Flopping top pair out of position isn’t as bad as flopping air out of position. But it can still be a lot more expensive if you’re not careful. Why? Remember: being out of position puts you at a huge disadvantage vis-a-vis your opponent, by forcing you to play the role of initiating, rather than reacting, throughout the entirety of the hand. If you have nothing but air on the spot, it’s often easier to slow down your play and get away from your hand, when your opponent plays back at you, than it is to give up on something as strong as a top pair in the same situation.
For this reason, it’s even more important to keep the pots small when you’re playing top pair out of position, than it is to play the same hand in position. Let’s assume that you have an Ace and a Queen, and the flop is Ace, Nine, Three, all offsuit.
If we happen to raise our hand pre-flop, we should just go on ahead, and make our standard continuation bet of 50% to 60% of the pot on the flop. Since we know our opponent is unlikely to raise us with a monster hand (such as trips), we can assume his hand is fairly weak if he does indeed raise. In this case, our best play is to call and bet again on the turn. Come Ace, Nine, and Three – bet on the flop, now the guy suddenly raises you. If something in your mind just tells you ‘He has me crushed, he has me crushed,’ you just fold your hand.
In any case, if your opponent calls your continuation bet on the flop, then checking the turn is a smart play unless your hand improves.
Now, if he bets behind you, you can reevaluate the strength of your hand, and determine what you want to do. If he checks behind, the chances are that you have the best hand. You can comfortably bet on the river. If he bets behind, most likely you have to call.
Remember, the top pair may be the best, but there’s also a decent chance that it’s not! Keep the pot small to minimize the risk and to prevent your opponents from putting you in a spot where you’re making a tough decision for a ton of chips when you’re actually out of position.
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