One of the most common patterns that I see in low level, live no limit games, is turn check-raises being very strong. We, as players, commonly go through the same stages and styles of playing when we first learn the game. For some reason between $1-$2 and $5-$5 people almost never raise the turn on the come as a draw.
I think that when players are very green to the game, say in the first few months of playing, they tend to play their hands relatively straightforward. They see that they have a strong hand so they bet it. The “trapping” level of sophistication is not in their game. They could not even consider waiting until the turn to raise with a set. However, as they gain more experience they start to learn that sometimes feigning weakness will allow one of their opponents to commit more money. This is where the $1-$2 to $5-5 levels come into play. Now, at this stage of their poker development they think that trapping is actually the BEST play. So you will seldom see someone fast play dry flops with sets because they think that the right play is to slowplay.
We can use this common tendency against them and we should not be afraid to bet and fold the turn to a check-raise. One of the things I have also noticed, as I have played quite a bit of $5-$5 at the Bicycle Casino lately, is that players give out a crazy amount of free cards on the turn—whenever a draw comes in—and I think it is because they are scared of being check-raised. But why should we be scared of betting if we know that when our opponent check-raises he always has us beat AND he will just call with worse? Let us take a look at a few examples that I saw go down recently.
$5-$5 NL, $700 effective stacks. Two players limp in from up front and a tighter gentlemen raises on the button to $30 with A♠ K♠. Both the limpers call. The flop comes out K♦ 6♣ 7♣. It gets checked to the preflop raiser who bets out $70. Both limpers call. The turn is the T♣ and it gets checked to the preflop raiser once again. What do you think that the right play is here? Obviously the T♣ is one of the worst cards in the deck for A♠ K♠ as it completes flush and straight draws. But can worse call us if we bet again? I would say definitely. Do we have to worry about folding our hand if we get check-raised? Certainty not against most straightforward completion that we encounter at $5-$5. However, I see 90% of the players at this level check back the turn. And the worse part is that if a blank comes on the river they will sometimes call off a large bet.
You could sometimes make the case of checking back the turn to fold to a river bet but remember to fold—I would not call unless you have reason to think that someone is trying to bluff you. The only time I check back these types of turns is if I have some sort of redraw and do not want to get jammed off of my hand. Say for example, instead of us having A♠ K♠ we have A♣ K♠. Here, we may want to check back so that we do not get blown off of our nut flush draw. However, if it gets checked to us on the river with a blank coming we should definitely value bet. Another example would be if we flopped a set—and more often than not top set. Let us say we raise with Q♦ Q♥ over two limpers in a $5-$5 game. The board comes out Q♣ 5♣ 6♦ and we continuation bet seventy percent of the pot. Both of our opponents call. The turn now comes a 9♣ and it is check to us again. In this example I would maintain that it is actually more likely that one of our opponents has a draw since we have three of the queens. Here, I might check the turn back to prevent getting raised and see if I can take a free card and fill up to the river. Whereas If I flopped middle set as the preflop raiser I may continue to bet the turn because it is so much more likely that someone is calling me down with top pair. You can check out a discussion of these concepts on the episode “Hands From A Capped Cash Game” on the Seat Open Podcast at SeatopenPoker.net.