Hand Coordination by Brandon Adams
Hand coordination is the relative strength of your hand compared to your opponents’ hand, and it’s probably the single biggest factor determining whether you have a good or bad session playing poker. If it’s working in your favor, whenever you flop a monster, one of your opponents will also make a big hand, just not quite as big as yours. In this situation, playing your hand as fast as possible usually gives you the best chance to make the most money.
Say you’re playing Hold ‘em and you’re in a four-way pot, the board comes 9-9-4, and you have pocket fours. You want to play this hand fast for two reasons. The first is that you’re hoping one of your opponents has a 9. If so, he might raise you, allowing you to reraise him. Ideally, he’ll call, then call you again on the turn and the river, and you’ll make a lot of money.
The other reason you want to play this hand fast is that, if you check, it’s quite possible your opponents will also check. Then, if the turn brings a 6 and one of your opponents has pocket sixes and makes a bigger full house, you’re going to lose a huge amount of money. Giving a free card and losing an enormous pot when you could have won a small pot (if only you’d bet) is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in poker.
Now let’s say the flop comes K-J-J, and you have pocket kings. You’re not as likely to cost yourself your entire stack by slowplaying in this situation. It’s extremely unlikely that your opponent is going to be behind on the flop and yet make a hand on the turn that beats you, but I still think you should play it fast. You’ll win more money by betting the whole way because any player holding a jack is, at the very least, going to call you down, and he might even raise you. On the flop you just have to put out the line and hope that one of your opponents has a jack, or better yet, K-J.
If you play it slow in this situation, you’re giving away the strength of your hand. If you check on the flop with the idea of check-raising, then when you do put in the raise you’re telling your opponent you’ve made a huge hand and are giving him the opportunity to lay down a jack. You’ll make far more money by simply betting the whole way.
However, slowplaying a monster is occasionally the better play. Suppose you raise from middle position with A-Q of hearts, the button and the big blind both call, and the flop comes 6-7-2, all hearts. If the big blind checks, you should check too. If the button bets, you can then raise because he’s either buffing, in which case you’re not going to win any more money from him, or he’s also flopped a flush, in which case you want to get your money into the pot as quickly as possible in hopes of winning his entire stack, or he’s flopped a set, in which case he’ll call your check-raise on the flop and he’ll call a big bet on the turn and he might even call a big bet on the river.
If the board pairs on the turn, you should still bet. It’s such a draw heavy board that your opponent might think you only have the ace of hearts in your hand, or the ace of hearts and a pair, or the ace of hearts and another ace. There are a lot of hands he could put you on in this spot besides the nut flush so, even if the board pairs, you should keep betting for value, hoping to get called by a worse hand.
If you bet the turn and your opponent puts in a stiff raise, then you should reevaluate. If you bet the turn and he calls and you bet the river and he raises, then you should fold because you can credibly put him on a full house.
Because hand coordination plays such an important role in determining your long-term success, you need to make as much money as you possibly can when it’s working in your favor, and one of the best ways of doing that is playing fast after you flop a big hand.