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Strategy after the flop

Pre-flop, you only have to worry about your 2 hole cards but after the flop is a very different matter because there are that many more factors to consider. Below we look at a number of factors you should consider whenever you are in a pot after the flop has been dealt:

1) The number of players left in after the flop - it is important to remember that even if you have a good hand, the more players that are still in, the higher the likelihood that someone has you beaten. How you proceed when you are not holding the nut hand (best possible at that point) is what defines you as a poker player. You cannot sit and wait until you have the nuts every time or you are likely to go broke in between these hands so there is much to learn in order to become a winning player.

2) The strength of the hand you have made - if you have made nothing from the flop, it is often not worth trying to bluff more than 1 or 2 players off the pot as it is likely you will be called and end up having to muck your cards. Do not be afraid to fold, it allows you to live to fight another hand. If however, you have flopped the nuts or another very good hand, depending on your table position, it may be wise to make a bet in order to prevent drawing hands from staying in and potentially beating you as the turn and river are dealt.

3) Your risk preference - some people like to play a risky game regardless of the hand they have made directly after the flop and will call any raise to try and catch their cards on the turn or river. Most however, prefer to play tighter and will fold a middling or weak hand to a large bet or a raise before them. You have to weigh the quality of your hand against your risk preference and decide whether any raise to you is worth a call or re-raise. This is covered in detail in terms of statistical probability on our page on pot odds strategy.

4) Slow-playing - slow-playing is a dangerous tactic, particularly in online poker where you know little about your opponents. It should really only ever be done if you have the absolute nut hand on the flop and cannot be beaten. Of course, this situation is rare but when it comes, moderate slow-playing is the very best way to maximise your winnings. You can use a combination of checking, betting and reading your opponent to time the size and frequency of your bets just right to keep your opponents in the hand while building the pot knowing that you have them beat.

5) Trapping - successfully trapping an opponent involves a combination of skill and a little luck in order to maximise the pot. An often used trapping technique is the check-raise which involves checking and then raising over the top of a subsequent bet made by a player in a later position. It is a powerful tool because you can check to suggest to your opponents that you have a weak hand causing them to bluff or semi-bluff at a pot. By raising or even re-raising them, you instantly put them on the back foot as they then have no idea what hand you may have made. However, check-raising is not always the right play; in fact many players will fold to a check-raise specifically because poorer players often use it when they have a very strong hand thus making it a signal to good players that they are behind.

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