If you’ve ever felt unsure of what to do on a flop with three cards of the same suit (a “monotone” flop), this article is for you.
With the help of Upswing coaches Ryan Fee and Fried Meulders, we’ve compiled five strategies that will help you answer these questions and maneuver monotone boards with ease. Here’s what we’ll be covering:
- How to play strong flush draws
- How to play middling flush draws
- How to play low flush draws
- Playing pairs without a flush draw on monotone flops
- Using smaller bet sizes to exploit your opponents on monotone flops
Hold tight for hand histories from Upswing Lab members and analyses from the pros!
Play a mixed strategy with strong flush draws on monotone flops
Using a mixed strategy that consists of both bets and checks with your strongest flush draws is an easy way to balance your ranges. If you played all of your best flush draws the same on monotone boards, a savvy opponent will be able to exploit you.
Imagine that you bet with all of your Ace, King and Queen-high draws–and your flushes–100% of the time on a 8♠ 6♠ 4♠ board. This would mean that whenever the action goes check-check and the turn is a spade, you have very few strong flushes in your range, which your opponent can exploit with aggression. Alternatively, using a mixed strategy with your strong flush draws on this monotone flop makes it really tough for your opponent to exploit you.
Here’s a simple method you can use to split these ranges more effectively: When you have two over-cards to the board with your flush draw, you should be more inclined to bet. This is because we can barrel on turns and rivers if we pair up.
For example, on a board of Q♠ 8♠ 7♠, it would be better to barrel on the flop, turn and river with a hand like A♠ Kx than A♠ 9x. This is because you have six outs to make top pair top kicker, which is a strong enough hand to bet for value. In addition, your K blocks KQ, which is a hand that your opponent will call multiple barrels with. By contrast, A♠ 9x blocks hands from the bottom of your opponent’s range, namely, T9 and J9.
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Usually check with your middle-strength flush draws on monotone flops
You should avoid betting your middling flush draws (J–7) on monotone flops because they usually function terribly as bets.
The reason is straightforward: if you make your flush on the turn or river, your hand is still not strong enough to bet confidently for value.
Additionally, your medium-strength hands will often make pairs that cannot be barreled for value. These hands function better as bluff-catchers, especially in pots that haven’t been bloated by bets on earlier streets.
Below is an example from Lab member Dan B.:
PokerStars Zoom $0.02/$0.05. 6-Handed. 201bb Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt A♣ J♠ on the BTN.
3 folds. Hero raises to 2.4bb. sb folds. BB calls.
Flop (5.2bb): T♠ 4♠ 7♠
BB checks. Hero checks.
Turn (5.2bb): 4♥
BB checks. Hero checks.
River (5.2bb): A♦
BB checks. Hero bets 3.2bb. bb folds.
You played this hand great on every street.
If we bet with our J♠, get called and hit a J or spade on the turn, we can’t be confident that we have the best hand. A J would give us top pair, but complete the open-ended straight-draw, while our flush would be the fourth nuts, which is by no means a slam dunk value-bet.
Consider bluffing with low flush draws that lack showdown value on monotone flops
Betting your weakest flush draws on monotone flops (6—2) is an effective way to work more bluffs into your c-betting range when needed. Low flush draws that lack showdown value function particularly well as bets because they are incentivized to win the pot on early streets, thus avoiding a showdown.
Here’s another hand history from Dan with analysis by Fee:
PokerStars $0.02/$0.05. 3-Handed. 139bb Effective Stacks.
Hero is dealt K♥ 6♠ on the BTN.
Hero raises to 2.4bb. SB folds. BB calls.
Flop (5.2bb): T♠ 8♠ 4♠
BB checks. Hero bets 3.2bb. BB calls.
Turn (11.6bb): Q♥
BB checks. Hero checks.
River (11.6bb): T♣
BB checks. Hero bets 7.4bb. BB folds.
The flop bet is perfect. K♥ 6♠ is a very good candidate to c-bet bluff with since we can force folds from many unpaired, non-spade hands that have lots of equity against us.
The only problem with your play in this hand is the turn check! Don’t be afraid to continue barreling on this turn—our K♥ blocks some of our opponent’s stronger Qx combos, our 6♠ blocks some flushes, and we put lots of weaker pairs into a tricky spot when we fire a second bullet (4x, 8x, 22–33 and 55–77).
It’s worth noting that the kicker to your flush-draw card should also influence your decision to bet or check. For example, we should be much more inclined to check in this spot with A♥ 6♠. The less showdown value that your highest card has, the more inclined you should be to bet on a monotone board.
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Be careful with non-flush pairs
When you have a pair with no flush draw on a monotone flop, you should approach the spot with caution. It can be tempting to bet aggressively with them to deny equity, but doing so can be very costly.
Since these hands have poor equity to improve on later streets, and are drawing basically dead versus your opponent’s flushes, you should usually avoid bloating the pot with them.
Here’s a hand demonstrating this submitted by Lab member Alex G., with insights from Fried:
Online Cash. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks 110bb.
Hero is dealt A♥ A♠ in the CO.
utg folds. MP raises to 3bb. Hero raises to 10.4bb. 3 folds. MP calls.
Flop (22.2bb): Q♣ 7♣ K♣
MP checks. Hero bets 10.6bb. MP calls.
Turn (43.4bb): 6♥
MP checks. Hero bets 28bb. MP raises to 91bb and is all-in. Hero calls.
River (222.7bb): 9♥
Major mistakes happen on the turn in this hand.
First, the sizing you’ve used (around 65% pot) is too large. I assume the rationale behind the larger size is that you don’t want a fourth club to peel off, but this shouldn’t of much concern given the pre-flop action—the majority of MP’s calling range versus our 3-bet will be suited combos.
Take a look at this chart below to get a clearer idea of what MP’s range versus our 3-bet might be:
As the chart shows, very few flush draws remain in our opponent’s range on this K♣-Q♣-7♣ board. The only definite unpaired and off-suit hand that likely calls pre-flop is AQo, while AJo and KQo are expected to be folded pre-flop (at least some of the time).
MP is also going to fold most of her low pocket pairs that contain a club (5♣5x, 6♣6x, 8♣8x) to our flop bet even if we bet smaller. Betting a larger size to protect ourselves from a fourth club rolling off is simply not necessary.
The plan here should be to use a small bet size (<50% pot) across all streets, and to fold if villain were to raise. This allows us to extract more value from hands like KJ, KT, T♣Tx and AQ. Villain will be inclined to call multiple small bets with these hands and almost never raise with them as a bluff.
The second mistake is calling the shove. There are very few hands MP can be bluffing with, here, and even those bluffs have reasonably good equity against A♥ A♠. In terms of defending against raises, we can bet/call with our A♣ Ax combos (or A♣ Kx) since we will have good equity against our opponent’s value range.
Use a smaller sizing as an exploit on monotone flops
Given the polarized nature of monotone flops, many players tend to have inelastic folding ranges. This means that the bet size will not impact their folding range much, if at all.
Using a small bet size against an inelastic calling range is very advantageous for your bluffs, as it allows you to generate a good amount of fold equity without having to increase your bet size.
For example, suppose you open from the small blind, the big blind flats, and the flop falls K♦ 9♦ 6♦. If you have a weak flush draw, such as 7♦ 8x or T♦ 8x, a small bet will force folds from off-suit, unpaired combos with a better high-card than you. Such hands make up a significant portion of your opponent’s range, and so getting them to fold without having to risk many chips is a great result.
That’s all for today!
Drop any comments, questions or requests for future articles in the comments section below. And good luck on your next monotone flop!
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