playing poker

Tip 31 Check poker

This is a tricky one, which experience will help you navigate more profitably.  It is tempting to bet Poker Turn with only a draw when you are in last position, as nobody has shown much strength and you might  win the pot with your semibluff.  There are times when this is the correct play.  Basically, if you are against only one or two opponents who you feel made weak calls on the flop, a turn bet is likely to win you the pot.  If you are called, though, it is still possible that you will improve to the best hand.

  However, most of the time you should check and accept the free card graciously.  Simply because your opponents check doesn’t mean they aren’t prepared to call, and it is often to your advantage to get to the river as cheaply as possible when all you have is a draw.

  One problem with betting Poker Turn on the come** is that it can place you in a

* Semibluff: A bet made on a hand that is probably not the best at the time of the bet, but that has two ways to win: either by getting everyone else to fold or, if called, that might improve on succeeding cards.
**Bet on the come: Make a bet on a drawing hand, that is, when holding four cards to a flush or straight.

difficult position on the river.  Suppose you bet a flush draw on Poker Turn, hoping to win the pot, but are called in two spots.  Now a blank* comes on the river.  You are left holding, for example, the same Q-J you started with, a hand that probably has no chance to win in a showdown.  The two players check to you again.  What should you do?

  Since you seized the initiative in this pot and cannot win by checking you must bet again and hope that your opponents will release a small pair, ace high, or whatever they called with on Poker Turn.  Unfortunately, at this point the pot has grown quite large, and you are likely to receive a curiosity call**from some sort of marginal hand.  Many opponents will call hoping that all you have is a busted flush draw.  In this case, they will be right.  So, your decision to semibluff on Poker Turn is actually a two-big-bet decision, as you must be willing to fire twice to try to win the pot.  This is why it is usually best simply to check your draw on Poker Turn and hope for the best, unless you have detected weakness in all opponents in the hand.

* Blank:  Earlier we defined this as a card that doesn’t help your hand.  More generally, the term refers to a card that doesn’t appear to help anyone.  For example, if the board is K-Q-J-9 of mixed suits, a 2 on the river would be considered a blank.

** Curiosity call: A call from someone who is positive he is beat but just wants to know what you had, often accompanied by a statement such as, “I knew you had me beat, but I just had to see it, “o, “I knew you had me beat, but the pot was too big to fold.”