Pot-Limit Omaha: Turn Play (1)

The turn is the fourth community card on the board and quite often it turns the whole game around in PL Omaha. A player, who was ahead on the flop, can now be drawing dead. Somebody, who was a significant underdog, can now have the nuts. But there's more to it than that. Besides the draws that could have arrived, the turn often brings completely new draws which leads to new favorites and consequently more action.

Thus, the situation has to be correspondingly reevaluated on the turn. The following initial situations are therefore decisive:

  1. Did our hand improve on the turn?
  2. Did the turn devaluate our hand?
  3. Did the turn bring a new draw?

In addition to that the following points are of importance:

  • Do I have the nuts?
  • Did I bluff? Or does the turn bring a new opportunity to bluff?

Depending on who had the initiative on the flop we have to consider how we want to continue the hand.

Did my hand improve on the turn?

Made hands as well as draws can improve further or arrive on the turn. This applies to our own hand as well as to those of our opponents. We should distinguish between the following reasons:

1. Case: My draw has arrived on the turn

We had a draw on the flop which has arrived on the turn. Now we have to find out, if we are ahead with our made hand, how obvious our draw is and whether we have played the hand aggressively or rather passively. Let's look at a few variants: 

a. My made hand forms the current nuts, but can still be beaten 

Generally, there is always a straight draw on the board after the turn, as long as the board isn't paired. Even strong hands such as e.g. a set are therefore not invulnerable.

Thus, you have to protect your strong hands, since it doesn't make sense to give the opponents a cheap or free card. Although we often reveal the true strength of our hand by betting or raising, we still get called often enough by weaker hands and draws, so that we get paid off quite often. In situations where the river completes a draw, we have to consider how we should continue the hand.

  • Example 1:

Our hand:

We call pre-flop in middle position, the cutoff calls, the small blind completes and the big blind checks. The four of us see a flop of

.

The blinds check, we bet, the cutoff calls and the blinds fold. We are heads-up and the turn is the 

.

We have the current nuts, but a draw to a better straight as well as a flush draw appeared. Checking would only make sense here with the intention of letting an aggressive opponent bet in order to play check-raise. As a rule it is a better option to stay aggressive and bet again in order to make it expensive to draw. 

Let's look at a few calculations:

  • Assumed that our opponent has a set, e.g. . Then he will make a full house or quads in approx. 23% of cases.
  • If our opponent has a hand such as , he will hit a higher straight in 30% of cases.
  • Only if he has a straight and a flush draw e.g. with we almost have a coin flip with our 52,5% against the 47,5% of our opponent.

Since we are a favourite in all cases, we can bet again. We will get called by very strong draws, as they get sufficient pot odds, but we can't avoid that. However, we are still the favourite.

We, however, have a problem, if our opponent also has , since he then is on a freeroll with or . In this case it would be fatal to bet again, since we can split the pot at best. Whether we are in such a situation requires an exact estimate of the opponent, his hand range and betting behaviour. Depending on the situation we have to decide how we want to continue the hand.

If we make a pot size bet on the turn and get called and the board pairs on the river, a second broadway card or another diamond appears, then we will have difficulties to invest more money into the pot.

In case this happens, we can make e.g. a block bet out of position. Checking OOP against aggressive opponents is rather bad. They could, as described above, attempt to bluff, in case the river hasn't helped them and they sense weakness.

If we are in position, we hope that we can check-behind. In case the opponent bets OOP we have to decide whether to call or fold depending on the bet size and the type of opponent we are up against.

When we are deep stacked compared to our usual stack size (thus more than 200 bb), due to a few big pots we won and the opponents have made a rebuy in order to have identical stacks in front of them, there is the risk to lose the entire stack with our vulnerable made hand against a strong draw. This especially applies in situations where we can't assess, whether we are a big or only a slight favourite and the hand will obviously result in an all-in.

