Fixed Limit Hold’em: The Turn

The turn is one of the most difficult streets to play in Limit Hold’em, mainly because any bets you now make must be twice the size they were before and after the flop. This means that mistakes at this point can be costly.

It can often be correct to call a small bet on the flop when you only have a marginal hand, as long as you are willing to fold if faced with a big bet on the turn. It’s important therefore to take control by betting or check-raising the turn if you were the aggressor on the flop, especially if you are only playing against a few opponents.

Consider these situations:

You are the aggressor and have a strong hand

In Limit Hold’em, it’s common to raise preflop, and bet or raise on the flop if you hit. In situations like this it’s very important to stay aggressive on the turn if you think you still have the best hand – sometimes regardless of what the turn card actually is.

If you are out of position in a hand like this, you have two main options:

  • Bet
    This ensures that all the other players in the hand have to call at least one bet in order to see the river card. As a rule, it’s often correct to bet if you are unsure whether the other players will bet or not.
  • Check-raise
    This is the more risky play and should only really be attempted when you’re sure that one of the players behind you will bet. This works particularly well against aggressive opponents and can lead to big pots. You should however be cautious of check-raising when there are straight or flush draws on the board.

If you are in position and have a strong hand, you should almost always bet if the action is checked round to you. Players who are chasing draws will be forced to put money in the pot again if they want to see the river card. You should not bet however if you suspect that an opponent has hit their draw and is now trying to check-raise.

You are the aggressor and have a weak hand

This is a much more difficult spot to be in. If you have a weak hand, you can attempt a bluff on the turn by doing what’s known as ‘firing a second barrel’. The idea here is that you are trying to force your opponents to fold by continuing to represent a strong hand. Consider the following before making a move like this however:

  • The number of players in the hand
    In general, you should only fire a second barrel when up against a few opponents only. The more players in the hand, the lower the probability that all of them will fold.
  • The board
    Some boards are more suitable for continuation bets than others. For example, boards with one high and several low cards can often be good for making a continuation bet. But a board with several draws can be more dangerous, especially with several players in the hand.
  • Your opponents’ playing styles
    In general you should avoid making this move against weaker opponents who tend to call most hands down to the river.
  • Position
    If you have a fairly weak hand, you should check/fold when out of position. If you have position however, you should consider betting if the action is checked to you.
You are not the aggressor, but want to take control of the hand

In some situations you may have played passively up until the turn, but now want to take charge of the action for the following reasons:

  • You now have a strong hand, possibly the best.
  • You have a strong draw and are trying to semi-bluff. This means you are deciding to bet or raise with a hand that is probably behind, but has the potential to become strong on the river. The aim is to get all your opponents to fold. If this doesn’t work, you still have a chance to win the hand if you hit your draw on the river.
  • You want to protect your hand.

If you are in position against the previous aggressor, this is quite an easy move to make – you simply have to raise. But if you are out of position, you have two options:

  • Bet
  • Check-raise

In general, it’s usually correct to try a check-raise, because it forces every player who wants to stay in the hand to put more money into the pot. However, you run the risk of losing a lot of value if you have the best hand but everyone else checks behind. If you bet, you force every other player to either call or fold. The more aggressive your opponents are, and therefore the more probable it is that they will bet the turn, the more you should try a check-raise. However, if you suspect that your opponents will check, you should bet.

Calling a bet on the turn

In general, you should always try to play poker aggressively. This means you should often fold or raise on the turn instead of calling. If you’re unsure whether calling or folding is the correct decision, ask yourself the following:

  • How likely is it that you have the best hand?
  • If you don’t think you have the best hand, how likely is it that it will improve on the river?
  • If you do have the best hand, how likely is it that your opponent will improve their hand on the river?
  • What are your pot odds?
Calling a raise on the turn

A lot of players make the mistake of calling too many raises on the turn. This often leads to a situation where, because of the size of the pot, they almost always have to call on the river, which can be costly. You have to keep in mind that many opponents with strong hands only call on the flop and then raise on the turn when the bets are twice as big. If you are going to call the opponent’s raise on the turn, first consider the conditions under which you would call on the river as well.

Against passive opponents who only raise when they have premium hands, you should fold average hands like top pair with a low kicker, or middle pair. By contrast, against aggressive opponents who are possibly bluffing (or semi-bluffing) the turn, you should not fold an average hand in most situations.