"The Turn" by Daniel Negreanu

onebourbon

onebourbon

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Hi all, this is a bit lengthy so if you're impatient skip it...for beginners I find it excellent reading.

The Turn
By Daniel Negreanu

In any form of hold'em, it is my opinion that the turn is the most difficult and most crucial street to play. Learning which hands to play before the flop can be learned, and simple rules can be used to play relatively well on the flop. The turn, though, is what separates the great players from the average players. It's the meat of the hand.

Of course, river play is important, as well: knowing when to value bet, save a bet, try to pick off a bluff, or attempt a bluff yourself. But by the time you get to the river, the pot's usually so big that it's correct to call with any hand you think has a reasonable chance of winning. Calling on the river can never be all that bad.

It's the turn then, that is the trickiest to play. In limit hold'em, the bet doubles, adding even more importance to fourth street. In pot-limit, preflop and flop action affect the size of the bet allowed, so you may have to face a very large bet on the turn, and possibly again on the river. This is not true in no-limit, as the maximum bet is equal on all streets; however, that doesn't mean that turn play isn't crucial in that game, as well. In no-limit tournaments, though, I think you'll find that the most crucial street is preflop.

By the turn, you should have enough information about your opponents' hands to narrow down their holdings some. After factoring in their preflop action, their play on the flop, and the texture of the board, the turn is the street where you'll need to make the key decision as to what your opponents are holding. Here is a simple example of a common, difficult turn decision in limit hold'em:

A player raises from first position preflop, and you make it three bets from middle position with Q-Q, and take the flop heads up. The flop comes K 9 6. Your opponent checks, and you bet. Now, he raises you. Let's say for this example that you decide to just call the raise and see what develops on the turn (reraising is another option here, but I'll save that play for another column). The turn brings the 2, and your opponent bets into you. What should you do?

Well, it depends on a multitude of variables. What could your opponent have? There are several possibilities to consider: A-K, K-Q, or K-X, for that matter; also, 6-6, 9-9, A-A, K-9, and so on. These are all hands that have you drawing dead to two outs, but what else could he have? Could he also have a flush draw? Possibly a hand like Q-J, J-10, Q-10, or 8-7? How about A-9, J-J, or 10-10? These are all hands you can beat.

This is when you'll need your poker skills the most. You'll have to go into your memory bank, and think through the action on this hand, and compare it to hands you've seen your opponent play in the past. Does this player play lots of hands, or is he usually very tight from early position? Is this player capable of making a move like this without having a king or better?

Once you've run all of this through your mind, it's time to take action. Let's say for this example that you decide there is a 50 percent chance that your queens are good; what should you do? I'm guessing that most of you are saying call on the turn and again on the river. That has to be the best way to play the hand, right? Wrong.

There is an even better way to play this hand if you decide to play it at all. Why not raise? Think about it: If you are going to call the turn and the river regardless, raising costs you no extra money (unless your opponent is a timid player and might check a king on the river if a scare card comes). Once you've raised on the turn, you can simply check down the river if you are worried you are beat, or that you won't get called by a worse hand in this spot.

The beauty of playing it this way is that if you happen to be wrong and your opponent does have a king, you'll win an extra bet on the river if you catch a third queen. And if you are right that your opponent has a draw, you'll be getting extra value from the hand by making him pay two bets to beat you rather than just one. And, heck, if your opponent is worried his king is no good, you may even be able to get him to lay down the best hand! All in all, if you are going to call him down anyway, raising is a win-win situation.

Of course, if you raise and are reraised, you will likely have to fold to the third bet and lose your opportunity to catch the third queen. However, you can be pretty sure that if you are reraised at this point, your opponent has you beat.

I recently played a hand in which this situation came up at the Four Queens Poker Classic tournament against T.J. Cloutier. We were threehanded in the $1,060 buy-in limit hold'em tournament when this hand took place:

I raised from the button with two black sevens, and T.J. reraised me from the big blind. The flop came Q 3 3, and T.J. bet out, as expected. I wanted to find out where I was in the hand, so I raised, and T.J. called. When he just called, I felt comfortable that I had the best hand.

The turn then brought the K, and T.J. bet out. Having played with T.J. for countless hours, his bet seemed suspect to me. I didn't believe he had a king, and decided I wasn't going to throw my sevens away, so I raised.

Raising had the same benefits in this hand as it did in the other example I shared with you:

1. If T.J. had a flush draw, I'd be making him pay two bets to make it.

2. If I was wrong and T.J. did have a king, I would win an extra bet if I was lucky enough to catch a 7 on the river.

3. If T.J. was semibluffing with anything from 8-8 to a pair of queens, there was a chance that I'd get him to throw it away, thinking I had a king, a 3, or possibly even a full house.

T.J. called, and the river brought the 2, and T.J. checked. If I was beat when T.J. called the turn, I didn't think he'd fold on the river, so betting seemed pointless. If I was wrong, oh well. If I was right, and T.J. was drawing, there was zero value in betting the river. So, I checked. T.J. said, "Ace high," and I won the pot. T.J. didn't show his hand, but I suspect he had either A-J or A-10 and was drawing to an ace and a gutshot straight. With seven potential outs, that was enough for him to call my raise on the turn.

Now, these are just two examples of hands in which the key decision came on the turn, but there are millions of examples we could cover. Before I let you go, I want to cover just a couple more.

Having played anywhere from $10-$20 to $500-$1,000 hold'em, I've noticed key differences in the way my opponents play the turn. In a typical $15-$30 game, it seems as though players are often so worried about being raised that they'll check a hand they should bet. This happens much less often in a typical $80-$160 game. Here is an example:

You raise before the flop from middle position with A-K, and only the big blind calls you. The flop comes 10 4 4 and your opponent checks to you. You bet, and he calls. The turn brings the 9, and your opponent checks. What should you do? It depends. (Don't you hate it when people say that?)

Really, though, it does. What type of player is the big blind? With what types of hands will he call you on the flop? If he had a 10 or a 4, would he check it to you twice? If he had a hand like 8-8, would he play it this carefully? The bottom line is, the correct play will come from your read on your opponent. That's why it's difficult to teach good turn play, because so much of it is read-dependent.

What I see more often in $15-$30 games than I do in $80-$160 games is the player with A-K fearing a check-raise, and giving away a free card. Of course, I'm not saying you should bet blindly, but I think it's important to stay aggressive on the turn; otherwise, you become very predictable.

OK, here's the last example. A player limps in from first position, and you raise from middle position with J-J. The big blind calls, as does the limper, so three of you take a flop of 8 7 4. Both players check and call your bet. The turn brings the Q. Both players check. What should you do now?

The Q is certainly a scare card. The flush got there, an overcard hit, and someone could already have a straight, two pair, or a set. This is all true, but it's also true that if you walk outside your house today, you might get struck by lightning - yet you walk out of your house every day. Getting check-raised is a lot less painful, but the way some players play the turn, you wouldn't think so!

What you should do in a situation like this is think. I'm not saying bet, and I'm not saying check. The correct play can be determined only by understanding your opponents' tendencies. Giving a free card in this situation might be a disaster. On the other hand, if you've picked up a tell that someone is setting you up, betting would be silly.

The more hands-on experience you get dealing with these situations, the better you'll be able to analyze them and make plays based on your read of opponents' tendencies. If you want to take your game to the next level, playing better on the turn is a good place to start.
 
aliengenius

aliengenius

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DN is a fking calling station, looking for a reason to call...:D
 
onebourbon

onebourbon

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Once again I beg to differ....but hey - we're entitled each to their own right? :p
 
joosebuck

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summarised:

"well it depends on your opponent"
 
Rockbuster

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great advice for serious poker players....Sorry we have been around and posting very busy with working, building our buisness, kids and personal family issues gizz and i hope to be able to get on the forum more often and talk to u all.............Rock and gizzi
 
Gaijin

Gaijin

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I like Daniel Negreanu, always fun to watch him play,
nice reading material mate, thanx
btw, does anyone have any of his books in ebook format?
 
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Shiv4life

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any of his ebooks free more importantly (if they are available)?
 
stormswa

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ummm

DN is a fking calling station, looking for a reason to call...:D


was this a joke or aprils fools day when this was written?

Daniel and calling station have never ever been in the same sentence before, Daniel is hyper aggressive and the best reader in the game. Yes he is thats not a opinion that is a fact backed up by every pro out there. They all say they wish they had his reading ability.


Now im not on the Daniel bandwagon anymore, I like him but he is not my favorite player or anything but I do respect his game.
 
aliengenius

aliengenius

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was this a joke or aprils fools day when this was written?

Daniel and calling station have never ever been in the same sentence before, Daniel is hyper aggressive and the best reader in the game. Yes he is thats not a opinion that is a fact backed up by every pro out there. They all say they wish they had his reading ability.


Now im not on the Daniel bandwagon anymore, I like him but he is not my favorite player or anything but I do respect his game.

It is only partly in jest. Of course he is a great player.

I disagree that he is "hyper aggressive": he often limps, tries to see cheap flops, and often attempts to control the size of the pot by checking or calling.

This is all part of his "small ball" poker strategy, and he is excellent at it.

However, I would say that "hyper aggressive" has never been used in a sentence when describing him.

From DN's most recent blog entry:

"It’s so strange, you ever see me call out someone’s hole cards, am like 99% sure I’m right that I’m beat… but then call anyway!"

Also, he is a notorious blind defender.
 
Y

YouplaBoum

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Good read! I'll try to apply this in my game =)
 
amygrantfan

amygrantfan

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thanks for posting his article, it was a good read. now here's why i'm stupid. as i'm reading the article, i get QQ in the tournament. and i think, oh, daniel just told me what to do. so i go back to the article to read, but my time is running out. so i quickly make a bet (a king is showing). i realized, i was supposed to check because i was in position. anyway, i got reraised, and i had to fold. the guy was nice and showed me AK.
 
W

WhodeyX

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Yeah I concur with what Storm said earlier. DN calls out people's exact hands way too often. I would easily agree he is the best reader in poker from what I've watched. I love watching him tear through amateurs in the early rounds of big televised tournaments. It's like watching pigs going to the slaughter.
 
Nigel1963

Nigel1963

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Thanks for the article, enjoyable reading. I enjoy watching DN play, he is a entertainer as well as a great poker player.
 
C

chefantwon

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Interesting read. I think the "depends on the player" refers to how folks are playing. Tight/loose

Although I have seen my fair share of trappers out there, but a 2 card check usually means your fairly sure that no one has the card in question.
 
B

Bytie_nl

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really interesting indeed ..
I guess a 2 check could mean a slowplayed set indeed, but sets are constant threats and can't be taken in consideration too much, in order not to paralise ur game.
A bet at the turn buys information if ur opponent is tight and sweetens the pot for the surprise winner if the opponent is a loose maniac.
So I woulde defenitely bet the tight player and maybe check the maniac as his respons won't reveal too much :)
Another option would be to check-fold if any overcard hits. You save bets but won't win any tournament anymore (slowly vaporising ur stack in the increasing blinds does not appeal to me :D )
If i go out I, go out with a bang!
 
bluesboy47

bluesboy47

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Thanks for another quaility blog. Great advice regardless of what your level of play is.
 
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