A BEGINNER’S COURSE IN TEXAS HOLD’EM – PART 5
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 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.
YOU BLUFF ON THE TURN?
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.
SLICK TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR PLAY ON THE TURN
While the turn is not as difficult to play as the flop, here
are some tips some for the critical choices you’ll face
1. Raise when you’ve got the top two
pair on the turn, unless the board is three-suited or otherwise
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
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.
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