Facing Bets on the Turn

Let’s reverse the situation now and pretend we are the one being bet into. Many players approach their turn calls flippantly, in a manner where they simply wonder whether the guy has it or not. Unfortunately, their gut instincts can often be confused with a proclivity for gambling, leaving them with a weak hand on the river with no plan.

In this section, we’ll examine the many ways you can apply purposeful practice when examining your turn calls.

Let’s take a look at a situation where I was facing a double barrel with a mediocre hand. Here, I flatted an early position raise preflop with 9-9. My opponent continuation bet 50% of the pot on the flop. On the turn card king, he has bet again (Figure 86).

As you can see we are getting pretty low on chips if we flat here, so we should have a good idea what we’re doing when we call.

Let’s take a look at how we’d enter this in Flopzilla. First we would need to enter our opponent’s range into the starting hands box. We also have to put our hand under dead cards. Since our opponent hasn’t opened less than 20% of the hands from any position we can put that in the starting hands selection. Since generally his raising ranges are way beyond that, many into the 30s and 40s, we can include a couple of reasonable combinations if we never see him folding them, but generally when we’re calling down we should give our opponent as tough a range as possible. That way if we know we can call versus his most value-driven range, we can know to call always. We also need to enter the flop. Now, we will get a breakdown of all the hands our opponent could be continuation betting (Figure 87).

We can now put a filter next to everything we think our opponent is continuation betting, and then at the bottom we can click the cumulative equity button, in order to take just the hands he is continuation betting into account.

Let’s put a filter next to everything because he’s been continuation betting 100% of the time over a large sample size. If he checks anything it is likely to be a trick with a value hand. This would weaken his continuation betting range. In order to strengthen our opponent’s range let’s not have him checking any value hands. When we’ve selected every hand and clicked the bottom equity total we will have, underneath dead cards, our hand’s equity versus the range.

In Figure 88 the bottom arrow shows you where to freeze the flop betting range, the left arrow shows the filters you have to apply to each piece of his possible range, and the right arrow shows where we see our equity.

Figure 89 gives another view of what the starting hand range can look like, depending on where you hover your mouse. Either view is fine.

Now, you can enter the turn card in the board section. You will get a new breakdown of statistics to show what our opponent has. Let’s say our opponent is double barreling a full house, over-pairs, K-x, 8-x, all of their flush draws, and their gutshots. Do you think we should call?

On the turn we just follow the same procedure we did for the flop, except we highlight only the hand ranges we just described. We then click the bottom button again. When it’s green it will show us our opponent’s range to the left in the starting hand section, and “Equity Hand” will tell us how much equity our hand has versus that range. Figure 90 shows what it should look like.

We can see that our hand has 27% equity. Does that mean we should call? Remember, the way to solve this is to take the amount of our call and divide it by the whole pot we receive if we’re right. In this case we’d be calling a 1,585 bet into a pot that is 4,869. After we call, the pot will be 6,454 (we can find this by adding 4,869 to 1,585). Therefore, we need to solve 1,585/6,454 = 0.2455, so we need 24.55% equity.

If you’re using the Hold’em Manager Replayer you can look in a section at the bottom called “Pot Odds” and it will do this for you. It’s recommended however that you try to do some of these calculations for practice in your spare time or while you’re at the table.

This will give you a greater instinct for knowing when you need to pay off a bet, but really it’s just fractions. So, we have 27.2% equity and we needed 24.55% equity, right? Slam dunk call!

Well, not quite. You see, if you have 27.2% equity and you needed 24.55% equity that is not the end of the story. You are not realizing that 24.55% of equity 100% of the time. The hand does not simply end on the turn. There is still a river to play.

If we need to realize 24.55% equity out of the 27.2% we have, that means we

need to realize our equity 90.26% of the time (divide 24.55 by 27.2), so we have to somehow get this hand to a showdown as a winner 9 times in 10. Considering our opponent is going to hit his flush (without giving us a full house) 20%+ of the time that is wholly unrealistic. We must also consider the number of times an under-pair catches up and makes a full house. There are also the times our opponent value bets 10-10, J-J, and Q-Q without us accounting for it. Finally, if he bets the river as a bluff, we can never fold. We’re looking for situations where we have a wide berth between the equity we need and the equity that is required for us to call. This is not an example of it.

We can also cut it a little closer if we have a great idea of what our opponent does on the river. You’ll find through NoteCaddy pop-ups and low aggression frequency numbers that some opponents have never bluffed a river in their lives. If you were winning against a range on the turn that was only his best value combinations and draws, and all he is going to bet on the river are the value hands, you can conceivably call turn, fold river, and still realize your equity versus his draws with no further investment required, thus making the call profitable.

Recognize that these days many people have boosted their double barrel percentage. Before, people thought the flop continuation bet meant something. Nowadays many treat the bet as if it’s obligatory. They’ve begun firing the turn more because they felt the flop bet didn’t really mean much.

You cannot fold nearly as much to turn bets as you could in the old days. Take a look at people’s flop-continuation-bet and turn-continuation-bet statistics. If they are both north of 60% then the worst play you could do is call flop and fold turn, yet that’s exactly what many players do. If the person doesn’t fire the turn that much, say 40% of the time or below, he is one of those players who still feels that the turn bet needs to be done with something. Versus them you can comfortably call flop and fold turn.

Pay attention to which players are perceptive. If you flat them with one pair on a hyper-coordinated board, say 8-6♦-5♦, they are more likely to put you on one pair, because you likely would have raised two pair or more on such a coordinated board. If they’re thoughtful players they will put a great deal of pressure on you on a turn 9, 4, diamond, 10, J, Q, K, or ace. That’s a lot of cards, and we haven’t even gotten to the river yet!

Versus these types of players there are a number of defenses available to you. One defense, which I wouldn’t recommend doing unless you play tens of thousands of hands with the opponent, is to flat a set, two pair, or an over-pair occasionally on this board. When your opponent sees this the first time you will forever become “a guy to not put pressure on with capped boards.” It’s such a rare play that it really throws players off. This play isn’t really recommended in tournaments, as you’ll rarely get more than a few hundred hands with a player. People raise solid combinations on those boards for a reason: it’s really hard to get value from them if the turn completes the draws, especially when your opponent has hit it.

The other defense available to you is to start raising this board more with one-pair-type hands. Many players have never raised one pair on the flop in their life. Yet, it is advisable in this situation, for it turns the tables. If your opponent is in the habit of getting it in with any draw or decent pair then your raise/call will be profitable. If your opponent only jams the best hands on this board then your play can also be profitable as a raise/fold. Once he flats you he will be in the same problem you were in: you will know that he can’t have a serious hand. This allows you to turn many mediocre pairs into bluffs.

If your opponent ever sees you are capable of raising with one pair on a coordinated board then the floodgates open as to what your range could be. It’s very easy to range someone who raises their value hands or raises a number of bluffs. You will be raising your value hands, some one-pair combinations, and occasionally nothing. This is extremely difficult to play against. Versus this range you know you’re being bluffed a good percentage of the time, yet mostly when you call down or jam you run into a hand. Consequently, most people misplay in this frustrating scenario.

Another play that gets your opponents to back off is to jam some top pairs on the turn when the draws miss. This is especially powerful when you know your opponent bets turns with his draws but will not fire the river unless he hits. You will get him to fold when he’s bluffed two streets and then he can’t realize his equity! To show how this works we need to explore an example: let’s say we have 50BB effective. We have K♣-J♥ in the big blind. It’s folded around to the small blind. Your opponent raises to 3x. We call. The board comes 5♦-K♥-8♥.

He bets 4x. We call. The turn is a 7♦. He surprises us and bets 12x.
We know he is capable of barreling draws heavy here. He could have a few absolute bluffs, since our range is capped out at an okay king, and likely we’ll fold that by the river, but let’s just put in the draws as the bluffs for now. He’s likely check/calling with some mediocre pairs but let’s just have him fold out his weaker pairs for now. We’re purely trying to explore his triple barrel range and how it’s affected.

Let’s say we call the turn with the decision to call the river. We assume our opponent is triple barreling with his entire turn betting range. Figure 91 shows a breakdown of the EV we’d have in this spot.

A nice little profit we’ve got there with 693 chips. But let’s take a look at the same hand if we jam on the turn versus our opponent (Figure 92).

Now it’s only 595.72.

Let’s look at one more, where our opponent only jams the river if he hits, and we still call because we believe he’s trying to take advantage of our obviously weak range on a capped board (Figure 93).

As you can see, when you know for a fact your opponent is going to bluff all of his missed draws you’re better off calling down. If you don’t know that, your profits fall dramatically.

