Or Better Known As 4th Street Strategy
If you’ve made it to the turn then you have to fall into one of the following categories: A) You made a pair (or better) on the flop / are holding a pocket pair B) You hold two over cards to a low board C) Are on a draw D) Plan on pulling a bluff to steal the pot away from 1 or more players E) are sitting at a table where everyone checked.
We’ll start with A, you’ve hold a pair or better and are now looking at the turn card. If you are holding top pair now would definitely be the best time to force out any players who called your flop bet on a draw because their odds were just cut in half. A good portion of poker players use the “By the River” percentages when deciding whether or not to call on the flop so they believe their odds of catching their card was a lot greater than it truly is. By the River means they have two different cards in which their draw may hit, but now that we’re on the turn (and they didn’t hit) their odds are much worse and your odds are much greater. Before making any large bets with your top pair examine the board. Make sure there aren’t three cards that would give someone a straight or flush. When we say any three we mean any. Some players like to play with two gapped cards because they make less obvious straights. A board with 4 5 7 is just as likely to have someone holding a straight as 4 5 6. Of course if you do not see any straight or flush possibilities out there make your bet, and make it large enough to force out the draws. An opponent on a flush draw or straight draw wants about 4 to 1 (5 to 1 for an 8 out straight) return on their money so keep that in mind when determining how large of a bet to make. If you’re holding two pair, three of a kind, a full boat, or even four of a kind you can and should make a much larger bet at the pot than the player with one pair is able to do. Bet the pot if you hold the nut three of a kind or better. This will remove all the draws from calling, or at least leave them at an unprofitable disadvantage. If you hold three of a kind or two pair and don’t hold the nuts throw out a large bet anyway just not as large as the nut three of a kind would. When you aren’t holding the best possible hand you should still bet big, but not big enough where you will become pot committed (can’t lay down your hand.) Your bet is to find out if any opponents do indeed hold a better hand than you. The size of your bet should still force out draws just in case the opponent calling you doesn’t hold a better hand but rather a hand they are drawing with.
In the event that a card to finish a straight or a flush pops up on the turn your bets with top pair, three of a kind, etc are likely to be met with a reraise. Players on draws will call pre flop, call on the flop, then either check the turn and reraise or lead straight out with a bet. A few may slow play until the river at which point their betting pattern would go call, call, check call, check raise or simply bet on the river but it should still be easy to see which of your opponents have indeed hit their draw. The check on the turn is used in an attempt to slow play or ‘be sneaky’ by hiding that they have in fact made their hand but their bet later on is a dead give away as to what hand they really hold.
If you fall into the B category (holding two over cards) you’ve either just paired or you haven’t. If you haven’t you’re now down to catching a pair one out of every eight times. Those are terrible odds especially if someone has already made a pair or worse yet has made a pair and holds one of your over cards as their kicker. Unless you are convinced that none of your opponents hold a pair or hold bottom pair and will fold to your bet (putting you in category D) you should fold your hand.
As for category C (the draws) we’d hate to tell you this but the odds aren’t really in your favor anymore. Being that you already know 86% of your hand the other 14% may not help you much, especially if you’re on a gut shot (4 out) straight draw or are hoping the fourth suited card falls on the river because you hold the ace (or King if there’s an ace on board, Queen if there’s an ace and king on board). The 4 card flush draws (excluding holding just 1 of that suit) will lose 4 out of 5 tries, the 8 out straights / 4 card flushes (holding 1 of suit) 5 in 6, and the gut shots about 11 out of 12. Hopefully the other players at the table will let you check to a free river card or at least make it profitable pot odd / investment odd wise to justify calling the bet. Better yet they might let you fall into the D category and pick up the pot without even having to worry about making your hand.
Good ole category D, the skilled bluffers. Hopefully you set up this maneuver from the start (pre flop or flop) otherwise it doesn’t have that great of a chance at working, unless a scare card pops up. Set ups for this would include raising pre flop from Middle or Late Position to represent two over cards or a small / medium sized pair and thus by betting on the turn you are Representing the Turn as though you’ve just made top pair / trips. If you are using the scare card tactic the best cards to hit would be an over card larger than anything else on the board (you may run into opposition from Category B) or a card that completes a straight / flush (which may run into opposition from Category C). The main trick to pulling off a successful bluff is being able to put your opponent on a hand and knowing how committed they are to holding onto that particular hand. Some opponents may fold top pair with a weak kicker whereas others may continue on with their pocket threes all the way to the river in hopes of making trips. Keep in mind that it is much more difficult (if not impossible) to bluff Level 1 (weak) players out of pots than Level 2 and 3 players (good) and is a complete waste of chips if your opponents already view you as a bluffer, unless this is part of your grand scheme to lose this particular pot as a way to set up huge winnings when you really make trips on the turn and pull the exact same maneuver. Also you should not try to pull a bluff in a pot with multiple opponents, especially if two or more of them have already been betting at each other. Even with one player driving the betting it may be difficult to bluff that particular player out, but then again you won’t know until you try.
Finally category E, a bunch of players checked to see a turn card. Sometimes this can be the most disasterous scenario to be in. One or more of your opponents has (most likely) made a hand by now or made their weak pocket pair turn into a very powerful three of a kind. You probably should have bet on the flop if you had any intention of winning this pot because your opponents hands are completely unknown at this point and the likelihood of someone slow playing a monster or just now making a monster are great. Unless you were the one slow playing, just made a monster, or just made top pair with a strong kicker it’s probably best just to fold to any incoming bets.