Marginal Flops Push it or fold itArticle By: RuffPoker.com
In every session of poker you play I can guarantee you will get more marginal flops than good ones. For every suited pocket picture combo and power pocket pair you will get an 8/7 suited or J/10 unsuited and hit middle pair or top pair with a poor kicker when the flop arrives. This is where the allure of poker really hits home, when you have to use strategy and psychology to take down pots. This is where you have to decide whether or not that marginal flop is worth playing or folding.
When you are sat on a marginal hand post flop and are unsure of how the hand plays in conjunction with your opponents then the best form of action is to either fold or raise. If you can work out that you are beaten by several cards then it is probably worth a nominal bet here considering others will probably enter the fray. But if you are in a potentially dangerous position where you have something marginal but will almost certainly be overtaken on the turn or river then you need to make a sizeable bet and scare away any hangers-on. Whatever you do, you do not want to show weakness by simply checking, and then giving the advantage to your opponents. Consider your position and image around the table. Do your opponents play a passive/tight game, if so your marginal hand is probably behind, if it’s a mid pair then chances are this passive player has an overpair to yours – they don’t play unless they are safely in the hand. Alternatively does your opponent bluff and bet aggressively. If so then you need to act fast to get them on the back foot. You can’t check round to them or simply let them dictate terms otherwise you will be shown the door. Crucially you must look at potential outs after the turn and river. Your insecurity about your hand is a feeling known only to you. Do not let this be known to the table with a weak call or check.
Taking an example, you are dealt a pesky Jh/10h in the big blind and the flop comes 10c/4c/9d. There are 3 other players in the pot. The small blind checks round to you so it is worth making a bet. OK you have a very marginal hand but you are scared of further clubs making the straight for somebody and your pair whilst probably ahead may not have the best kicker and certainly has a chance of being overtaken with the turn and river to come. You need to limit the amount of players in the pot so a 3x pot bet should eliminate stragglers. If you get called by a loose player do not be alarmed, work out what you think they have and act accordingly. If any subsequent callers/raisers are renowned for being tight you need to be seriously worried about the over kicker or two pair. Then depending on the level of raise you may have to fold.
The most important point here is this, with marginal hands you must always consider your opponents style. Rarely get into a betting/raising match with a passive or tight player with such a hand if your initial post flop bet has been called. Whilst you can scare such players away with initial, aggressive bets there willingness to play means they have something. Similarly, pay close attention to aggressive loose players, who play lots of hands and do not necessarily have you beaten in a given ‘marginal’ situation. There is nothing wrong with folding and waiting for the next hand but it is good to test tight players with a raise. You never know you might hit trips or two pair on the turn and at the very least by showing aggression put your opponents who are ahead, on the back foot.
With marginal hands it is never wrong to fold, and it is equally never wrong to raise, what is wrong however is the action of following a hand through when you know you are beaten. Avoid trouble later in the hand by betting fast and aggressively, then with any re-raise walk away.
Your ability to push or fold with marginal hands on the flop will save you a whole host of troubles later in poker hands. If you just call a marginal hand on the flop you need to hit something like trips or two pair otherwise you are in a very weak position. If you don’t improve your hand then your options are limited to either trying a bluff or becoming a calling station because you just don’t know if your opponent has your marginal hand beat. Believe me, 9 times out of 10 they will have you beat. With marginal hands on the flop, bet or fold because limping around will cost you money in the long run.