Checking the Helpful Turn

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One of the most fundamental and important principles of poker is to minimize your losses and maximize your profits. One of the best ways to do this is to fool your opponents, making them think you are bluffing when you’re not and making them think you aren’t bluffing when you are. You need to suit your strategies to fit the players you are up against, and this requires patient observation of your opponents. However, a strategy that works well when you have a big hand is checking on the turn after betting on the flop. I will give an example of what I mean in the next section.

Say you are holding pocket nines, and you raise preflop from middle position. Two players call behind you and both of the blinds fold. The flop comes 9d 8s 4d. This gives you the best hand with a set of nines, but there are also straight draws and flush draws on the board. You are first to act and make a sizable bet, hoping to force any draws out of the pot. One player calls, while the other folds. The turn is 8d, completing a possible flush draw, but giving you the full house for a better hand. You check the turn, and your opponent bets. You simply call the bet and the river card is 2c, a totally irrelevant card. You bet out on the river, and receive an immediate call from your opponent, who reveals a losing hand of pocket queens for two pair, queens and eights.

The play that makes this entire hand so profitable is the check on the turn. You raised before the flop, indicating you have a strong hand, then make a strong bet on the flop, indicating that you want to get others out of the pot, meaning it could be a bluff or you are afraid your hand won’t hold up. By checking the turn, you give an even stronger impression to your opponent that you are bluffing or possibly holding A-9 for top pair top kicker. Either way, he is convinced that he has the best hand and will press his advantage, certain that you weren’t on a flush draw. You didn’t want to rely on your opponent to bet for you on the river, so you made the bet yourself. The impression this action gives is that you think you’re a-9 may be the best hand, or that you are taking one last and ill-advised bluff to try and steal the pot. Your opponent is sure their high pocket pair is good and calls your bet, only to see the horror that is your full house, and you win a huge pot.

Deceiving your opponent is a key part of poker and checking a turn that makes you a huge favorite to win the hand is a good way to extract more chips from a deceived opponent, especially if you made a strong bet on the flop. In the example above, the opponent had a strong hand that he was convinced to be the best. If he had had a weaker hand, he would have folded on the flop along with the other pre-flop caller, and you would have a much smaller pot, which couldn’t have been helped, as keeping the other players in the hand would have been a risky play. However in the outlined situation, the perfect card came on the turn to give you the confidence to keep the one remaining player in the hand. A wide variety of different circumstances combine to form each hand and make it what it is, so you must be aware of the possibilities and evaluate the risk and reward of each play you make.

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