Once you have your two cards in hand, there are 19,600 different possible flops that can come. That’s a universal number whether you play live poker, online poker, or just in your local home game, or even video poker… and that’s a big number to keep track of! To simplify the task, people group flops into different categories—dry and wet, high card and low card, and so forth.
In this article I offer another way to group flops that I find very useful when I make real decisions at the table:
Flops can be either dynamic or static
A dynamic flop is one where the winning hand likely isn’t made yet. A static flop is the opposite—a flop where there’s a good chance the winning hand is already decided. This is slightly different from the “wet or dry” categories, and I find it more practical.
Sure, there’s overlap in the concepts. 9♥ 8♥ 7♠ is a very wet flop, and it’s also a dynamic one. A♣ 2♦ 2♠ is a very dry flop, and it’s also a static one.
But the two ideas aren’t in lock step. For instance, most people would consider 8♣ 3♦ 2♥ to be a relatively dry flop. But I’d consider it to be a dynamic flop. It’s dry because there are few flush and straight drawing hands. But it’s dynamic because the winning hand likely isn’t made yet.
On the turn, half the deck can come as an overcard to this board, which potentially can make a new winning hand. Fours and fives complete straight possibilities. And the remaining cards (with the possible exception of another eight) leave the board just as dynamic, primed to feature a river card that changes everything.
There are very few made hands on an 8♣ 3♦ 2♥ flop. Unless you’ve flopped a set or you have A-A or K-K, you are sweating the turn and river cards. This flop will also feature many king-high versus jack- or queen-high matchups where the better bluffer may win out—unless an overcard comes to make someone’s hand.
In fact, I’d consider a flop like K♠ Q♠ 3♦ to be more static than 8♣ 3♦ 2♥, even though the former flop offers more flush and straight draws. On the first flop, if you’d flopped a king or queen, you may know that you can bet your hand for value or call a bet or two as a bluff-catcher. Also, plenty of brick turn and river cards can come on a flop like K♠ Q♠ 3♦.
Again, the basic idea is that on dynamic flops, the winning hand likely isn’t made yet. Static flops offer more made hand possibilities.
So what’s the point? In general, dynamic flops increase the value of having position, while static flops decrease the value. This fact affects, among other things, the frequency with which you should continuation bet a given flop.
Let’s say you open for $15 from the cutoff in a $2-$5 game, and the button calls. The blinds both fold. When you open from the cutoff, you are hoping to steal the blinds with a significant portion of your range. When you fail to steal the blinds, you expect more often than not to play the hand in position against one or both blinds. Thus, when you are called instead by the button, this is an uncommon and distinctly negative outcome.
This means that you, as the cutoff player, have been caught playing a hand range that is weaker than what you would have if you knew beforehand that you’d be playing out of position against the button. In other words, if you’d have known that the button was calling, you would have folded many of your weaker hands rather than opening them.
Because your range is weak for the situation, you should back off your continuation betting. Incidentally, this is a situation where many unsophisticated players wildly over-bet their range. They think, “Hey I raised preflop, I should c-bet.” Not so. As a button player, I just call or raise these c-bets and steal well more than my share of these pots either immediately or on later rounds.
Back to the main topic, this is a situation where the cutoff player should be circumspect about continuation betting. Let’s say, just for the broad sake of argument, that the cutoff should c-bet approximately 40 percent of the time in this scenario. I’m not sure what an exact number is—I’m just using these numbers to illustrate the concept.
This number will move up or down depending on the flop. From my perspective, flop dynamism is the most important factor in determining betting frequency. Because dynamic flops favor the button, the more dynamic the flop, the lower the cutoff’s c-bet percentage should be. Uncommonly static flops should increase the c-bet percentage.
I’ll list a few flops and describe my continuation betting approach.
K♠ J♦ 2♥
This flop is quite static. Either a king or jack, if they are currently best, are likely to stay best. As an out of position player, I’m going to have a relatively high c-bet percentage. I’ll be betting kings and strong jacks like A-J. I’ll also bet hands like A-Q and A-T and T-9.
8♣ 3♦ 2♥
This flop, as I mentioned above, is dynamic. This will drop my continuation bet percentage well below our 40 percent average. I’ll bet sets and the A-4, A-5, 5-4, 6-4, and 6-5 straight draws. I’ll bet some overpairs, but I’ll check others. I might bet A-8 and check 9-8. The exact composition of my betting and checking ranges depends on my opponent. Against more aggressive opponents, I will check more of my strong hands and good bluffing hands (like 5-4) so that I can have a check-raising range and a check-calling flop/ check-raising turn range. Against less aggressive opponents, I’m ok with putting more of my strong hands in my continuation betting range.
A♠ 9♠ 5♥
This flop is also quite static. The flush draw adds dynamism, but whenever the ace of the flush suit appears on board, it limits the number of available flush draw combos (against opponents playing reasonable preflop strategies that is). You can continuation bet more liberally on this board than the average board.
9♠ 8♠ 5♥
This board is obviously very dynamic. A low high card, along with large numbers of available draws, mean that very few made hands are available on this board. This sort of flop is bad news for an out of position raiser, particularly if stacks are deep. You should check flops like these with most of your hands—even some overpairs.
When I recommend checking flops because they are dynamic, it certainly doesn’t mean you are just check-folding a ton. You are checking for two reasons. First, when you c-bet a lot you are vulnerable to getting raised and getting stacks into play on boards that are likely to change significantly on the turn and river. This has the potential to get you into too many sick spots. So you are keeping the average pot smaller in unfavorable situations.
Second, you check more hands so that your check-fold frequency can go down—in other words, you are checking a higher percentage of the hands that are worth continuing or bluffing with. So, after you start with a check, you should defend a lot of hands against an opponent’s flop bet.
I hope this concept of dynamic versus static resonates with you, and that you can use it to more accurately plan your flop strategy.