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Texas Holdem Poker


by: Lou Krieger
This is the fifth in a series of six columns aimed squarely at beginning hold’em players. The goal is to introduce new players to this exciting game and give them enough background to make them feel comfortable playing casino poker.

Should you continue with a draw?
Flopping four-flush or an open-ended straight draw is a common situation. If it’s relatively inexpensive, you’ll invariably stay for the turn card — particularly when you’re certain yours will be the best hand if you make it. But most of the time the turn card will be a stiff. After all, if you’ve flopped a four-flush there are only nine remaining cards of your suit in the deck.

Even if you don’t complete your straight or flush on the turn, it usually pays to see the river card in hopes that deliverance is at hand, and you can reap the rewards.

Should you checkraise or come out betting?
Suppose you were dealt Q-J, flopped an open ended straight draw when 10-9-5 showed up on board and made your hand when an 8 appeared on the turn. If you’re really lucky, one of your opponents holds 7-6, or J-7 and made a smaller straight. You’d love to see that, since they’d be drawing dead.

If you try for a checkraise and your opponents all check behind you, you’ve cost yourself some money. Should you bet, hoping to get some more money into the pot? Or are you better off checkraising and trying for a bigger payday, bearing in mind you might not get any money into the pot at all if your opponents also check.

It’s time to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and do some detective work by reconstructing the play of the hand. Was there a lot of action before the flop, suggesting that your opponents held big hands or big pairs? Did they raise on the flop, suggesting they might have been trying to force any straight draws to fold? Or did they just check and call, suggesting that they were also on the come, and have now made their hand ¾ albeit a lesser one than yours.

But an opponent holding a single big pair might also check, since the turn showed straight possibilities. If you think this is the case, you’re better off leading with a bet, since he may call, but would throw his hand away if he were the bettor and you raised.

If your opponent was also drawing, you might want to check, hoping he will try to steal the pot by bluffing. Another possibility is that he made a smaller straight than yours, and will bet from late position. If that’s the case, you can raise with the assurance he will not lay his hand down — even if he suspects you have the nut straight.

This is a case where recalling the play of the hand is more important than knowing the tendencies of your opponents. If you can deduce what kind of hand — or hands — your opponents are likely to hold, you can decide whether to come out betting or try for a checkraise. Remember, unless you think your opponent will bet and call your raise, betting is the preferred course of action.

Bluffing on the turn
Suppose you raised with A-K before the flop, then bet into two opponents when the flop was J-7-3. You don’t suspect any strength, and know your opponents are solid enough players to release a hand when they think they’re beaten.

Because your opponents have to consider the possibility that you’re holding an overpair or a jack with a good kicker, it will be difficult for them to call with anything less than a hand like J-8. Of course, if your opponents are calling stations, they’ll call with almost anything, and you’ll have to become adept enough at knowing their proclivities, so you don’t try to bluff someone who never releases a hand.

A good player also understands that you might be betting a hand like A-K. But he may not call even if he holds a hand like 8-7, since he can’t be certain about what you have, and could be beaten if his inclination about your bluff is wrong.

Your bet may cause an opponent to lay down the best hand. Even if he calls, the river could bring and ace or king and win the pot for you. But if you bet and are raised, throw your hand away. Sure, someone might be making a move on you. But it doesn’t happen frequently enough to worry about, particularly in low-limit games. Most of the time you’ll be beaten when you’re raised in this situation.


Knowing whether to attempt a bluff on the turn is a tough call. These five tips can help you decide.

1. Don’t bluff bad players. To beat a bad player, you’re simply going to have to show down the best hand.

2. Know your opponent. Will he release a hand, or will he call “…to keep you honest?”

3. Do you think your opponent is on the come, and will release his hand if he does not improve on the turn?

4. How much money is in the pot? The larger the pot, the more likely someone will call simply for the size of the pot. Most players will abandon a small pot more readily than a big one.

5. Mentally review the hand’s play. Would your betting or raising pattern cause a good player to assume you have a big hand? If he doesn’t believe you hold a much better hand, don’t bluff.



While the turn is not as difficult to play as the flop, here are some tips some for the critical choices you’ll face here.

1. Raise when you’ve got the top two pair on the turn, unless the board is three-suited or otherwise threatening.

2. If you’ve got an open-ended straight draw or flush draw with two or more opponents, call any bet on the turn. However, if the board is paired, and there’s a bet and raise in front of you, be wary. You could be up against a full house.

3. Bet, or check (planning to raise), when you’re sure you have the best hand. Make it expensive for opponents who are on the come to draw out.

4. If you hold a draw, try to make your hand as inexpensively as possible.

5. If you have a hand you would call with, betting — rather than calling — is a superior strategy if you think there’s any chance your bet will cause your opponent to fold.

6. Be alert to picking up a draw on the turn. It may allow you to continue playing a hand you otherwise would throw away.

7. “Should I checkraise or should I bet?” comes up frequently. Unless you think your opponent will bet and call your raise, you should come out betting.

Playing the River
If you’re still contesting the pot while awaiting that river card, you should have a strong hand, or a draw to what you believe will be the best hand if you make it. If you’re playing with reasonably prudent opponents, what may have begun as a confrontation between five or six will probably be reduced to two — or perhaps three of you — once all the board cards have been exposed.

Realized versus potential value
Prior to the last card, many strategic considerations are predicated on your chances for subsequent improvement. You could, for example, bet a hand comprised of a pair and four flush. Taken together, that pair, coupled with its potential for a flush as well as the possibilities of improving to two pair or trips, made it worth playing. And its worth was made up of both realized and potential value.

Once the river card is exposed, your hand no longer has any potential value. Its value is fully realized — for better or worse. If that flush draw never materialized, you’re left with one pair, and it may not be enough to win the pot. More importantly, your strategic thinking has to change too. You have no remaining potential upon which to base decisions.

Beginners 6 Part Texas Holdem Course by Lou Krieger

The goal is to introduce new players to this exciting game and give them enough background to make them feel comfortable playing Texas Holdem poker for real online.

Lesson 1 / Lesson 2 / Lesson 3 / Lesson 4 / Lesson 5 / Lesson 6

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