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How to Play Texas Hold'em Poker

Advanced Strategy: The Turn, The River, Flopping a Monster

So you've got a decent starting hand, you've seen the flop and most of the table has cleared out of your way. Now it's just you and maybe a few other players still playing as the turn and river cards come. Strategies for handling the poker hand's vital stretch run are discussed in this section.

Play on the Turn

Most of the time, the way you play your hand on the turn should be straightforward. Your hand is well defined because you can see six out of the seven cards that you will be able to use. It is easy to see if there are any possible flushes or flush draws, straights or straight draws. Note that most straights are made when high cards are on the board since more players play two face cards than two small cards (unless they are playing low-suited connectors, such as 6-7).

Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding how to play on the turn. Do I have the best hand? If I hit the draw, will the draw make my hand the best possible hand? If I have the best hand now, what cards can come on the river that will beat me?

One very important thing to remember is when you have the best hand -- but a miracle card on the river can beat you -- don't let your opponent draw to it for free. This may sound like a contradiction to the advice above about maximizing your winnings with a strong hand, but it's not. You should check in order to draw more bets only when you have a completely unbeatable or almost unbeatable hand. If, however, when you have the best hand, but the board is scary in that a miracle card can beat you, you must bet. For example: You hold A-Q and the board shows A-Q-8-7.

You hold top two pairs
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
You hold top two pairs, but any heart or club could
give one of your opponents a flush to beat you.

You hold the top two pairs and probably have the best hand at this point. Any heart or club, however, could give one of your opponents a flush to beat you, or another high card could give another opponent a straight. You must bet into this board so your opponents won't see the river for free. For now you are a favorite against any flush or straight draw in this situation. To be a winning player, your goal is to get money into the pot in situations where you are a favorite over and over again. While it is true that occasionally your opponent will hit the card he/she needs to beat you, over the long run your wins and losses in these situations will follow the odds and make you a winner.

Play on the River

With one exception, which will be discussed shortly, when you believe you have the best hand on the river, you should bet and/or raise. Low-limit Hold'em is full of players who will consistently call with second, third, and even fourth best hands because they are afraid of getting bluffed out of a pot.

Until you have thousands of hands worth of experience, don't get fancy on the river. Just bet your best hands, and check when you aren't sure. If you check and there is a bet behind you, even if you think that you are likely beat, it may still be correct to call.

Now, an explanation on the exception mentioned above. If you know a player will try to bluff you on the river, you should check, and when he/she bets, you should raise. This is called a check-raise and can be a powerful tactic. The important word in the above sentence is "know." If you're not at least 90 percent sure that he/she will bet, you should go ahead and bet. Some players always bet on the river. Once again, pay attention to how your opponents play, and you will be far ahead of most recreational players. The biggest mistake new players make involving the check-raise is that many of them become too fond with using it, thus giving up bets trying to do it. There is always a chance that the player behind you will check, when that player would have called a bet.

Flopping a Monster

The term "flopping a monster" means that the flop fits your hand perfectly. For example: Your hole cards are 8-9 and the flop comes T-J-7 to give you a straight flush.

Because these kinds of flops are extremely rare, not too much time will be spent discussing these situations, but you should have an idea on how to extract the most money from your opponents when you have a monster. Seasoned players always check or just call when they have a monster and someone else bets on the turn. The hope is that someone will bet into you on both the flop and the turn. If everyone checks on the flop, the card that comes on the turn may give someone a second best hand, and hopefully they will pay you off. Note that in order for checking to be the correct play, there should not be any cards that can come on the turn that you would fear. In the above example, even if the Q hits on the turn, an opponent would have had to start with A-K to have you beat. If this does occur, you would have to pay them off because the odds of this happening are so slim. In a perfect world, one of your opponents will bet into you on the river, you will call, and one will call behind you.

The reasons you don't raise on the flop are twofold: You want as many people to call as possible to maximize the pot, and -- because the bets double on the turn -- any raising should be done on the turn or the river. If there are players who act behind you, you should call only on the turn if you are bet into. If one of the players behind you raises and the opponent in front calls the raise on the turn, then you can go ahead and reraise. Your hopes are that at least one of your opponents will hit a second best hand and cap the betting on the river and even on the turn -- if you are lucky.

So far we have discussed advanced strategies for betting the flop, turn and river. But what about betting strategies for stealing blinds and stealing buttons? Those topics are discussed in our next section.

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