How to play overcards on the flop

Having overcards on the flop in a full ring Texas Hold'em poker game is a weak hand that can put you in tricky spots. The concept of value betting a strong hand is a straightforward concept, but knowing what you should do when playing overcards may not be so obvious. In this article we’ll discuss strategies of playing overcards on the flop against habitual cbettors, aggressive players, and when you’re the aggressor pre-flop. 

Missing the flop

If you were the pre-flop raiser there will be many situations where you will have open raised with a hand like AK/AQ/AJ but completely whiff the flop. Knowing what to do in these situations is very game dependant. Generally, if the pot is two or three handed and you feel the flop missed everyone else, you should be looking to take down the pot straight away with a continuation bet. Even though you don’t have a made hand you still likely have the best hand, and if your opponents don’t have much they can call with they will fold. When you’re playing against trickier opponents that are looking to float your flop bet or not give up too easily your cbet strategy may need to be revised, but in your typical live cash games you don’t come across these kinds of opponents too often.
Having raised before the flop, if there are more then three players to the flop, then it’s likely another player already called with a pair pre-flop or caught something on the flop, so there is a smaller probability of getting folds, and you are very likely semi bluffing with your overcards. You should be less willing to continuation bet if you don’t think you will get folds, since it will be tough playing the hand out of position when you don’t improve on the turn.
In Hold’em you don’t always have control of the hand, and quite often you will have called another player’s raise with hands such as AQ/AJ/KQ. Similarly, you find yourself facing the same predicament when whiffing on the flop. Playing overcards on the flop when you only called pre-flop is a little more interesting.
When you decide the call on the flop with just two overcards, it’s called the floating the flop, an advanced poker concept that can be extremely profitable when certain conditions have been met. With that being said, if you choose to float with overcards on any flop board texture with no plan of what you are trying to achieve, then you would be burning money since you will be targeting the wrong opponents that don’t have a tendency to give up on the turn, or you will be enable to extract value on later streets when you do happen to make the best hand.

Playing against habitual cbettors

You should try to floating with overcards on the flop when playing against players who like to continuation bet too much, but play straight forwardly on the turn and check when called when they have nothing. A lot of weaker players, also known as TAGfish, will have this tendency. They will often c-bet on the flop just because they raised pre-flop and players expect them to have a strong hand, so quite often they will have nothing and a bet on the turn after it’s checked to you will take it down. It helps when it’s a heads up situation since there is less likelihood of getting folds with more players on the flop.

One of the main advantages of playing speculative hands in position is that it allows you to make more advanced plays such as floating flop bets when you have two overcards. The more advanced your hand reading abilities, the better you will get at defining your opponent’s holdings, and knowing whether all of your outs are clean outs.

When targeting habitual cbettors, it is always a good idea to be able to have a few outs and decent equity when floating. Besides calling with strong draws such as a flush draw and open ended straight draw, which have 9 outs and 8 outs respectively, the next best shot at making the best hand is typically a hand with two overcards, since you have 6 outs.

In a sense two overcards when they are clean outs can be better then having a strong draw since its well disguised when you make your hand, whereas if there is an obvious draw on the flop which gets there on the turn, players are always mindful of the other players calling with a potential draw and it typically slows down the action.

Playing overcards against aggressive players

When you are playing in games with aggressive players, you will certainly find yourself in situations where the cbettor is not cbetting and the deciding to slow down on the turn. In this instance, floating with overcards with the plan to take down the pot on the turn is not really a feasible option, since in all likelihood the cbettor will bet again on the turn.

Against aggressive players the plan of attack when playing overcards on the flop is very different. For the most part, you always want to trap aggressive players when you have a made hand. Eventually they will get out of line and bluff off their entire stack.

That being said, there are certainly times when you should consider floating with weaker hands such as overcards after missing on the flop. In these situations you want to consider the effective stack sizes and the likelihood that you would get paid off when you do hit your hand.

If you are playing with deep enough stacks, then floating with overcards on the flop becomes a more appealing option since your are getting favorable implied odds to hit your hand. By having other draws or a backdoor draw to go with it, the value of your overcards go up even more.

For example, it’s a $1/$2 live game and both of you are playing with around $200. Your opponent whom you know is aggressive opens in early position to $12, there is one call, and you decide to also call on the button with A-Q.

The flop comes down 9-5-2 rainbow so you completely whiff and as expected your opponent comes out firing with a c-bet for $20. The other caller folds and the action is on you. The pot size is $59 so you are getting approximately 3 to 1 odds to make the call.

If you expect to be behind and only have overcards then you are approximately 7 to 1 against improving on the turn assuming all of your outs have not been counterfeited.

Even though the immediate pot odds are not enough to call here and you expect to be up against a made hand that is not slowing down on the turn, when you consider that your opponent has $168 behind in his stack having started with around 100 big blinds before the hand started, making the call starts to become an appealing option.

When figuring out the implied pot odds, a player is required to take into account future betting rounds. Implied odds are defined as the size of the current pot, which in this case is $59, and the size of the pot you expect to win when you make your hand. When playing overcards on the flop against an aggressive player, you can be confident that you will extract bets on the turn and the river when you hit top pair, since aggressive players will rarely slow down when overcards hit since they are scare cards that likely didn’t hit your range.

Let’s say you can expect this opponent to bet $40 on the turn and $60 on the river after spiking a pair on the turn, so we have to call a flop bet of $20 to win $159. In other words we’re getting around 8 to 1 on our money, which would be a profitable call to make in the long run, since these odds are better then the 7:1 odds against improving to the best hand on the turn.

In these situations it always helps to know the tendencies of your opponents so you can know much you can realistically expect to extract on later streets. If you overestimate the implied odds and they shut down when a scare card hits on the turn, then you likely won’t be getting the correct odds to be floating with overcards.

In conclusion

As demonstrated, there will be situations in poker where you will be faced with playing overcards on the flop against different types of opponents when you are not the pre-flop raiser. A lot of the time, peeling with overcards comes down to analysing live poker tells since you will have a better idea of the strength of your opponent’s holding.

Remember to keep in mind that overcards are a weak hand in hold’em. When playing against unknown players, you will be readless about their post flop play, so it’s impossible to know how they will react on the turn or if they will pay you off when you happen to hit your hand on the turn, so you definitely don’t want to be mindlessly calling flop bets just because your hand looks good and you don’t want to give up on the pot.