Two hold ’em tips

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (2008) in Casino Player.

Here are two hold ’em tips.

First tip: If you can see the flop cheaply against many opponents, it’s a good idea to pay the price.

Second tip: When the flop helps your hand, you can consider whether or not to continue playing, but if the flop misses your hand, you can simply fold — automatically.

As I said, those are two hold ’em tips. They’re quite common ones.

Not my tips

However, they aren’t my tips and, if they were, I’d be wrong.

I’m here today to tell you two things: (1) It’s often not a good idea to call to see the flop, even if the price seems like a bargain; and (2) You shouldn’t routinely fold after seeing the flop — even when you don’t improve your hand.

The mistake of calling

Point 1. I’ve seen experienced players make the mistake of calling in multi-way pots with inferior hands, simply because they thought the odds were in their favor. As an example, you might see someone call an unraised pot with 9-7 of mixed suits in a late position.

This typically happens when four or five players have already entered the pot. The thinking is, they’re getting excellent odds to call and then hope the flop helps them. Unfortunately, that hand isn’t strong enough, and they’re not getting excellent odds.

Let me ask you a question: If everyone agreed to call the big blind and see the flop without raising, what would that mean? It would mean that, after the wagering and before you saw the flop, better-than-average hands would have an advantage. And worse-than-average hands would have a disadvantage.

So, if you knew in advance that your hand was going to be 9-7 offsuit, would you make the deal? Of course not!

Your hand is worse than average. Wait! Actually, it’s exactly average, in one sense — and that’s why I chose it.

The ranks are average — one above and one below the median rank, which is eight. An eight has six lower ranks: 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2. It also has six higher ranks, 9, 10, jack, queen, king, and ace. So, eight falls right in the middle.

Not average

But even though you can add 9 and 7, divide by 2, and get 8, that 9-7 is definitely not an average hold ’em hand. That’s because, although the ranks are average, it’s not a pair and it’s not suited. Throw those possible hands into the mix and 9-7 of mixed suits moves way down in stature. And when you’re in a live game with players actually deciding which hands to play, typical opposing hands are much stronger than they would be at random.

So, repeating, that 9-7 is worse than average. And for that reason, you shouldn’t call in a real game, especially since you’re not against random hands; you’re competing against chosen hands that opponents thought were strong enough to merit a call.

Whenever you’re in a pot, someone is getting the best of it. If you hold 9-7 before the flop, it isn’t you. So, even if it looks like those pot odds are big enough to take a chance with all those callers, they simply aren’t big enough. You should fold and let others discover what the flop has in store. It’s not your adventure.

Don’t automatically fold

Point 2. The second piece of bad advice states that you should automatically fold if the flop doesn’t help you. This comes closer to being true against multiple opponents, but in common situations when just two of you see the flop, the advice is disastrous.

You see, most of the time the flop won’t help you. But if you’re competing heads-up, you can’t afford to fold every time your opponent bets — even though you didn’t make a pair.

Remember, most of the time the flop won’t help your opponent, either. Quite often, you need to stand your ground and call, especially with big cards that outrank the ones on the board, hoping you either already have the higher hand or that you’ll make a pair — or better. If you don’t do this, astute opponents will steal far too many pots.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should make such calls at every opportunity. You should make them just frequently enough so that it’s unprofitable for opponents to run over you. The bigger your ranks, the better. Also, one high rank with an inside straight draw is usually even better than two high ranks for this defensive call — something that’s often overlooked.


You’ll fare much better at hold ’em if you remember that you shouldn’t routinely call bargain pots just to see what develops on the flop. You need reasonable cards to do that.

And also keep in mind that when just you and one opponent see the flop, you can’t automatically fold high-ranking cards on the next round of betting, just because you didn’t pair. — MC

Published by

Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


8 thoughts on “Two hold ’em tips”

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  1. I rarely fold “automatically,” after the flop. If the flop doesn’t help my hand, I watch the other players and make a determination as to how much it helped their hand and whether or not I can steal the pot with the right bet. 9-7? Only in the blind and only in an unraised pot.

  2. I always love your input and study on the game. I am not sure I agree with section one though. Maybe middle or late portions of a tourney, but I disagree with early on atourney or in a cash game. First off, position. With that many players in and with late position it will b easy to fold the hand post flop if you miss, but also get all the info if you hit a small piece or a big flop. Also, I like calling in this spot with 97 over a hand like AJ or K10 type hands that could be dominated and in worse trouble then the 97. Early in tourneys I like spots like these, because if I flop a hidden monster flop I can usually get someone to overplay their one pair hands or over pairs. Also, in a cash game, I believe you are getting the right odds to call, and implied odds if you flop a hidden monster especially with 5 people seeing the flop. Now, I would say newer players should adhere to this advice because they don’t have the hand reading ability or the ability to get out of tough spots. I think once you open your game up and have these tools, then calling here can be profitable in certain situations, but never heads up or only two callers, has to be a bigger multi way pot. The second part about not folding after you miss a flop is spot on. To many players call/fold because the miss the flop and this weak play makes them so exploitable and they might as well be playing their hand face up.I had a guy do this heads up in an HPT event and I started betting with more air then anything and he folded n folded, if he called or played back at me, I obviously shut down. It was so easy, that an even chip battle turned into me having the monster chip leader in like 12 hands, and yes I won. Once again though, I believe this is player dependant, as you can’t bluff a calling station, but c betting most flops against these players that call/fold most the time is an easy way to pick up dead money and build a stack without risking to much.

  3. hi mike,
    I'm absolutely agree with your advise number 1! calling because it's look like a bargain flop, or usually what I called "family pot" every single time might bring you disaster result, calling with below average hand every time just because a player the odd is right would most likely lost more than gaining . There is also some decent change of you getting the bad beat too because of playing too much hands.
    However my question is, what about late position? especially dealer position? would you play hands like 8-3, 9-7, 9-4 offsuit etc in the dealer position?

    1. Hi, Edify —

      Thanks for making your first comment and joining our Poker1 family.

      Against most opponents, you should seldom call in the big blind with any of the three hands you listed.

      Straight Flushes,

      Mike Caro

  4. Mike, in your example ‘In the Mistake of Calling Point 1’, I have to wonder what your advice is if the ‘9 – 7’ are suited. I have been taught (not sure whether or not it is mathematically true) that if the connected hole-cards are separated by 2 or less cards…if they are suited versus non-suited the odds are increased by about 3.7%. If that is true, does that 3.7% increase justify seeing the flop?
    Best Personal Regards,
    Dr. Walt

    1. Hi, Dr. Walt —

      Thanks for making your first four comments today and joining our Poker1 family. I read all of them.

      There is no set rate at which closely ranked, suited cards increase either the odds of winning or the profitability. Your 3.7 percent estimate can be close for increasing the win likelihood in some situations, though.

      The lower ranking the cards and the greater the number of active opponents, the greater the bonus percentage grows. That’s because it’s more likely that you’ll need to make a straight or a flush to win against higher cards or many competitors. So straights and flushes account for a greater portion of your successes when the cards are small.

      Against a single opponent high ranking suited connectors can win by making a single pair or sometimes by making no pair at all — just the high cards. Also, if you hold high ranks and make two pair or trips, you’re less likely to be beaten than if you hold low ranks. So, being suited (or to a lesser extent, adjacent in ranks) matters more with medium and small cards than with big ones.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

  5. Thanks Mike, yet again – great info.

    Just last week I went all in (small stack late in tourney) with 77 after another small stack raised.

    He had Q7 off.

    He spiked his Q. I was out 6 from the money.

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