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Keep Flopping Aces

A Beginner's Course in Texas Hold'em

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A Beginner's Course in Texas Hold'em
Part 5

Should you continue with a draw? Flopping a four-flush or an open-end straight draw is a common situation. If it's relatively inexpensive, you'll invariably stay for the turn card - particularly when you're certain that 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 hope that deliverance is at hand and you can reap the rewards.

Should you check-raise or come out betting? Suppose that you were dealt Q-J, flopped an open-end 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 has made a smaller straight. You'd love to see that, since he'd be drawing dead.

If you try for a check-raise 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 check-raising and trying for a bigger payday, bearing in mind that 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 that they might have been trying to force any straight draws to fold? Or, did they just check and call, suggesting that they also were on the come, and now have made their hands - albeit lesser ones than yours?

An opponent holding a single big pair also might 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 also was drawing, you might want to check, hoping that 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 that he will not lay his hand down - even if he suspects that you have the nut straight.

This is a case in which 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 check-raise. Remember, unless you think your opponent will bet and call your raise, betting is the preferred course of action.

Bluffing on the turn - Suppose that 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 you know that 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 that 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 an 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 it, particularly in low-limit games. Most of the time, you'll be beaten when you're raised in this situation.

Should 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 he 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 it is that 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 that you have a big hand? If he doesn't believe that you hold a much better hand, don't bluff.

Seven 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 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-end 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 a 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 that you have the best hand. Make it expensive for opponents who are on the come to draw out.

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

5 If you have a hand with which you would call, betting - rather than calling - is a superior strategy if you think there's any chance that 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 that you otherwise would throw away.

7 "Should I check-raise or should I bet?" This question 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 players probably will be reduced to two - or perhaps three - once all of the boardcards have been exposed.

Realized vs. 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 and 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 for 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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