Special Boards: The Suited Flop

Limit Texas Holdem, No Limit Texas Holdem

February 19, 2009

Certain boards in holdem radically alter the value of your holding and the way typical hands play out.  The most common of these is the three-flush or suited flop where all three cards are of the same suit.  You’ll get such a flop roughly 1 hand in 20.

The reason suited flop are important is that they radically change the value of various made hands and draws. Imagine that you hold the KcKd, made a standard raise from the cutoff preflop, and got called by both blinds.  The board is Js8s3s.  How strong is your hand?  If the board weren’t suited, this would be one of the classic overpair vs. draw situations I’ve talked about a lot on CardSharp.  You would typically have the best hand, but need to balance your desire to get paid off by a Jx with your desire not to go broke vs. a set. This is familiar territory.

But when the board is suited, and you lack a high ranking card from the suit, your list of “threats” now looks something like this:

  • Someone flopped a set or had AA to open
  • Someone flopped a flush
  • Another spade hits and you’re beaten by a one card flush
  • Another spade hits and you’re still good, but then get bluffed off your hand
  • Someone has any spade plus a split pair and is a favorite over your kings
  • Someone has just the As and is nearly even money against your kings, plus has implied odds on their side

That’s a lot more to sweat than just being worried about a set.  As you proceed in this hand you’re on the wrong side of a parlay.  There are a large number of things that have to go right for you to win the hand.  In fact my practical experience is that if you make any kind of reasonable wager with the kings here on the flop, you will lose money on average by doing so.  That’s rather depressing to think that an overpair is essentially worthless in this situation, but I believe that’s basically the case.

Now, if top pair and overpair hands without a card of the suit have lost most of their value, who gains?

First, obviously anyone who flopped a flush.

Second, anyone who holds the ace of the suiit, or the top card of the suit not on board.  But especially the ace.  Just holding the ace gives you an almost even money draw against any hand with one pair and no ace.

Now it should be noted that all these draws, while strong, are not as strong as having a set.  Only the made flush is stronger.  This leads to the strategy for playing 3-flush boards:

  • If you have the ace of the suit, a set, or a flopped flush bet strongly on the flop.  The ace will need to slow down after a bad turn card, as may the flush if it gets counterfeited, but the set can play fairly strongly regardless.  Even after a bad turn card the set will typically have 10 outs.
  • If you have a top pair type hand but no cards of the suit, back off
  • Anything weaker may make for a decent bluff, but will rarely win
  • Straight draws are crippled by a 3-flush - don’t pursue them
  • Two pair is in the middle between one pair and a set, but should typically be treated more like one pair in these situations because your redraw vs. the flush is not very strong.

It should also be noted that if you hold a top pair type hand, and it’s checked around on the flop, and the turn is a blank, you can proceed somewhat more aggressively on the turn.  While you’re still on the wrong end of a parlay, a lot of the bad things that can happen to you are much less likely.  Few if any players will let a card come off in that situation when they hold a set or small flush, and the chance of a 4-flush has dropped almost in half.  You’re not out of the woods, but it’s safe enough you can make a bet.


This article is part of Project Cash Game No Limit Holdem - You can find more great strategy articles there.
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One Response to “Special Boards: The Suited Flop”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    Hi Wayne,

    I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now. It is on the top of my RSS Reader and I love it because of your very logical way of describing optimal play.

    My question is how do you play a low set on such a suited board?

    Recently playing $1-$2 cash no-limit at the local casino. I had a $200 stack and was in early-middle position and called an under the gun $10 raise 2h2d. There were 2 other callers behind me and the blinds folded. The flop comes Ks 10s 2s (I hit my set!). The raiser checks and I lead out with a bet of $20. Only one caller who has me covered from the cutoff and everyone else folds. The turn brings a blank (7d) and I fire 50$ and get called again. Now I’m thinking they other flopped it or have a massive draw but I am determined to bet again if a non club hits. The board comes a non Club Queen so I’m about to fire the third bullet but then realize that card completed a straight for AJ or J9. I have $120 behind. I check and of course the villain puts me all in. The pot was laying great odds (shoulda followed the payoff rule) but I was still struggling to make the call… I didn’t want to go home broke …looking for a read or anything. After some mental deliberation I announced I was gonna flip a coin and if it came heads I would call … it came tails and I folded. Later the villain claimed he had KQ.

    Any thoughts on playing a set on a all suited flop?


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