(This is the fourth in a series of articles on Winning at Low Limit Hold’em. Last week, we discussed strategies on the flop. Today let’s examine strategies on the turn.)
If you’ve survived the flop and have made it to the turn, you probably fall into one of these categories:
• Best Hand – With bets doubled, this is the time to build the pot when you have the best hand. Bet for value and protect your hand; raise or check-raise, depending on your opponents and position. With a monster hand in low-limit games, slow-play or sandbagging is not advisable on the turn. Players with drawing hands – underdogs to your hand – will call on the turn, but likely fold on the river if they don’t connect. So the turn is when to build "your" pot. Never let an opponent draw cheaply.
• The Nuts – Sometimes the turn will bring you the nuts. Example: With a set of 9s on the flop, the turn gives you quad 9s! (Yes, it happens!) You slow-played on the flop to keep opponents in the pot. Now, the turn – bets are double – is the time for heavy betting or raising. Check-raise if you are certain that someone will bet after you check. If there is a very aggressive player in the pot, let him do the betting/raising for you. (Plan to re-raise him on the river.)
• Pairing Up – Often the turn will pair one of your hole cards. If it’s not top pair, call an un-raised bet provided your kicker is higher than the board. With top pair, bet to protect your hand – force out opponents with drawing hands to improve your chances of winning. Betting also may help you "see" where your hand stands depending on opponents’ responses. If you believe your hand is beaten, try to avoid "investing" any more chips to see the river – unless you believe a bluff will take the pot.
• Semi-Bluffing – You’re on a draw with at least six outs, and sense weakness from your opponents. Consider semi-bluffing. Bet out. If all your opponents fold, you win. If anyone calls, you might still connect on the river; even if you don’t, you are setting the stage for a bluff on the river.
Example: You had flopped an open-ended straight draw – that’s at least eight outs. The card odds were 2-to-1 against making the straight (presumably the winning hand) on the turn or the river. Then, using the Betting Odds, with three (or more) opponents having already bet, you raised to increase your long-term winnings when all opponents called your raise – a Positive-Expectation bet. Alas, you didn’t connect on the turn. Now your card odds are doubled to about 4-to-1 against making your hand on the river; but the pot odds were still favorable. Depending on your assessment of your opponents, you might bet out, representing a strong hand. This is a semi-bluff. If your opponents all fold, you take the pot. If someone calls, you still have lots of outs going into the river. (Remember: Your opponents can only guess at the strength of your hand.)
• An Opponent Bets or Raises – You have a Drawing Hand on the turn. If someone comes out betting or raises, try to "read" his hand based on previous actions, the type of player he is and any tells you have observed. Be cautious if he is tight. At the other extreme, if a maniac raises, he could hold almost anything. If you believe your hand is best, re-raise him. As you raise, observe your remaining opponents; look for tells. In this situation, call a deceptive (tricky) opponent unless you believe he has you beaten.
Next week, we’ll complete this series with strategies on the river.
George "The Engineer" Epstein can be contacted at [email protected].
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