Do You Value Bet the Turn or Check Hoping to Get to Showdown?

Jonathan Little

It’s been a few months since my last strategy article here on PokerNews, but I’m excited to announce that you can once again look forward to new content on a weekly basis.

This week, I am going to examine a hand played by one of my students in an online WPT500 event. In this particular hand, my student flopped top pair but faced a difficult situation on the turn when it brought three to a club flush. As you read the hand below or watch it play out in the accompanying video, ask yourself do you usually value bet the turn or check behind and hope to get close to the showdown?

The tournament was played in a format that’s becoming quite popular where players play Day 1 online, make it into the money, and then travel to play Day 2 live. In this scenario, we are 100 big blinds deep and action folds around to the player in the small blind who raises to 2.7 bb.

I think right off the bat this is a pretty big mistake by the opponent as you’re giving us a good price to call from the big blind with our {a-Spades}{5-Diamonds}. I would much prefer a raise of 3.5-4 bb.

On the {a-Clubs}{q-Clubs}{10-Hearts} flop, our opponent bets and this is a situation where we have a very easy call. The problem with raising is what hands will continue? You will get called by all the hands that beat you plus a few worse hands, but when you call you keep your opponent in with their entire range and give them a chance to bluff.

The {7-Clubs} turn sees the player in the small blind check. This is a spot where I think it’s ok to bet as you could get your opponent to fold a flush draw, but you have to be careful how much you bet, maybe five-ish big blinds. If your opponent has a better hand like ace-jack, he’s probably not going to raise, and if he has a hand like queen-nine with no club he can still call and be way behind. I like a small bet and that’s what my student does betting 4.5 bb. If the opponent were to check-raise, I like a fold in this spot.

You may find that against some really strong players who are likely to check-raise aggressively you should perhaps not bet this hand and instead use it to call a river bet on a non-club card. Don’t think you have to bet here every time, but in general, I think this is a fine scenario to put out a small bet if you don’t think your opponent will check-raise you.

On the {9-Hearts} river, our opponent checks and we have to decide what to do. Do we bet for value? We might get called by a worse hand on a small bet, but there’s always the chance we encounter a check-raise. The question is, can we get called by worse? I think it’s close.

When you’re playing against players who will be aggressive, I think you should be more inclined to check behind. If I was playing this hand in a mid or high-stakes tournament I would check behind every time.

My student does check and this time he does lose as the small blind showed the {q-Diamonds}{7-Diamonds} for a turned two pair.

It’s important to make sure that whenever you do have a marginal made hand, you try to realize your equity by getting to showdown while also giving your opponent bad odds with the portion of their range you want to give bad odds, like a potential flush draw on the turn.

For a more thorough breakdown of this hand, check out my thoughts in the following video: