Every hand that gets dealt at Ignition Casino has four possible phases known as streets: pre-flop, flop, turn, and river. Pre-flop is the most important of these streets to get right – the decisions you make here will have an increasingly large impact on later streets, and you might even win the pot before any community cards are dealt. Having said that, pre-flop play isn’t the most complicated part of a real money online poker game.
For that matter, playing the flop can be boiled down to some simple concepts that will help you get the most value when you play online poker for real money. It’s the turn and river in a poker hand where things get dicey. The more streets you travel down, the more money gets put in the pot, and the trickier the hand becomes. But with a little preparation and practice, you can start playing the turn and river like a boss. This guide will help you navigate those streets from beginning to end.
Before we get to those later streets, let’s take a moment to emphasize the importance of getting things right with your pre-flop betting strategy. When you decide what to do with your two (or four) hole cards, you’re setting up a chain of events that could lead to success or failure, and that end result could be big or small in stature – all depending on what you and your opponents do before the flop.
The best way to increase your chances of success on the turn and river is to use a solid starting range of opening hands pre-flop. By playing only your best hands from early position, then widening your range as you open from later positions, you make it less likely that you’ll dig yourself into a hole that you can’t get out of. Make pre-flop play the focus of your online poker strategy before you graduate to later streets.
How to Play the Flop
Let’s also take a quick look at the flop, since it is the next street you’ll have to navigate. When those three community cards come out, take a moment to assess the strength of your hand, whether you’re in position or out of position, and how many players are involved. You’ll want to have a basic go-to strategy for which moves to make (bet, raise, check, call or fold) depending on these three factors. Ideally, you’ll adjust this strategy to take into account the playing style of your opponents. Having a plan like this is an essential part of any good real money poker strategy.
If you’re in a relatively easy game with a lot of multi-way hands, just “bet your hand” for value and don’t worry too much about making fancy plays. But if you’re playing in a reasonably tough game, most of the hands you’ll get into should be against a single opponent, and those are the hands where strategy will be the most useful. Generally speaking, when you’re in position – as you should be more often when you use a good pre-flop strategy – you’ll want to bet or raise with your best hands and your best bluffs, call with your marginal made hands (along with some draws where appropriate), and check back or fold the rest. This will put you in the best shape possible for the next streets.
Playing the flop out of position is trickier. If you have a really strong hand, there will be times when you’ll want to check-raise or even check-call instead of leading out, so you don’t get your opponent to fold too soon. You’ll also be check-calling with a lot of medium-strength hands that you would have otherwise bet in position. And you won’t have the luxury of checking back weak hands; if your opponent bets after you check, your best option will usually be to fold. This is important to note, because it will change what kind of cards you might have in your range once the turn comes.
How to Play the River
Now we’ve reached arguably the most difficult street in online poker. Your approach pre-flop and on the flop should naturally lead you to make the right play on the turn. If you were the aggressor on the flop and the turn card is a blank, you can usually keep firing away whether you have a made hand or not, but if it’s a scare card, consider making a smaller bet when you double-barrel, or even check back if you’re in position and you’d rather take the free card.
Playing the turn when your opponent is the aggressor is where the pros separate themselves from the Joes. You can fold, call or raise; people generally don’t bluff-raise enough in this situation, by the way. If a scare card comes on the turn and you’ve got a strong draw, don’t be afraid to play it quickly. Your opponent might fold, but if he calls, you still might end up with the best hand on the river.
How to Play the Turn
When you’re on the river, all five community cards have been dealt, so there’s no more drawing to do – you’ve either made a hand or you haven’t. This makes the river easier to figure out than the turn, even if the risk is greater and your heart might be pounding. In general, you want to bluff less often on the river than you do on the turn, and less on the turn than the flop. And the stronger your hand is, the bigger you want to bet.
That’s especially true if you’re the one acting first on the river. What if you’re in position? If you’ve been the aggressor and your opponent checks, the same general concept applies, but if you’re the one calling down and your opponent fires again on the river, now you’ve got a choice to make. Pot odds will play a role; if your opponent bets small, you can call the river with a wider range of hands, since the risk is lower. If he bets big, you’ll need one of your stronger bluff-catchers to call with.
You could also raise the river, of course. Again, this play doesn’t get used nearly often enough, because people are risk-averse and don’t bluff-raise as often as the math suggests. But in certain situations, you can get your opponents to bet-fold the river. If you suspect they have a marginal made hand, and that fifth community card is a scare card that might have completed your straight or flush, this could be a good time to bluff-raise – especially if you have cards in your hand that block your opponent from holding the nuts. Just make sure you size your bluff the same as you would if you actually had that monster hand.
Poker Bad Beats
Before we wrap up, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the power of bad beats. Fortunes can change dramatically on both the turn and river; you can have a hand that’s strong on the flop, then the turn is dealt and you suddenly find yourself in a bad spot – maybe you had a made straight when the first three cards came out, but an unlikely turn card delivers a possible flush or full house to your opponent.
If you’re going to play poker online, tips won’t come any more valuable than this: The only way to inoculate yourself from getting tilted by bad beats is to realize that each street is a single phase of the hand with its own set of decisions, however related they may be. Don’t start dreaming about the pot you’re going to win when you get a strong hand; be prepared to change tack for every possible turn and river card that comes out. And you never know, what looks like a bad beat on the turn can swing back in your favor on the river. Play poker online at Ignition Poker right now and show us your new turn and river skills.