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How to play a good or bad card on the turn or river

No Limit Holdem RSS / / 13 June 2011 / Leave a Comment

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Most players are aware of how 'good' or 'bad' a card can be on the turn or river in Hold'em or Omaha. Good cards can throw up great bluffing opportunities, make your hand much safer to proceed with, or make you the stone cold nuts. Bad cards can turn an all-in hand into something to fold, or leave you in impossible situations against an opponent's range. In-between these two opposites though, we have a wide range of cards that can appear good, but are actually very bad and vice versa.

Take the following hand in Omaha. You raise Ac2c6h7h and get a tight, thinking caller from the big blind. The flop comes out 8s9sKs. He checks and you fire a ¾ pot bet which they call. The turn is the 10h. He check calls another ¾ bet again. The river is the 9h. He checks a final time. Some players habitually look at this sort of spot as a great time to fire that big third barrel and try and win the pot. After all, the tight player seems to have a hand like a low flush - surely they can't call a big bet now the board has paired?

However, despite the opponent most likely having a weak hand, the story you are now telling is terrible if you fire the river. Most of the time, any sets/two pair combos shuts down on the turn with so many made flushes/straights out there, if you have the nut flush or a straight you most likely check the river behind, so that basically leaves a big percentage of your range as air - not good considering you have a tight thinking player who has been unmoveable so far.

If anything, the board pairing is a bad card for you here, as although it makes many more combos of hands that can beat an opponent's hand like say, a small flush, it totally wrecks the story you have been telling, which to a thinking opponent is a much more dangerous thing than extra hand combinations.

Poker is full of strange situations where something that appears a great thing to do is actually totally wrong, and something that can appear terrible can actually be right (as an example of this second point, how many of you believed the guys and gals shoving 5bb with suited connectors etc in tournaments were anything but fish when you first started learning the game?). It is poker's counterintuitive nature which makes it so complex, and why it takes such a long time to fully understand the delicate nuances that go into decision making in poker - something illustrated well by how easily what looks a good card can actual turn out to be a terrible one.

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