How to play

  1. How to Play 
  2. Poker strategy 
  3. Betting 
  4. Turn and river 

How to play the turn and river in poker

Many poker players, particularly those new to poker, have their preflop and flop strategies nailed down. However, these same players neglect to put adequate time into devising a plan for what to do on the turn and, later, the river. Knowing how to proceed on the turn is crucial to success because many pots are won on this street, which are usually larger than those fought over on the flop.

There are several factors to consider regarding how to play on the turn. They include if you were the aggressor on earlier streets, if your opponent has the initiative, the board's texture, if you have a made hand or a draw, the number of opponents still in the hand, and those opponents' tendencies and playing styles.

You must realize that nobody has a good hand most of the time you reach the turn, and it is often the player that wants the pot the most that comes away with the chips. Of course, players do turn up – pardon the pun – with super-strong hands on the turn, but mostly, they will be relatively weak or be on a draw. Bear that in mind.


Fire More Second Barrels on the Turn

How often have you, or have you seen an opponent, raise before the flop, fire a continuation bet on the flop, and then check on the turn? We are willing to bet dozens of times per session is the answer. Players do this because they know they should be continuation betting frequently but have no plan for fourth street.

The simplest way to win more pots on the turn is to start firing more second barrels; that is, make your usual continuation bet and follow it up with a bet on the turn if your opponent calls. Betting again on the turn screams that you have a strong hand, so your opponent needs a great hand to look you up, or they need to be willing to bluff raise you, which most players are not.

You should not double-barrel against everyone, or you will get crushed. Villains that rarely fold to a flop continuation bet but rarely get to showdown are prime candidates for firing a turn bet at.


Do Not Be Afraid To Try to Steal Pots

You will not always be the preflop aggressor; you will sometimes find yourself having position on your opponent having called a raise. Now imagine this scenario: your opponent raises from middle position, you call in the cutoff with 9c-8c, and the flop falls Th-6c-3s. Villain makes a continuation bet (as they always do), and you call. The turn is the Qd and your opponent checks. You should almost always bet here.

The whole premise of floating the flop is to pounce on the first sign of weakness. Your hole cards do not matter in this spot. Your opponent has shown weakness, and you must take advantage of that.

You should proceed cautiously any time someone shows aggression preflop and on the flop, checks the turn, then check-raises your attempt to steal the pot. Such a play is rarely made as a bluff and is almost always a stellar hand. We would instantly fold if that happened in our example above. Still, we should also consider folding a hand as strong as a pair in this situation because such check-raises are usually made with hands far stronger than a single pair.


Check-Raise Those Who Habitually Double Barrel

You will often find yourself in a pot with an opponent playing a loose-aggressive style or who is a complete maniac that splashes their chips around like they have no value. These players only have one thought in their minds, and that is to bet, bet, and bet some more.

Watch for players who are raising a lot preflop, making continuation bets all the time, and who follow up that c-bet with another shot on the turn. Remember earlier when we said nobody hardly has a good hand on the turn? A hyper-aggressive opponent betting every turn is attempting to buy pots through pure aggression; do not let them.

These players with one-track minds are perfect for check-raising on the turn when you are out of position against them. Even the craziest opponents will have difficulty putting more chips in the pot when you show supreme strength on the flop.


Do Not Forget About Pot Control

We have only talked about showing aggression on the turn to win more money so far, but controlling the pot by checking behind is an important strategy to learn. Players are less likely to fold once the pot grows large. In addition, depending on stack sizes, betting again on the turn can create a situation where you face an all-in bet on the river, which is excellent if you have the goods but terrible if not.

You control the pot by raising preflop, making a continuation bet on the flop when checked to, and then checking behind on the turn. Holdings such as top pair weak kickers, middle pair, draws, or a slight overpair are hands to consider checking behind and controlling the pot. Of course, you should also occasionally bet these hands, but against tight opponents when the turn has not changed the hand or against opponents who rarely bet the river and you have some showdown value, controlling the pot with a check is a viable play.


What About the River?

The river is one of the most straightforward streets in Texas Hold'em because you have all the possible information to base your decision on. You either have a hand or have missed when you find yourself on the river.

You want to bet for value if you believe you have the best hand, and your opponent will call you with a worse holding. Conversely, if you have a weak hand, you may want to bluff at the pot because you have no other way of winning. Be aware that your bluff has to be believable for it to work, and you must put your opponent on a weak hand they will not call with.

The trickiest part of river play is when you find yourself on fifth street with a mediocre hand you are still trying to figure out what to do with. Your actions depend on how the rest of the hand progressed and the opponent you are up against. It is best to check or check behind and miss out on some value if your hand is not strong enough to call a raise or check-raise.