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No Limit Hold’em: The Importance of Position on the Turn
We all know by now the importance of position in No Limit Hold’em, and just by sensibly acquainting ourselves with the numerous implications of being in or out of position in the more common types of situation we can make a significant improvement to our game.
Here we shall touch upon considerations we should give to position in certain scenarios at the Turn stage of betting. The turn is a particularly awkward phase to play because by this stage the field has been whittled down to those players who believe that they have a realistic chance of winning the pot, whether this is through the strength of a made hand, draws or by way of a bluff. But of course there is usually only one winner, so how the players act on the turn plays a vital role in deciding who emerges with the chips, and whether or not players have made the best of their circumstances – do we get the most out of the pots we win and – equally important – do we get away with losing as little as possible when we don’t succeed in taking a pot?
Regardless of what our strategy has been during a hand then, depending on what the turn brings, we might find ourselves having to change tactics, and we must also look at the action (or otherwise) on the turn in terms of how the card might have affected the opposition’s play. Clearly, with only a limited amount of time to act, it helps to have in mind what we might do in response to certain cards appearing that are related to both our own hands and those we put our opponents on. We need to get used to thinking along these lines rather than allowing ourselves to be distracted while ‘waiting’ for our time to act – it’s not possible to concentrate ‘too much’ during a hand, and there’s no excuse for realising that we made a mistake moments after the hand has gone pear-shaped when we could have worked it out when it mattered and acted accordingly (of course we should be concentrating throughout a hand – even those we’re not involved in!).
For instance if a scare card comes on the turn we need to weigh up for whom the card has more meaning. It might not help us, but may also not help our opponent, who could well me more afraid of its arrival than we are. Consequently the matter of position here is crucial. Let’s say the card brings a third heart that could have filled someone’s flush (but not us). The choices afforded us by being in position are very helpful indeed. Factoring in our opponent’s tendencies both in this hand and in previous play, we can respond to a check, for example, by checking behind if we judge that by betting we might run into a spoiling check-raise. Alternatively, if this opponent has shown a willingness to back down, then we can instead bet and most likely take the pot if doing so fits in with how the betting has panned out thus far (and, hopefully, is believable in terms of our table image). Even if out of position it might be possible to exploit these same factors by betting if it appears that assuming the initiative will induce a fold. However, such a play brings with it some danger, highlighting the problem of being out of position in this typical scenario. First, this being a game of information, having to act first means that to avoid being in the dark we need to invest more money, yet even when we do bet we are not going to be much wiser if our opponent merely calls – in fact the problem could be compounded if the river fails to help or further adds to the confusion and again we are first to act. On the other hand, if we check the turn and are faced with a bet, this ‘information’ could mean completely different things – our opponent might have filled a flush or the bet could be a total bluff that might see us folding the stronger hand, while it is also quite feasible that it is a genuine bet with another made hand. This example well illustrates the implications of position at the crucial stage of a hand. Of course it helps to be in position, but the more we appreciate its significance the more opportunities we will come across if it is apparent the opposition doesn’t fully understand the concept.
Having position on the turn also gives us more influence on pot control, so that we can call/bet/raise and so on according to the relative strength of our hand. Acting first might mean having to check-call with a decent but not great hand, for example. With the same hand when in position we can simply check behind to keep the pot at an acceptable level in order to be able to make an affordable call on the river. This has the advantage of inducing a bluff and thus earning more from the pot than if we had bet the turn (thus running the risk of running into a hefty check-raise).
With a not so good hand that we probably won’t want to invest further in should the river not help, then it is prudent to give way to any aggression on the turn rather than planlessly waste a bet.
Some players don’t like to check with a decent hand out of position because of the subsequent uncertainty in the event of having to deal with the opponent betting. Instead they bet out to hopefully take the pot against an opponent who simply believes this show of aggression, but to do this it helps if we feel that a further bet (bigger, as the pot is growing) will do the trick – otherwise the resulting bigger pot makes the river situation more urgent than the turn. Nevertheless, getting into the habit of being too passive doesn’t win pots, and betting here also has the advantage of earning value from those players who call (and are loathe to raise) with a weaker hand.
Positional considerations are key to turn play, and combining these with relevant factors will make a big difference to our results, especially if we haven’t before properly investigated this specific part of the game.
Good luck at the tables!
Angus Dunnington (AngusD)
32Red Poker Ambassador