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The Poker - Changing Hand Values Post-flop

by Rep Porter |  Published: Mar 16, 2016


In my last column, I wrote about how the value of your actual cards changes with the circumstances you find yourself in. While this is a concept that is unique to poker among card games, it certainly is not unique just to preflop play. There are many situations post-flop where the value of a hand changes drastically based on the action that is happening around you. I suspect most people are far more comfortable with this idea than they are with the same concept preflop. But I think it is important to articulate what causes the value of your hands to change. When you can articulate a concept, it becomes easier to carry it over to other areas of your game.

So let’s look at a couple of examples of hands post-flop in similar situations with different action around you. I think value hands and drawing hands are the best examples to use. Let’s start with a drawing hand. We play this pot with 10Heart Suit 9Heart Suit. There are five players, each with a stack of 30,000. The blinds are 100-200 with a 25 ante. At a nine-handed table, the player three off the button opens to 600. The players two off the button, on the button, in the small blind, and the big blind all call. The pot is now 3,225. The flop comes out AHeart Suit QDiamond Suit 5Heart Suit. It checks to the preflop raiser, who leads for 900. Now if we are the player one off the button, we are next to act. We have a flush draw and very little else.

The pot is offering us about 3.5:1. We need 4.25:1 or so to have a call based strictly on pot odds. In a five-way pot, one or more players may call behind us. We may be able to win some money after we make our hand. However, one of the players behind us may also raise, which would potentially price us out of this hand. Or one of the players behind us may hold a hand like QHeart Suit JHeart Suit and a flush is no good. This spot is a call given the stack sizes and potential reward, but is much closer to a fold than people realize. So what happens if we move to the big blind with the same hand and the same action? Now we get to see what the other people do. We have the same hand in the same pot, but because we have changed our position relative to the bettor, we are in a much more comfortable situation. We can fold if the pot is raised. We know we can call if not, because we are closing the action. We may even know that one or two other people have called and that our odds have dramatically improved.

I want to look at one last change before we look at a value hand. What if we are the big blind and the small blind leads into us for 900? This is probably a fold. The chances of this pot getting raised have gone way up with the preflop aggressor yet to act. So with the same hand, pot size, number of players and bet size on the flop, we can create three very different feelings about the strength of our hand.

Now let’s look at a hand like an overpair. Let’s say we are still playing at the 100-200 with a 25 ante level and the stacks are all 30,000. We open the pot to 600 from three off the button with two black queens. The button and big blind both call. The pot is 2,125. The flop comes out 10Club Suit 8Diamond Suit 4Diamond Suit. The big blind checks and we bet 1,000. The button calls and then the big blind raises to 5,000. That is a raise of 4,000 into a pot that is now just over 5,000. In this spot, what range of hands makes sense for the big blind? It feels like their range is skewed more towards strong hands and less towards draws. They are really swelling this pot. If one player calls, the pot will be 13,000, and the stacks will be just under 25,000. This makes it pretty easy to bet 8,000, then 17,000, and be all in. It is also less likely to just win right now when there are two opponents. The caller also comes into play. While their range has a lot of drawing hands, they may also have some tens or some strong hands that they are slow-playing. They affect the range of the raiser as well as our response. So I would think this player either has hands like 10-8, 10-10, 8-8, 4-4 or some combination draws, like JDiamond Suit 9Diamond Suit, QDiamond Suit JDiamond Suit, 10Diamond Suit 9Diamond Suit, or JDiamond Suit 10Diamond Suit. Overall, this hand feels pretty weak relative to their range. I may call and if they lead big, fold the turn. But I am certainly not looking to call off my whole stack in this spot. Calling also risks the player on the button reraising and forcing us to fold.

Now, how do things change if the button folds? The range of hands you get check-raised with is much wider. Also, the raise is likely to be a little smaller, maybe only to 3,000 or 4,000, creating a pot of 8,000-10,000. The big blind is now just facing a standard continuation-bet. Your range is whatever it was preflop in their mind. So they will have a much wider range as well. Things like good tens, smaller pocket pairs, straight draws or flush draws, and some bluffs are in their range now. Calling this raise and making your decisions on the turn and river is much more reasonable now.

Hopefully, this helps illustrate how subtle changes, like position relative to the bettor, or less subtle changes, like the number of opponents can change the value of your holding in an otherwise identical situation. ♠

Rep Porter is a two-time WSOP bracelet winner and is the lead instructor at, whose mission is to help poker players achieve better results through better decisions and that is done by teaching poker in a way that makes learning easy and enjoyable with high quality courses taught by professional players.

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