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Every poker player studies endlessly how to play before the flop.  We learn about position, ranges, three bets, how to feint a good hand, and much, much more!  Now, in our continuing discussion about poker, Juicy Stakes Poker would like to venture forth into the after the flop betting arena.

Post-flop there are the turn and the river.  Here we will begin our discussion of playing the turn.  Some poker analysts say that the turn is the most poorly played card in the entire Texas Holdem series of bets!  So, we really need to focus our attention on what makes the turn so difficult to play and how we can win more by playing the turn correctly.

We Have a Lot of Money in the Pot

The fact that we have already put money in the pot gives many players the feeling that they have to “protect” their investment.  There is a saying that describes this fallacy well: Don’t throw good money after bad”.

If you haven’t improved your hand enough to justify staying in the hand, then the best play is to get out!  “But I am getting good pot odds”, one might say.  Well, this is simply a perfect example of how the idea of pot odds can be used to make a poor decision.  Good pot odds by themselves are not sufficient justification for making a rash betting decision.

Why am I Still in This Hand?

You might have bet correctly before the flop and on the flop.  But in order to be secure in continuing to risk money in this particular pot, you need to improve on the turn. 

It is important here to see both your own hand range and the hand ranges all of the opponents still in the pot which will usually be one opponent except in low stakes games where a lot of players can afford to wait another card in the hopes of hitting that inside straight!

There are other ways of looking at hand ranges. You can ask yourself, “What could this opponent have that would justify her staying in the hand?”  If you can see the possibilities clearly, you might conclude that she is bluffing!  Or, you could conclude that she started with a powerful hand that was improved by the flop and she wants to see the hand through to the end.

Sometimes, a player will stay in a hand with even a low pair and then get a great flop that no one can see how it helped anyone but it gives them a powerhouse hand.

This is the area you have to look at when it is your turn to bet on the turn.

What is Easier to See, A Straight Draw or a Flush Draw?

When you are considering your opponents’ hands, it is a lot easier to see flush possibilities rather than straight possibilities.  First of all, flushes are all of a single suit and the suited cards stand out when they are played on the flop and the turn. 

A lot of players will get out of a hand when they see three to a flush and think that the opponent’s hole cards might be connected suited cards.

There are no inside flushes in poker!  However, there are inside straights and it is always harder to see the straighting possibilities since the straight may be formed by cards of all four suits!  Sometimes, what looks for all the world like a crazy bluff is simply a super lucky inside straight on a hand where the player stayed in before the flop cheaply and hit great cards on the flop and then the turn.

Every Card Might Give an Opponent Three of a Kind

So, a lowly deuce or three comes out on the flop.  How can you know that this card did not give the opponent three of a kind?  Only if you know that the player’s tendencies are far and away not to play a low pair in early position.  Not if you know that the player tends to overbet such strong hands afire the flop.

In other words, no matter how inconsequential a card may seem, it might be the card that gives you or an opponent the hand!  Especially on the turn it is vitally important to know your opponents’ tendencies.

A high card might come out on the turn.  If you have a pair but the new card is higher, it puts your pair in danger.  It could also give an opponent two pair.  So, you have to be extra careful on the turn.  As the number of cards increases, the number of good hands that are possible in your opponents’ hands increases!

This leads us back to the idea of hand ranges.  In early position, most players will have a relatively narrow number of hole cards they will play.  By the time the turn has been played the range of hands that an opponent might have could range from nothing to a flush or better.

The Turn Often Pairs the Board

This situation is rife with potential and rife with danger for most of the players still in the hand.  It might give a player three of a kind.  It might give a player two pair.  In rare cases it will give an opponent a full house or four of a kind.  You don’t want to be separated from your hard earned money on such hands. 

You Need a Plan

A lot of new poker players don’t appreciate the value of a strategy or plan even before the flop.  If you have a strong hand, you want to win a big pot.  You want to make the kinds of bets that will convince your opponents to stay in the hand.

The pros often know that they have the far better hand and spend some time just calculating the size of the bet that will induce a call bet from an opponent.  This is a very important skill that usually takes quite some time to develop.  It shows up primarily on the turn and the river when an opponent will likely fold in the face of your bet of the bet is too high.

If your plan is to bluff, you also need to know if the opponents think that you have a better hand than you actually have.  The turn opens up so many possibilities that you need to follow your plan of bluffing unless you are sure or almost sure that they have you beat even if they believe you did start out with a strong hand.

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