Poker Strategy: The Turn Overbet
Thanks to solvers, we know a lot more about what makes a good poker strategy than we used to. Texas Hold’em hasn’t been solved per se, but computers have basically figured out how to play Limit Hold’em optimally, and they seem to have heads-up No-Limit Hold’em figured out, too. All of this within the last three years or so.
Actually, thinking poker players had most of the right moves down pat well before the solvers came along. The computers have simply proven their theories correct (and given us some recommended optimal strategies to consider). One of the moves that started gaining traction sometime around 2006 was the turn overbet – betting larger than the pot on the turn. People weren’t overbetting much at all before the poker boom. They still need to do it more, if the solvers are correct.
When to Overbet the Turn in Hold’em
In theory, if you play No-Limit Hold’em at Ignition or live at the casino, you should be ready at any moment to bet just about any amount in relation to the pot, from minimum bets to all-in. Making this work in practice requires a ton of calculations, and then you have to train yourself to apply all those different bet sizes correctly. Only computers and savants can do that; when you’re just starting to learn poker, stick with a simplified strategy that only involves one bet size, maybe two-thirds of the pot.
Once you’re ready to take the next step, overbetting the turn is a relatively easy concept to grasp. Let’s say you open-raise pre-flop from the hijack in a 6-max cash game, 100 big blinds deep, and the big blind calls. The flop is somewhat dynamic; say, King-Eight-Seven with two spades. Your opponent checks, you fire a small continuation bet, she calls. The turn is a blank, a Two of Clubs. This can be a great spot to overbet if you have a fairly strong hand that would still rather avoid seeing the river, like an overpair, or even a set. Getting your opponent to fold a draw (maybe Ten-Nine, or a flush draw) because she doesn’t have the right pot odds to call isn’t so bad – at least you win the pot. Even better, she might call with her draw, or with a worse made hand like top pair, top kicker. You’ll still be ahead most of the time on the river.
When playing against good opponents, you’ll definitely want to mix in a certain number of bluffs in this spot. You’ll also want to overbet in other, similar situations when the board runs out differently and/or you have something else in your hand. But if you want to start using turn overbets at the intermediate level or lower, go ahead and stick with the situations that best fit this example, keeping your bets value-heavy until you think the other players are catching on.