop bet allows him the chance to bet both the turn and the river, so he is able to determine exactly how much money he’ll win.

Betting on the flop is also a good lesson for me, as I have been way too passive on the flop for a long time now. Lately, I have been winning too little with my strong hands, and by taking the lead on the flop, I will give myself the chance to win more money when I am strong, and, of course, pick up some pots when I am weak.
Old-school player Mike “The Mouth” Matusow likes to bet out on the flop when he has a strong hand, like top pair or a set. The Mouth bets out on the flop when he is strong for two reasons: First, he thinks that it looks weak when he bets the flop, and that his flop bet will induce an aggressive opponent to raise; second, he can control the size of the pot when someone calls his bet on the flop. I have disagreed with The Mouth’s use of this tactic, because sometimes he doesn’t make enough flop-bet bluffs. Thus, he fires out when he is strong — and oftentimes wins the minimum when he has flopped a set or top pair because his opponents just fold — and check-folds when he is weak. By the way, I have a ton of respect for Matusow’s poker tactics and poker mind.

How did it come to pass that I do not bet out enough on the flop these days? Well, I have been in the business of trapping my new-school (ultra-aggressive) opponents so much that I forgot the benefits of a simple flop bet. By trapping my opponents, I oftentimes get a flop bet out of them that I may not have received if I had bet out myself. But now that I am famous for trapping, my opponents are checking behind me when they flop top pair, so I am not winning the maximum when I have K-Q and they have Q-J on a Q-9-2 flop. Spade Suit

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