Welcome to the fourth community card, otherwise known as the “turn.” This is where we separate the men from the boys. Practically anyone can memorize an opening hand range and continuation bet the flop. Actually, as an experiment one time I saw if I could teach a 14-year-old to do it. It worked. (Cut me some slack, I was not an adult yet either.)
Most low-stakes players falter when they get to the turn. Here the bets get much bigger. If you make a mistake the chip toll is much less forgiving. You have to be on point to make the right bet at the right time. You also have to be mentally sound to watch so many chips sail away when you’re wrong.
The good news is there are a number of methods which can help you practice purposefully for the turn. You don’t have to be like Doyle and run through a card deck on the hotel room floor. You can set up an equity calculator to run a situation a million times. You can change the cards, the bet sizes, and the opponent’s tendencies in seconds. You can rapidly learn much faster than anyone who came before you. Are you excited to get started? You better be.
This might seem like a fairly asinine introductory section, but it is bewildering how few people actually do this. They start betting and, for whatever reason (they don’t particularly like the player, they’re running bad) they just fire the turn again, wasting precious chips or, more commonly, a player gets to a turn card and doesn’t think through what that card means to their opponent’s range. They simply see that it missed them, and they go, “Okay, time to fold.”
One example of this is when the board reads something akin to K♠-6♥-7♥.
The raiser fires the continuation bet and the opponent calls. The turn is a J♣. The initial raiser slows down here and checks. Why? I’m not sure. On the flop
the caller could have an 8-9, 6-x, 7-x, a flush draw, or a king. Almost all of those hands had their equity damaged by this jack. There’s also a good chance the caller would have played faster with a bigger king preflop or on the flop. We have to bet here. This also allows us to value bet thinly with a jack if we get caught and find ourselves in a similar situation later.
Every person I have posed that board to has known to bet the turn once they were forced to list out what the player called with. However, if they’re in the motion of the game and not thinking actively, they check this turn far too much.
Whenever someone flats you on the flop list out the hands they would do that with. Do it verbally if you have to. Do it any way you can. Look at your NoteCaddy readouts to see what your opponent’s done that with before in order to get a better idea. Don’t take a hand off.
Eventually, you’ll find yourself processing boards much more quickly than your opponents do. Your confident bets on turn and river will intimidate them and get more folds. People will believe that your poker mind was made superior to theirs because you rapidly computed a good play. However, you will know that you worked up to that unconscious competence.
Now that we are in the habit of asking ourselves what our opponent called with, let’s take a look at a double barrel and try to solve whether it was a good bet or not (Figure 76).
In this hand I raised UTG with A-Qo. A very talented player flats me. If I’m going to bluff against him I need to have a very good reason. On the flop I do not have a heart, but I continuation bet on the 2♥-3♥-5♦ board anyway. I do this because this is traditionally a board that he would fold on. It’s filled with low cards that miss a typical flatter’s range, which is usually stacked with high cards.
Let’s say I decide to bet 2,371 into this turn (Figure 77).
How would we know if this is a profitable bet or not? First, we would need to figure out how often this bet needs to be successful. I hope at this point you know we find this by dividing 2,371 by 5,928, which would give us 0.3999. Lets round it up to 0.40: this bet needs to work 40% of the time.
Notice how large that bet looks as opposed to a half-pot sized bet. If we bet 1,750 we would have still had 6,000+. It would look like we had room to fold if our opponent came over the top or flatted us. This larger bet, which only needs to work an additional 7% of the time, makes us look much more committed.
If our bet needs to work 40% of the time then €urop€an needs to play 60% of the hands he called the flop with. It sounds really hard to continue with 60% of your range here. Many players stop there and go, “Great, game over! He’ll never defend that much!” But if you really want to improve you have to be a bit more exacting.
Let’s take this to Flopzilla. First, we need to know what beginning flatting range we need to give to €urop€an. To find this, we should take a look at our opponent’s cold calling range. This lets us know how often our opponent flats a raise. Figure 78 shows the pop-up I had on €urop€an.
As you can see, in position he has no problem flatting suited gappers, suited aces, middling aces, and broadways. He really goes out there to play! Since he’s a good postflop player he feels he can get away with using more combinations versus inferior opponents. Generally, he is right.
Since we have no indication that he is playing us differently let’s project a version of this in the starting hand category of Flopzilla. Figure 79 shows what the calling range I came up with looked like.
Now, under “board” we will put the flop we got here. It’s important we don’t put the turn yet, because we will need to augment his range on the flop to take into account the hands he folds to our continuation bet.
In the dead cards, we will put our hand. Under statistics we now see everything he has on this board. It’s important we put a filter next to the hands that are just calling. Yes, he’s not folding a set, for example, but he’s probably raising with that on such a coordinated board, where many turn cards could shut down his action or give any ace a wheel. For these reasons it’s less likely that he has that on the turn when he just flats the flop, so we won’t put that into his range. Figure 80 shows the hands I had him flatting the flop with.
As you can see, we have him calling with over-pairs, top pairs, middle pairs, and bottom pair. We assume he is normally not folding a pair to just one bet, especially when, if he hits his ace kicker, it will give him a valuable two pair to my likely top pair. We also have him flatting with an open-ended straight draw in 4-4.
