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Bluff or Check? Missing the Flop in NLHE (Part 2): Flop Texture

Introduction

In part 1 of this series, we introduced the common idea of not knowing what to do when you miss the flop. We covered a number of ideas to think about to show that there’s a lot to learn, and now we’re going to look at the specifics of some of these topics in a bit more depth. This week, we’re going to look at board texture and what it actually means for you. Once you finish this article, you should be able to know what different board textures are going to mean for your ability to bluff.

The High Card Factor

Typically we’ll be raising a lot with hands that have high cards so that we can make high pairs. Along these lines, the high cards that come on the flop will influence both our ability to represent a good hand and how often we will expect the opponent to fold. For our purposes here, we’re going to call a high card anything jack or above.

A Single High Card

A flop with a single high card is typically going to be a good board to make a continuation bet bluff with provided that your opponent isn’t just going to call down with almost anything. A board like A85, Q94 or J67 is good because you can very easily represent having made high pair while it’s harder for your opponent to have a respectable pair to call down with. Notice here that we’re thinking about both what we could have and what our opponent could have to paint an entire picture of the scenario.

Two High Cards

With two high cards on the flop, you start to run into a problem where there are more draws and more opportunities for your opponent to have top pair, second pair or a gutshot with overcards that will not fold to a single bet. For example, on a board of KJ4, your opponent could very easily make a call with any king, any jack, AQ, AT or QT. Broadway hands (any two card ten and up) make up a significant portion of most pre-flop ranges, and they’re going to hit boards like this very hard. However, that also means that you’ll have more semi-bluffs to work with, so you don’t have to bluff with pure bluffs all that often.

Three High Cards

For reasons outlined above, it’s really difficult to make pure bluffs work well on boards that have three high cards because your opponent’s fold percentage is going to usually be pretty low. Along the same lines, you’re going to have more semi-bluffs to work with, and this is especially true if the board is not rainbow. While you’ll often be able to get a player to fold something like 87s on a board like AQJ, the problem is that they don’t have very much equity to begin with, so even if you get them to fold when you hold something like 77, you haven’t gained much and you’ve risked getting in another bet against a stronger hand.

No High Cards

When no high cards show up on the board, it makes things a bit interesting because so much of your value range comes from overpairs. Along similar lines, your opponent is going to know that a lot of your broadway hands missed. These boards are some of the situations where you’re going to have to rely on reads and how you think your opponents play the most. You’ll really have to think about how your opponents tend to play when you have something like KJ on a board of 974 because you need to know if they’re going to call you down with ace-high or second or third pair to determine if your bluff can be profitable.

Available Draws

Other than high cards, the draws available on the flop can drastically change whether or not you have good bluffing chances. The presence of available draws increases the number of good semi-bluffs in your range, but it also decreases the opponent’s fold percentage otherwise.

Flush Draws

There are two types of flush draw flops: two-tone and monotone. A two-tone flop is when two suits are represented, so there’s a normal flush draw. You’ll run into a lot of flops like this, and you’ll want to think about how to play both draws and made hands in these types of situations if you want to think about how your pure bluffs fit into the picture. Just remember that because you have more good semi-bluffs in your range that you don’t have to push things as hard with pure bluffing hands that don’t really have any outs.

On monotone flops, you have to play a very specific way. Bluffing with a pure bluff isn’t usually that good of an idea because your opponent only needs the ace or king (or even the queen) of the suit in question to continue, and that’s going to include a lot of hands. Many players at microstakes will call down with even worse flush draws. Your fold percentage is pretty low on these flops, so you’ll have to rely more on strong semi-bluffs and value betting to win.

Straight Draws

The connectedness of the flop determines the straight draws available. For example, a flop of T94 has more available hands that make straight draws than something like T84 or T74. Identifying the available straight draws on a board and determining if you think those hands are in your opponent’s range is the key to performing well in these situations.

In short, having straight draws available affects the board in a similar way as when there are flush draws. You’ll still have more semi-bluffs available if those hands are in your own range, and you’ll have a somewhat smaller fold percentage from your opponent. However, the availability of straight draws is much more range-dependent, so you’ll have to think about who could hold which hands to understand how it will impact the specific scenario you’re in.

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