The Turn: Strategy
The Turn Card. The name it self sounds a bit mischievous. Have the tides "turned" against you? Was this an unexpected "turn" of events? Whatever the case, it might be time to "turn" on the heat and win the pot. Then again, it might be time to fold and "turn" your attention to the next hand. Let us take a look at some basic Turn Card Strategy.
First off, we need to take a further look at the value of position. We've already learned that the last person to act in a given hand holds the positional advantage throughout play. But why is this? Lets take a look at a turn card scenario that further demonstrates and proves this idea.
You are head's up (one-on-one) in a hand and you are first to act holding a 10-Ace. The flop Comes, 7x-8x-10x. You decide to bet your pair of 10's with Ace kicker. Your opponent calls for time and thinks about his options. After a moment or two, your opponent starts to make a move to raise but instead stops short and just calls. Scared yet? No? Well, get ready. The Turn card comes out and it's a 9x, making the board: 7x-8x-9x-10x. Since checking the turn card in this situation would typically demonstrate weakness, you decide to lead the betting again. Your opponent practically beats you to the pot and raises, and to make things worse, raises big. By using his/her late position, your opponent is forcing you to make a tuff decision and leaving you with only one real good option, and that is to fold. Unless your opponent is bluffing you'll need to improve your hand to win, and even then you still might lose the hand. Your opponent has used the Turn Card as well as his/her positional advantage against you to win that hand. What did your opponent hold? We don't know. We just know that they made a good strategic move.
There are many strategic approaches to playing the turn card. Let's look at a few.
The Slow Play
Let's say we're in an early position with three other players and the Turn Card makes our hand close to unbeatable. Some players will "slow play" their strong hands for deception. Simply checking a hand and letting another player bet can make your stacks grow to phenomenal levels. By slow playing, or checking the Turn card you may lead your opponents to believe that you hold a weak hand and they will bet into you in hopes of getting you out of the hand. Slow playing your hand is not without risks. If you decide to slow play you risk letting your opponents catch up and possibly improving to the point of making you the loser.
The Check-Raise (or, Sandbag)
Again, we are in an early position with three other players and hold an exceptionally strong hand (let's say 4 of a Kind). The Turn is dealt, and it's our turn to act. Here again we'll check to our opponents in hopes they'll bet. Once your opponents bet and the action comes back around to you, it's now time to raise! You've trapped their money and they will either pay you off, or fold. Some players will use a check-raise to bluff, a very risky move that will work if done correctly. Again, this is why it is extremely important to know your opponents. (Note: Some players think the Check-Raise is an unethical approach to poker and some games do not allow it. To most players though, it's completely acceptable and very much a part of the game. Make sure you know the rules before play starts. In No Limit Texas Hold 'Em a successful check raise can set you up for a good finish)
The Scare Card
Another good strategic play on the turn is using a "scare card". Simply, if the Turn card falls and it can be used to fill a straight or to complete a flush, it is often referred to as a scare card. Some players will use this opportunity to bluff, or try to represent that the card helped them make their hand. On the other hand if the scare card did indeed help you, it might be a good time to slow play, or Check-raise.
Of course if when the turn falls and you're finding that your opponents are getting more aggressive and your hand is getting weaker rather than stronger, it's probably time to consider folding.
A final thought on the turn
When you have gotten to see the turn and you have what's called the "temporary nuts," meaning for the time being you have the best possible hand, you want to discourage any further play. One of the worst feelings in poker is to get drawn out on the river. If you think your opponent might be able to improve with one last card you'll want to do everything possible to get him/her out of the hand, and that means betting big. If you let a person see the river cheaply in this situation you may find yourself telling your friends about how "lucky" your opponent got. When in actuality, you were the person who put him in a situation to get lucky. Don't be afraid to bet when you think you have the best of it.