Our problem arises when we get to the flush draw. €urop€an has been known to raise there with nut flush draws to get it in. However, he smooth calls with smaller flush draws. How do we account for that? We right-click the flush draw statistic. That will then allow us to edit the calling range. You can put a filter next to what you want to keep and a red X on what you want to cut out. I want to cut out just the nut flush draws, and Figure 81 shows what my edited flush draw range looked like.
Of course, sometimes he raises K-Qs or he just flats with nut flush draws, but we’re gambling on what he does most of the time. I’d say most of the time this range is our best estimate.
We now click the accept button at the bottom of the starting hand chart. Underneath the statistics there is a master filter which shows what percentage of all the hands you just selected. The button there must be selected. When we do this it turns green, and lets us know that we are ready for the turn. In the starting hand range we’ll have now highlighted the combinations that go to the turn. Figure 82 shows what it should look like (I have placed an arrow to show you the buttons I was discussing).
Now, the magic happens. In the board section we enter the turn card, in this case the 8♥. We now get a new breakdown of statistics, which reflect how the flop calling range has been affected (Figure 83).
We now have a complete breakdown of our opponent’s range on the turn. This assists us in making far more educated decisions on whether to barrel or not. Notice how our opponent only has a flush 17.4% of the time. That’s with someone who was flatting more suited hands than a normal player. Generally, people do not have a flush as often as you think. In situations where you believe the player will only defend with a flush you can rest assured that 75%+ of the time he does not have one.
Now you have to play with what you think our opponent is defending with. I started with a basic number, because it’s easier to add and subtract from 50 than it is from other numbers. This cumulative 50% is derived from the range portions that we have selected with a filter. Here we assume that our opponent is going to release any pair that is lower than an eight. This means he is playing 50% of the hands, and 50% of the hands are folding. Sweet. Our two-thirds bet works, because it needed to work 40% of the time.
This is how far most people take it with Flopzilla analyses. They find the turn actions their opponent could have taken to justify their play, assume that’s how they indeed acted in the hand, and call it a day. You’re actually trying to look at all the possible ranges the man could be playing, ask yourself which one is most likely, and then ask yourself how many of these possible scenarios you are beating. In this case, if we add anything we are now losing. Add in the open- ended straight draws. Now he’s playing 63% of hands, folding 37%. You lose. Add in the pocket pairs below top pair. That’s an additional 26.1%. You lose. God help you if he plays both of those hand categories. Now you’re really buried.
Can you take away anything from his calling range to assist your bluff? Not really. He’s not folding over-pairs, and those are the worst hands you were giving him previously.
I am proud to say that it took me a very long time digging through my database to find the hand we used in the previous example because I generally do not double barrel without some kind of equity. This is why you always hear high-stakes professionals highlighting the backdoor draws they have on the flop. While it may add only a couple of percent from the beginning of the hand the gains later are tremendous. Let’s look at the previous hand if we changed the “dead card” section from an offsuit ace to A♥ (Figure 84).
As you can see, our hand’s equity has shot up from 12% to 29%! Of course, we’re not going to realize that 29% equity 100% of the time, but the draw to the nuts on the river allows us to fire what we want on this turn, because if our opponent correctly calls us down we have considerable equity on potential river gains to offset the mild turn losses. Without that we had much less of a margin for error. We had to know exactly what our opponent was playing versus us.
No matter how much confidence we have in ourselves we shouldn’t gamble on us regularly being able to predict our opponent’s tendencies perfectly. Only barreling when you have some kind of backdoor equity will make your triple barrels more credible, since you will have fewer bluffs punching through the turn. It’s a great randomizer as well. Sometimes you will go for three streets with the A-Qo overs and other times you will check/fold on the flop. The frequency will be hard to predict, because card deals are random.
For a further explanation of double barreling with equity please refer to the section “Backdoor Draws Mean More” in the section “Postflop Out of Position as Raiser” earlier in this chapter.
You’ll notice in our previous section we never had our opponent flatting as a float. He always called with some kind of draw or pair. If our opponent is in the business of calling with ace high or worse to see what we’ll do on the turn this severely diminishes the number of value combinations he can have on the turn.
In our previous example the number of hands that are top pair or better on the turn goes from 50% to 27.7% if our opponent calls with ace high on the flop! His number of value combinations has almost been cut in half (Figure 85)!
Now if you add 7-7, 6-6, A-5, and 4-4, all of his defending combinations only add up to 48.9% of the hands. If you give him any pair he’s only defending 55.3% of the hands, so he’s folding 44.7% of the time, and remember our bet needed to work barely 40% of the time. I repeat: if he calls with his ace highs you can bet as large as two-thirds the pot on the turn, and even if he flats now with any pair, he will not be calling enough. This is one of the most critical notes you could take while playing with someone: if you see him constantly not letting a flop go, if he ever tables what was a mere K-high on the flop, then you must double barrel him more.
You can identify these players online by looking at constructed NoteCaddy pop-ups and by seeing if their fold-to-continuation-bet statistic is 40% or lower.
I picked a hand that was ambiguous for a reason. Many people would like the double barrel on seeing it. Others would hate it. I wanted to show that both camps could be wrong and right. It all depended on how many tools you had to review the game.