If we find ourselves in one of the situations described above while holding a hand that we by all means have to be afraid of several river cards and the pot is already so big that a pot size bet on the turn would lead to a situation that we just have enough chips left for another pot size bet on the river, you can also choose a more conservative line:

Since there are a lot of scare cards, which would make it very difficult for us to call after a pot size bet of our opponent, we could also check the turn (especially when we are in position). We then make a value bet or raise on the river, when we are still ahead on the river or check-behind out of position or call in position. This play has advantages as well as disadvantages:

Advantages:

  • We protect our hand against a river bluff, since we can save the amount we are willing to invest in this hand for a call on the river. We therefore have to make sure that the opponent will bet, in case he shouldn't improve his hand.
  • We are potentially motivating the opponent to bluff on the turn, if we are out of position, which we will then answer with a reraise all-in. (another aspect that protects us from a river bluff, but at the same time gives us maximum equity for our money, as we are in most cases a clear favourite). But under these circumstances we would have to play for our entire stack, which we actually wanted to avoid.
Disadvantages:
  • We have to forego potential fold equity on the turn, which can be at a very high level against tight opponents. When we are playing against calling stations, we can cope with this loss of equity, since it is very small or even close to zero as soon as the opponent has hit something.
  • We, however, lose value if no scare card appears on the river and our opponent would have called on the turn with his draw, but doesn't invest more money on the river.
  • We give our opponent a free card, whereby we would keep him in the hand even with weak draws, which he otherwise possibly would have folded on the turn.

Due to the numerous disadvantages you should only choose this line, if you want to protect your stack (because you have already won a lot and you don't want to lose your whole winnings in a single hand) and you are playing against very aggressive opponents that often call on the turn and play river bluffs the same way as their value bets.

 

b. I have the absolute nuts (e.g. Straight Flush, Quads, etc.)

The ideal case. Nothing can happen, since we either have top quads or a straight or royal flush.

Since there is one more card to come, we can play slow by check/calling in position against aggressive opponents or bet into calling stations, which have already shown strength.

When we are out of position we can bet, if it is checked to us or just call, if the opponent bets himself. A bet after a check of an opponent is often interpreted as a bluff and therefore called by a lot of hands. On the other hand, a call could lead to another bet by the opponent on the river.

  • Example 2:

We are holding .

We are in the big blind and call the raise of a loose aggressive player in late position after the small blind has called as well.

The flop is .

We have flopped the current nuts with a straight flush draw. The small blind checks, we bet the pot, the opponent in late position calls, the small blind folds.

The turn brings the .

We have the absolute nuts. It doesn't matter which card appears on the river, our hand can't be beaten.

Out of position
Now we can either check with the intention of letting the opponent, who is holding the second best hand, take over the initiative or we can bet ourselves and hope that the turn has helped our opponent as well (e.g. in form of the nut flush with the ) and we therefore will get action. Against aggressive opponents a check-call can be an alternative (rope a dope), against passive opponents we should bet ourselves.

In position

When we are in position, we can raise a bet of the opponent, in order to encourage potential draws to call or good made hands to push all-in. Alternatively, we can bet first and then raise on the river. If the opponent checks, we can try to get more chips into the middle by betting half the size of the pot or decide in favour of a slowplay, in order to induce a bluff from the opponent or let him hit his draw on the river. Against better opponents a small bet could quickly be exposed as a value bet. For this reason we should bet the pot, which is often enough interpreted as a bluff.

2. Case: My hand has improved 

If a made hand improves further on the turn, it depends on the previous betting sequence, whether we will get additional money into the pot. Let's look at a few typical situations:

a. A set turned into a full house

A set turns into a full house, if the board pairs. Now the strength of our hand depends on the fact, whether an overcard or an undercard pairs. Let's assume that an undercard pairs.

  • Example 3:

We are holding

We are in late position and opened the pot with a raise. The big blind called.

The flop comes .

The big blind checks, we bet the pot and the big blind calls. In this situation a call could only mean that the BB also has a set and that he is afraid of a straight or he has a strong draw (nut flush draw perhaps with a straight draw). A straight isn't very likely, since he would probably have bet himself when faced with the danger of a set and a flush draw or raised to protect his hand.

