How to Evaluate a Poker Hand Post-Flop

As discussed in the section about starting hands, the foundation of good no limit Texas Hold’em play is an accurate assessment of your hole cards and an idea of how to proceed with what you have been dealt.

It is crucial to grasp the value of hands pre-flop, taking into account your cards, your table position and the action of the opponents also in the pot. Then you need to act accordingly.

After the flop is dealt you need to repeat the considerations above and add one very important other factor: has the flop increased or decreased the value of your hand? You now have five cards with which to make an assessment of your hand (your hole cards and three community cards) and you need to figure out again how to progress.

But remember the flop may also have helped an opponent, so you also need to consider the number of other players involved, as well as the texture of the flop, before determining how you want to play from here.

This section of the course comprises three lessons, which all combine to determine the correct play after the flop. We will look at determining the strength of your hand (below), then at assessing the texture of the flop, and then how to proceed when all is taken into consideration.


After the flop, hands tend to fall into three categories: “made hands”, “drawing hands” and trash. When you have decided into which category your hand falls, you can then make a decision how to progress.

Made Hands

A “made hand” is one that has improved significantly on the flop and has only a slight possibility of improving even further. If you had a pair of pocket aces pre-flop and another ace fell on the flop, you now have top set (three of a kind) and your hand can only really be improved by seeing the final remaining ace (highly unlikely) or by the board pairing to make you a full house.

The important part to note is that this is already a very strong – or “made” – hand.

Made hands can themselves be separated into three groups:

Monster hands: Better than one pair on the flop

A♠J♠ on a flop of A♥J♦2♣
3♠3♥ on a flop of A♠K♦3♦

Very strong hands: Very good one pair hands such as top pair with top kicker or an over-pair to the board

Q♠Q♦ on a flop of 10♠4♣4♦
A♠K♠ on a flop of A♦10♦4♠

Marginal hands: These are hands like middle pair

A♠10♦ on a flop of K♠10♥2♠
J♣J♦ on a flop of Q♣8♦3♥

Drawing Hands

“Draws” are hands that have connected with a flop but that still need improvement to become a made hand. If, for instance, you have J♥10♥, you will be delighted to see a flop of Q♠9♥2♥ because you almost have either a straight or a flush.

But you are not there yet. You still need to hit certain cards to improve your hand.

There are various types of draws that vary in strength:
Very strong draws: These are combined straight and flush draws or a combination of draws and made hands.

Q♠J♠ on a flop of 10♠9♠2♦
A♥2♥ on a flop of A♣5♥J♥
K♠Q♠ on a flop of A♠10♠4♣

Strong draws: These are open-ended straight and flush draws to the nuts (or close to it)

10♠9♦ on a flop of A♠8♦7♣
K♣Q♣ on a flop of A♣6♣5♦

Weak draws: These are gutshot draws or flush or straight draws that don’t make the nuts.

7♠6♦ on a flop of 8♥9♥Q♣
8♣7♣ on a flop of K♣9♠5♣

Trash Hands

One of the unfortunate realities about poker is that you see many more trash hands than any other kinds. These are hands that don’t fall into one of the categories above, meaning you neither have a pair nor a draw.

If you have seen the flop with a speculative holding but have not connected with any community cards (known as “missing” the flop), then your hand is pretty much worthless. The only way to turn the hand into a winner is to make a high-risk bluff.

At this stage, you probably don’t want to get involved in making foolish bluffs, so you should throw away your trash hands and wait for another chance to hit something strong. All poker players – including the very best – spend a lot of time folding their cards.

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