One of the most difficult skills to acquire, yet one of the most important that you will add to your Texas Hold em game, is the ability to read the flop. Reading the texture of the flop is hard for some players, especially at first because it means that you have to take into account the hands of your opponents rather than just focusing on your own cards. Sure, it is easy to see whether your hand hit the flop or not, but what do those cards mean to the other players. How adept you become at figuring this out, often dictates how successful a poker player you will ultimately be.
First, don’t ever think you are going to be perfect at reading the texture of a flop. There are always going to be times where a hand sneaks up on you out of left field. You think you have a feel for what you opponent has and “blamm!” you find out he flopped quad 2’s or something like that. My attitude with some of those hands is “that’s just poker” There is nothing you can do about it sometimes.
I saw Daniel Negreanu bust out of the WSOP Main Event this year when he flopped a set and someone else flopped a higher set. Not much you can do about that. One of the things that you need to avoid when trying to read flop textures is becoming spooked by every single hand. You cannot assume that your opponent has you beat every time or you just end up playing scared poker and you will never get anywhere. If you start laying down a set because you “feel” the guy who re-raised you had a higher set, well then, poker is not the game for you. You cannot allow yourself to get paranoid. Be cognizant of each and every flop, but do not be scared of each and every flop.
There is one possible exception to this rule: flush draws. Be scared of flush draws. Especially if there is one on the board on the flop. I don’t worry about them quite as much on subsequent streets, because the chances that someone hung in the hand to chase a flush with only 2 or 3 legs of it after the flop are slim. However, if there is one on the board on the flop, I assume that someone has a flush draw until proven otherwise. Again, my number one rule of internet poker is: ONLINE PLAYS WILL PLAY ANY TWO SUITED CARDS! Always be aware of this.
How to guard against it? Well, you have got to try to take away the pot odds to draw to it. That means bet strongly. No little wimpy, 1/4 pot bets trying to slow play your top pair. If there is a flush draw on the board, 2/3-full pot sized bet to take away that draw. Otherwise, you are just slow playing yourself into losing a big hand. Sure, you may not get paid full value for your hand every time, but it is better than busting out because some idiot played 9-2 suited and chased down that flush on the Turn or River.
Sometimes no matter what you do, you cannot take that flush draw out. I played a hand last night where I had K-K in late position. I raised, Big Blind called. Make a long story short, with 2 spades on the board at the Turn, I put him all in, giving him 2:1 on his money to call for his flush draw. Should’nt have been close, he should have folded, with a 5:1 shot at the flush.
Sure enough, he called for all his chips, turned over 8-3 suited and hit a spade on the River to cripple me and take me out of the Sit n Go! Doesn’t make sense, and I did all I could do, but this is a perfect example of why you need to learn to read flop texture and adjust your play accordingly. Practice this skill constantly and you will find that you can figure out easily the hole cards of your opponents even in hands that you are not involved in. Plus, it is a great way to keep your head in the game and improve your play at the same time.