The turn brings the .

We have the nut full house and only quad eights beat us at the moment.

Out of Position

Against a very aggressive opponent it can make sense to check in order to induce a bluff, since he could interpret the check as a sign of weakness. As a rule, this only works when we have the image of being a straightforward player. If we are known for tricky moves, we should prefer betting and play the hand according to its strength.

In the end we will only get action, if our opponent has hit a smaller full house (with a set of nines, or ) or he tends to bluff a lot. Even with the nut straight he won't be willing to invest a lot of money on a paired board.

In position

If our opponent bets, we should reraise in order to build a pot as big as possible and in case that our opponent also has a very strong hand or we have the image of being an aggressive bluffer. In most cases a call would lead to another bet on the river, since our call is interpreted as a sign of weakness (with a straight) and our opponent could decide to value bet as well as to bluff on the river.

b. A straight has turned into a bigger straight

Our hand has improved, but overall the situation hasn't changed. The only situation where we would have an advantage is when we would have split the pot so far.

  • Example 4:

We have

The flop is .

The turn is the .

In this case we have an advantage over our opponent, who has . Now we are the only player who has the nuts (since we are holding a jack). Since the turn brings a flush draw and a on the river could counterfight our straight (if an opponent is holding ), we shouldn't give a free card and bet. This also has the advantage that we perhaps get called by an opponent, who would otherwise check.

c. A straight has turned into a flush

The question is, of course, with what kind of hand did our opponent call in the previous betting round (on the flop) or bet himself. Did he have a flush draw, a straight or a made hand? If we have made our flush, but only a small one, we have to be careful. Especially when we are up against several opponents, the risk increases that one of them has a higher flush.

If we however are holding the nut flush, we can continue our aggression, in case we have bet with our straight on the flop. Only few opponents would suspect that we have played a flush draw so aggressively and therefore assume that we are still betting with our straight and a weak flush could therefore now be the best hand.

When we are up against a good, aggressive player a check-raise could be an alternative, since he could try to make use of a scare card in form of a bluff. Likewise a player, who is holding a small flush, can attempt to win the pot with a bet. 

  • Example 5:

We are holding .

We have raised pre-flop in early position and were called by two opponents in late position.

The flop is .

We continue our aggression and bet the pot, both opponents call.

The turn is the .

We have the nut flush. Since two players called it is very likely that at least one of them has a set or a flush. We won't get more chips from a player, who is holding . But we shouldn't give the player with a set a free card and in addition to that we want to get action from the player with the flush. Thus, we should stay active and continue our aggression.

3. Case: I still have a made hand and the turn was probably a blank 

Depending on my hand I have to decide, if I'm still ahead after the calls on the flop.

In case I have hit a straight or a set on the flop and the turn brings a undercard to my set or a card that doesn't jeopardize my straight, then I'm probably ahead. But if I had bet with top two pair on the flop, it is definitely possible that I'm playing against a set or a better hand, even if the turn card seems to be a blank (either because it gave one of the opponents a set or he already had a set on the flop).

Let's look at another example:

  • Example 6:

We are in the big blind with .

A player in middle position raises, the button and the small blind calls, as do we.

Four of us see a flop of .

The small blind checks, we bet, two players call and the small blind folds.

The turn brings the .

Now an opponent could also have top two pair with a redraw (since he has a better draw such as or an ace with e.g. ) or a set (a set of kings or queens is rather improbable, since we have a king and a queen. It is therefore more likely that we are up against a set of deuces or threes). In addition to that, there are also a lot of draws possible, of course, such as (12 outs).

If a , , or  appears on the river we could be beaten (by a set, a straight or a better two pair).
In case an opponent has a set, then we have a maximum of four outs. Against all other card combinations we are still ahead. So we should bet again. If we are raised, we have to consider whether we should fold against this specific opponent or not.

In the next article we will look at situations where the turn card devaluates our hand and we will discuss concepts such as the bluff or semi-bluff in Pot Limit Omaha.
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