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Flop Evaluation: Part II

by Steve Zolotow |  Published: Jun 07, 2017


This is the second in my series of articles on evaluating the flop. Modern flop play revolves around focusing on ranges. You decide if the flop hits your range or your opponents range, and act accordingly. In the first column, I discussed the attributes of various flops, and introduced the type of flop features. First let’s review the attributes:

Pairs: About 83 percent of the time the flop will not contain a pair. 17 percent of the time it will contain a pair or on rare occasions trips (less than ¼ of 1 percent.)

Suits: A flop may contain three suits (rainbow), two suits (thus there is a flush draw possible) or one suit (a flush is already possible.) The flop will contain two of a suit slightly more than half the time, about 55 percent. Next most common are the rainbow flops (three suits), which occur about 40 percent of the time. The remaining 5 percent of the time the flop comes out with 3 cards of the same suit.

Connection: Connection refers to straight potential. It is more difficult to describe since there are several flavors. There are flops that can already make a straight. These consist of three connected cards – 10-9-8, 10-9-7, or 10-9-6. There are flops that may make a straight on the next card (straight draws) – 10-9-2, 10-8-2, or 10-7-2. There are flops that don’t appear to be connected, but still have turn cards that produce straights. For example, A-10-6 seems disconnected, yet any K, Q, J, 9, 8, or 7 makes a straight possible on the turn. And lastly, there are four flops that don’t allow a straight to be made on the turn – K-8-3, K-8-2, K-7-2, and Q-7-2.

Rank: Ranks form a continuum from ace down to deuce. For simplicity, think of three ranks high (Ace, King, Queen or Jack,) middle (Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, or Six) and low (Five, Four, Three, or Two).

Variability is really a combination of the other attributes, and reflects how likely things are to change.

Rank is the attribute I want to focus on today. Let’s take a simple situation. Your opponent raises under the gun. He is a reasonably tight player and you have no reason to think he is bluffing. You call on the button with 7Spade Suit 6Spade Suit, a typical suited connector hand. Both blinds fold. You flop one pair and a back door flush. Your opponent makes a somewhat automatic continuation bet, and you would like to know what are your chances of winning.

Begin by examining his range. Assume he is playing approximately the top 10 percent of starting hands. This includes pairs 7-7 or bigger. A variety of big suited hands – A-K, A-Q, A-J, A-10, A-9, K-Q, K-J, K-10, Q-J and Q-10. He also has the top unsuited hands in his range – A-K, A-Q, A-J and K-Q. Note that another player might have some variations like adding 6-6 and dropping Q-10, but this is a reasonable range.

Now let’s examine some flops with emphasis on their ranks. Here are four rainbow flops: ASpade Suit JHeart Suit 6Diamond Suit, ASpade Suit 6Heart Suit 2Diamond Suit, JSpade Suit 6Heart Suit 2Diamond Suit, and 9Spade Suit 6Heart Suit 2Diamond Suit. Since you have 7Spade Suit 6Spade Suit, all four flops give you a pair of sixes and a backdoor spade draw. The first flop has two high cards, the second and third flops each have one high card, and the final flop has no high cards. Since his range of the top 10 percent includes a lot of high cards, especially aces, each flop is progressively worse for his hand and better for yours. His chance of winning declines, while yours increases. Here is a table summarizing these four flops:

FLOP 10% WIN % 7Spade Suit 6Spade Suit WIN % YOUR STATUS
ASpade Suit JHeart Suit 6Diamond Suit 70.9 29.1 2.4 to 1 Underdog
ASpade Suit 6Heart Suit 2Diamond Suit 63.5 36.5 1.7 to 1 Underdog
JSpade Suit 6Heart Suit 2Diamond Suit 50.8 49.2 Even money
9Spade Suit 6Heart Suit 2Diamond Suit 41.8 58.2 1.4 to 1 Favorite

Depending on the rank of the cards on the flop, your hand could be a big underdog or a reasonable favorite. On the first flop, you probably should fold quickly. The second might be worth a crying a call, especially if you think you can outplay him from here. The last two are, at worst, mandatory calls. On the last flop you might even consider a raise if you think it will make your opponent act in a predictable fashion. Notice that there are no high ranking cards on the final flop, which would give you a reasonable bluffing opportunity, even if you hadn’t flopped a pair.

In summary, always examine the attributes of the flop. The first thing you should always look at is what ranks are on the flop and whether they are likely to have helped your opponent’s range or your range. ♠

Steve ZolotowSteve ‘Zee’ Zolotow aka Zebra is a very successful gamesplayer. He has been a full-time gambler for over 40 years. With two WSOP bracelets, over 50 cashes, and a few million in tournament cashes, he is easing into retirement. He currently devotes most of his Vegas gaming time to poker, and can be found in cash games at Bellagio and at tournaments during the WSOP. When escaping from poker, he spends the spring and the fall in New York City where he hangs out at his bars: Doc Holliday’s, The Library and DBA.