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Real Poker: Checking The Turn

by Roy Cooke |  Published: May 24, 2017

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In many no-limit hold’em situations, especially against aggressive opponents, you hold a marginally strong hand, but don’t want to get your stack in. It is often correct to check a street with your marginal hands in order to counteract being blown off your holding by a large bet. Checking can also have additional value by instigating a bluff, acquiring a weaker call on a future street, or allowing you to realize the equity of your hand.

With $560 behind, I raised to $15 in the hijack with the AClub Suit 6Club Suit in a $2-$5 game. It folded to the loose-aggressive big blind, $420 deep, who called. Heads-up, the flop came ASpade Suit 8Club Suit 7Diamond Suit. Mr. Loose-Aggressive checked to me, I fired $20, and he called, putting $70 in the pot. The dealer turned the 4Spade Suit, and he checked.

I pondered my best play. I didn’t think that I could get three streets of value. Additionally, aces with a six-kicker didn’t have to be good, or could end up as a chop. And if I bet, I assumed the risk of Mr. Loose-Aggressive check-raising me. If he check-raised bluffed, I was folding. If he check-raised for value, my hand was beat as his entire value check-raising range was superior to mine. But if I folded, I would relinquish any chance to improve my hand. Furthermore, if I checked the turn, Mr. Loose-Aggressive was just the sort to fire a bluff on the river.

I knuckled the turn and caught the perfect card, the 5Heart Suit, making me a straight. Mr. Loose-Aggressive fired $45. Feeling 9-6 was an unlikely holding, I was pretty sure I had the best hand, maybe a chop. So, the question came down to whether the chance of acquiring a call from a raise was more valuable than the assumption of risk if he held 9-6. I thought that, if he held 9-6, he would have both have to be suited, and not played an open-ender on a rainbow flop aggressively. That being the case, plus the fact I held a six, made me significantly discount the possibility of his holding the nut straight.

So, would the chance that he would call a raise with a hand inferior to a straight give me greater value than any lost value incurred from the assumption of risk of opening up the betting? Feeling the risks were low, I opted to raise. I chose a small sizing, to $110, in an effort to widen his calling range. It didn’t work, he insta-mucked. With the speed of his fold, I deduced that his river bet was a bluff.

I still felt I received good value and minimized any assumption of risk. The fact that Mr. Loose-Aggressive was aggressive, check-raised frequently and was bluff happy made checking the turn the correct play. With a passive opponent I would have bet the turn and likely checked the river so I could get value from his draws, fold or obtain value from his weaker pairs, and not assumed the risk of being blown off the hand. Do you see why the difference in opponent texture dictates a different play?

Also, the play of checking one street has to be situationally right and pot control situations are tough to analyze. Because of the frequency of occurrence, it’s also very important to get them right. Which street to check, what boards to check or bet, what the pot and effective stack sizes are, and which opponents to bet are all topics that need to be weighed.

Think about your opponents’ propensity to bluff or check-raise. Think about his calling range. Is it draw heavy? How does your hand fare against his value hands? Can you bet three streets and acquire value from a weaker hand?

Many players automatically make pot control plays because they are afraid to get their stack in. Even if it’s the right play, it was made for the wrong reason. Pot control situations should be implemented to prevent being blown off your hand or induce further positive expected value (EV) bets from your opponent by expanding his calling range or inducing a bluff. Don’t make the play out of fear.

And if you read the situations accurately and implement the right strategy, you’ll add meaningful EV. ♠

Roy CookeRoy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is RealtyAce@aol.com. His website is www.RoyCooke.com. Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at www.RoyCookePokerlv.com. You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke. Please see ad below!