Turn and River Strategy
The importance of playing correctly grows as you advance through each street in Texas Holdem. The bets grow larger and mistakes grow costlier once you make it to the turn, and then even more so once you make it to the river. Don’t let that danger worry you, though. There are also ample opportunities to make good money on the turn and river.
Playing on the Turn
The turn is the turning point of the hand. At this stage, you have access to more information about both your own hand and the hands of your opponents. You must now decide if you want to continue playing for a showdown or try to get out of the hand as cheaply as possible.
Strong and weak hands are both fairly easy to play on the turn. Weak hands should be checked and folded without hesitation. Strong hands can either be played fast or slow, depending on your read of the opponent. You should lean primarily towards betting your strong hands on the turn because you have only one more street to go. The turn is also last street in which you can extract value from people who are chasing draws.
The occasional turn slowplay is OK when you suspect your opponent doesn’t have much. Sometimes a check on the turn and then a bet on the river looks suspicious enough to make your opponents call with extremely weak hands.
Mediocre hands are a little more difficult to play on the turn. If you’re not sure about the value of your hand, your best bet is usually to fold it. I can tell you for sure that poker players lose more money by calling with weak hands than they do by inadvertently folding strong hands. The best you can do with mediocre hands is check and hope for a cheap showdown.
Bluffs on the turn carry a little more weight than they do on the flop. A big bet on the turn is scary to your opponents because it means an even bigger bet may follow on the river. Bets on the turn are also discouraging to opponents with draws because they know they only have one more shot to hit their draws. The downside to bluffing on the turn is that you have to risk more money because the pot is a little bigger by now.
Playing on the River
Once the final community card has been dealt, everyone’s hand is set in stone. Each hand is either a winner or a loser; there are no more questions. Your goal on the river is to either extra the most money with your winners or get out of the way with your losers. The problem is that it’s not always easy to tell which is which.
Strong hands are pretty easy to play on the river. If you’re in early position, make a bet. If you’re in late position, make a bet. If someone else bets first, make a raise. All you can do at this point is open up the betting and hope someone else is willing to put some money in the pot.
Medium-strength hands are sometimes a little more difficult. Hands such as top pair are often the best but they are never a lock to win the pot. One tactic that will serve you well is the check-and-call. If you’re completely unsure of where you stand, the check-call at least gives your opponent a chance to bluff at the pot. But remember – you don’t want to turn into a calling station. You’ll have to use your reads of the opponent and the situation to determine whether or not a call is warranted.
River bluffs are fairly dangerous and should be made only occasionally. First of all, river bluffs are more expensive thanks to the ever-growing pot. Secondly, river bluffs aren’t successful as often because your opponents have stuck around this long for a reason. At the same time, you cannot never bluff the river. If you only bet the river when you have a strong hand, your opponents can play perfect poker against you.
The turn and river are tricky streets to play but they are also your most profitable streets. If all else fails, remember that a smart, tight-aggressive strategy will never lead you astray. You should be betting, raising or folding the majority of the time. If you make a lot of calls, it means you’re either playing your strong hands weakly or you are holding onto your weak hands for too long.