Poker Lesson 39

Pot odds, part VI: On checking after the turn
In the previous lesson, I showed you that sometimes you should consider a raise, and not just a call (assuming first of all that the pot odds motivate that call). But now, it is time to take a look at another situation: when the players acting before you have checked to you after the turn (the fourth board card), and you are last to speak with a drawing hand.

Yes, I know that I several times in previous lessons have preached on the importance of bets and raises as an efficient weapon, but you should not automatically reach for your chips here. Certainly it is tempting to bet out after the turn, even though you only have a drawing hand, since none of your opponents seems to hold anything good and you just might win the pot by a show of strength. In fact, there will be many situations when it is correct of you to do this.

However, with a drawing hand your first option should be to check here, and take a free look at the river card. The fact that your opponents checked to you after the turn, does not mean that they will not consider calling a bet from you. And sometimes you will instead face a raise right back at you after your bet, when one of the others is slowplaying a monster – or is running a stone-cold bluff.

But the main problem you will face, if you fire in a bet in the above situation, is that you might wind up in a very troublesome situation in the last round of betting. Let us assume that you in fact acted last after the turn, bet out, and got called by two other players. The river is a "blank" card, not helping you in the least. Once again your two opponents check to you, and once again you have to make the same decision: check, or bet out again?

Since the last card on the board did not help you, you will in all likelihood lose in a showdown if you check now; your bet after the turn has simply cost you money, without getting you anywhere. And if you now instead bet out after the river card as a bluff, you may receive one or two calls simply because the pot odds motivate this from their standpoint: your bet after the turn, followed by two calls, created a pot which was big enough.

It is thus very often in your own interest to take a look at that river card as cheaply as possible. If you do not hit your draw, you will have saved money; and if you hit your draw, then and not before it is time to try to "sell" your hand as expensively as possible. Because of this you should as your first option consider also checking after the turn in the above situation, unless you can spot weakness in your opponents!