Play after the flop is crucial to your success at Texas Hold’em. The flop is hugely important because the value of the hands can change dramatically. A good hand before the flop can become worthless after the flop. After the flop you should recognize if you are the favorite or just an also-ran. If you call or raise when you don’t have a strong hand, you are throwing money away.
When you see the flop, you have seen more than 70% of the cards that will be available to you to put together a winning hand. If the flop doesn’t mesh with your two pocket cards, fold. Stay in only if the flop improves your hand. If the flop gives you straight or a flush or a chance at flush draw or an outside straight draw, stay in if the pot is large or figures to get large. Stay in if you have top pair or better. Stay in with a pocket pair higher than any card on the board. If your hand doesn’t meet these criteria, check or fold.
Let’s look at the case where the flop you see is the flop of your dreams. The two sevens in the flop fit in beautifully with the pocket sevens you were dealt. Or the three diamonds of the flop complement perfectly the ace-ten of diamonds that you hold. Before we go any further, here’s a true story. I held the ace-ten of diamonds and the flop came up with three diamonds. I bet it to the hilt. Unfortunately the board paired on the river, and I lost to a full house. Ouch. It won’t happen often that the flop is good to you, but when it is what should you do? Give your opponents every opportunity to get a good hand but not one that will beat yours. Never give them a free card that could give them a better hand than yours. Analyze the betting and the flop and make an educated guess as to what cards your opponents hold, and then bet accordingly.