In the middle there is the profit that comes from jamming the turn. How much less variance there is in the jam is not highlighted from these equity calculations. You will call off all your chips frequently and be wrong by trying the call-down line. Your frustration levels will soar, knowing you had a much more profitable line on the turn and didn’t take it, just to rely on a read that wasn’t there. Or maybe it was? Maybe he was just triple barreling everything.

I was puzzled when I watched Daniel Negreanu play hyper-aggressive younger players at final tables, to see him raise with top pairs. Now, I feel this analysis explains why he did this. If you can predict when your opponent is bluffing on the river with considerable accuracy, the profits are higher. However, if you know that he double barrels all of his draws as bluffs, then the turn jam is very productive as well. It’s a good go-to when you don’t have your opponent completely figured out, which is most of the time. The potential losses are really negligible, because if you make an error a small percentage of the time on the river it’s going to eat into your call-down profits.

Try raising some top pairs with good kickers when you know your opponent would bet a draw. Then, when he calls you down you can get much more value than you normally would. After he sees that he will wonder if he can really range you as he does the other players.

It is worth having another section to highlight this: look ahead to the river aggression frequency. In the previous example, it was much better to call down if you had a good idea of what the player is doing on the river. This can be found by looking at the river aggression frequency. Generally, if it’s 35% or higher the player is bluffing every missed draw, thus allowing you to call down.

To be more certain, look at NoteCaddy pop-ups. If there’s ever been a river showdown that is a gold mine of information. NoteCaddy will track what the player had. It will even provide breakdowns of what percentage hands they had of each ranking (Figure 94).

As you can see in this example we have someone who has a 57% river aggression frequency. We can see he’s bluffed with nothing and turned middle pair into a bluff. This is a great clarifier. We can see a few marks in the value hands category, but also verifiable evidence our opponent is capable of turning mediocre pairs into bluffs. This greatly expands their bluffing range, thus making our call downs more wise. If however we pulled open this pop-up and just saw five marks under the “strong” category we would know that this river aggression statistic has been thrown off by a good run of cards, and perhaps we should jam the turn to take a safer route. Don’t look at this pop-up on the river. You need to be making your plan on the turn, if not the flop.

Another play that can make people back away from you on coordinated boards is to jam more flush draws on the turn.

Let’s examine this idea with the mighty CardRunners EV. Here we are

playing 27BB effective. We have J-4♦ from the blind. An aggressive player from early position makes it 2x the big blind. It’s folded around to us, and we call, because we know he fires the turn a little too much and we’re getting a great price. With a flop weakness and excellent pot odds we’re confident we can make this hand profitable. The flop comes 8♥-9♦-6♦. We check.
Let’s examine two ways this hand could play out. Let’s say we check-raise over his half-pot continuation bet with the intention to call, and he gets it in with flush draws, pairs with draws, top pair, or better. Figure 95 shows what the equity from that play would look like.

As you can see in this scenario our profit is 4,107.3. Now let’s look at an alternate line. Let’s say this time that we check/jam the turn whatever it is, and our opponent double barrels all of his draws, including open-ended straight draws and flush draws. However, when we check/jam, he realizes he can’t call, and he folds. He also is barreling with 9♠, which he will make a crying call with if it’s still top pair on the turn. He fires 8♠ to get a little more value from draws, but ends up folding them on the turn to the very strong line. He fires 7-7 because it has a draw as well. If he does not bet and allow us to jam over him to price out his draws we will only lead the river if we make our flush, and he will call down with middle pair or better. If we miss we check/fold. He will bet his middle pairs or better, and will check back missed draws.

I had to transmit this equity calculation into two figures (Figures 96 and Figure 97) because it’s a lengthy breakdown.

Oh no! We’re losing profits when we check/jam versus this opponent! This is a balanced player. It was necessary to make one CardRunners EV calculation like this one to show that this is actually an inferior play against more balanced competition. However, we were not planning to use this play versus more careful opponents. We intended to use it when playing players who saw that that board was exploitable, because our range was capped.

The great thing about CardRunners EV is that it’s very easy to go back and change a range in a few seconds, and see how that affects the outcome. Doing that in the old days would sometimes take hours. Here, we just add gutshots to the turn bluffing range for our newly created aggressive opponent. This sends the profit margin skyrocketing past our flop check-raise get-it-in numbers (Figure 98).

As you can imagine, the profits only soar higher when people start putting complete bluffs into their turn betting range. You can usually identify them by their NoteCaddy pop-ups showing some completely left-field holdings and a turn continuation-bet statistic of 60% or higher.

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