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Play Like a Pro When The Turn Pairs The Middle Card

When the turn card pairs the board in a heads-up pot, the dynamic between the players changes greatly. This article will help you play these spots better than you currently are.

The following content focuses on when to continue betting (as the preflop raiser who c-bet on the flop) in single raised pots when the board pairs on the turn. I’ll refer to betting again as “double barreling” throughout the article.

Let’s dive in.

This article is marked as advanced. If you’d prefer more fundamental reading about poker strategy, check out introductory articles here.

Double Barreling When In Position

There are two major situations in which you should double barrel once the turn pairs the board:

  • After c-betting on a high frequency c-bet flop
  • After c-betting on a medium frequency c-bet flop

Let’s take a look at some solver simulations and then I will explain the “why” behind the solver’s preferred strategy.

The High Frequency C-Bet Flop

Let’s take a very common situation, Button vs Big Blind, and a high-frequency c-bet flop: K♠ T♣ 4.

This type of board (rainbow, disconnected, two broadway cards) heavily favors the button, who has the nut advantage and the equity advantage. Thus, the optimal strategy is to c-bet with every hand in his range:

flop-sim-on-kt4-button-vs-big-blind

Note: The solver “only” c-bets 89% of the time, but I recommend simplifying your strategy in these spots by c-betting every hand 100% of the time. There will be virtually no drop in expected value (EV) and it will be way easier to execute in-game.

Now, let’s take a look at what the solver recommends after the turn pairs the Ten (so the board is K♠ T♣ 4 T♠) and the Big Blind checks again:

turn-sim-board-pair-on-k-t-4-t-button-vs-big-blind

The solver now bets with an extremely tight range (just 12% of hands), and its preferred size is an overbet.

What’s the reason for this big shift in strategy from the flop to the turn? It’s now the Big Blind who has a massive range advantage over the Button. After calling on the flop, the Big Blind’s range has been narrowed mostly to hands with at least some showdown value (Kx, Tx, 4x, pocket pairs).

The Button still has the nut advantage (driven by more combos of KT, 44, KK and TT), but he’s also got a ton of nothing hands that c-bet the flop as a bluff. In other words, a huge proportion of the Button’s range is trash while a huge proportion of the Big Blind’s range is made hands.

Let’s zoom in on the specific hands the solver likes betting as the Button.

As far as the value-betting range goes, the solver prefers to bet with KK, AT and 44 for value, while checking back KT and TT. This makes sense because KT and TT massively block the hands that are most likely to call an overbet (namely Kx and Tx hands).

As far as the bluffing range goes, take a look at how the solver plays the flush draw combinations here:

solver solution for flush draw on paired turn

The solver is heavily polarized here as well, choosing to only barrel with:

  • The nut flush draws (except the one with a pair)
  • Half of the second nut flush draws
  • Combo draws
  • Open-enders
  • Gutshots with a spade
  • Some A♠-X hands*

*These become amazingly profitable bluffs when the river is a spade.

Now that we’ve covered turn play after high frequency c-bet flops, let’s cover a medium frequency c-bet flop (keep an eye out for strategic differences).

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The Medium Frequency C-Bet Flop

Let’s take a look at another Button vs Big Blind scenario, but this time on a more connected board: 9 6 4♠.

flop-sim-9-6-4-two-hearts-button-vs-big-blind

On this board, the Button doesn’t have the nut advantage and his equity advantage is smaller. There’s also more equity to be denied on this flop (i.e. more overcards and weak draws).

For these reasons, the solver prefers using a bigger bet size with a polarized range. Anywhere from a 50% pot-sized bet to an overbet should work fine.

Now let’s see what the solver thinks is the best strategy for double barreling when the turn pairs with the (9 6 4♠) 6:

turn-sim-board-pair-9-6-4-6-button-vs-big-blind

The solver now prefers betting small at a low frequency.

Why is this strategy best? While the Button still retains the nut advantage, the Big Blind has a lot more (non-made) drawing hands in his range compared to the previous K-T-4-T board. Coupled with the fact that the Button has many hands that benefit from denying equity (hands like A9, TT, and JJ), a small bet size is the best option for the Button.

As far as the Button’s value betting range goes, trips and better will bet every time. Also, thin value hands that benefit from denying equity are also in this range: A9, TT and JJ.

The bluffing range looks a bit different than you might expect. The Button is not encouraged to barrel with his equity draws (like flush draws) because the Big Blind has a big arsenal of hands with which to check-raise — i.e. the Big Blind will often have trips, check-raise, and force the Button to fold those high-equity draws.

I filtered the Button range to just flush draws and straight draws in the solver and here is the result:

filtered-for-draws-only-on-9-6-4-6-two-hearts

That’s a very high 75% check frequency for all of the gutshots, open-enders, and flush draws.

To prevent the disaster scenario of folding these good draws, the solver instead chooses to bluff with low equity hands with good blockers. The best bluffing hands block trips and/or top pair while also unblocking the folding range (flush draws, gutshots, open-enders) and super high equity bluffs such as combo draws.

The very low equity bluffs with which the solver likes betting are:

  • KJ without heart or diamond
  • KT without heart or diamond
  • QJ/QT/JT without heart or diamond
  • K3/Q3 of spades or clubs

This is probably a lot different from how most people play this situation!

5 Key Takeaways from These Examples

1. When the turn pairs the middle card after you’ve c-bet the flop, you should play a tight double barrel strategy.

2. You should focus on value-betting with very strong hands, as well as some vulnerable made hands if you have many of them (as it was in our second example).

3. You should bluff with either very strong draws or very weak hands with good blockers.

4. If there are no vulnerable hands in your range, you should use a very big size.

5. If there are some vulnerable hands in your range, you should use a smaller bet size.

Final Thoughts

I want to end this article with the stipulation that these strategies are optimal against players who do not have balanced donking ranges on the turn, which will be the case for most of your opponents.

That’s all for this article, I hope you enjoyed it and that you learned something new from it. If you like this type of advanced content, please make sure to let me know in the comment section down below. As usual, if you have any questions or feedback please leave them there as well.

Read this one next if you haven’t already (it’s great): 3 Spots You Should Almost Never C-Bet

Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!

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