Knowing whether or not to fire that second barrel will have a huge impact on your overall results. Today I’m going to help you understand when to continue barreling and when it’s best to surrender the pot.
To help us build our turn c-betting strategy we’ll use our handy-dandy solver, poker theory, and some logic to put it all together.
Optimal Value-to-Bluff Ratios
Before we dive into hand histories I want to show you the math behind optimal value-to-bluff ratios. This section is quite dense with advanced poker theory, so feel free to skip to the examples if it doesn’t click. You don’t need to understand this section to learn from this article.
Optimal value-to-bluff ratios are easiest to calculate on the river because our bluffs should have 0% equity when called. This is in contrast to preflop, the flop, and the turn, where our bluffs will almost always have some equity when called. So, let’s work backward and start by evaluating a river example.
Suppose the pot is $100 on the river and we want to bet 75% of the pot with a perfectly balanced and polarized range. This means that our opponent will risk $75 to win a $250 pot ($100 pot + our $75 bet + his $75 call), which means that he needs to win 30% of the time ($75 / $250 = 0.30) with his bluff-catchers in order to break even on his call.
In order to make him indifferent between calling and folding–the goal of a balanced betting range–our range needs to contain 30% bluffs and 70% value bets. If we match these frequencies, our opponent’s calls will render him 0 expected value (EV) at best–worse if he plays imperfectly.
Now, let’s step back to the turn. The pot is $40 and we are considering a double barrel after c-betting on the flop.
Assuming the same bet sizing (75% pot), what should our value-to-bluff ratio be if we want to bet with a perfectly balanced and polarized range? Our opponent will, once again, need to win 30% of the time when he calls in order to break even ($30 bet / $40 pot + your $30 bet + his $30 call = $30 / $100 = 0.30).
Thus, we need to win the pot 70% of the time after we c-bet on the turn (100% – 30% = 70%). When we barrel the river with a perfectly balanced range, our opponent is effectively losing the pot (since both calling and folding will be 0 EV decisions for him) and when we check back we always lose because we never check a strong hand. This means we will need to barrel the river 70% of the time. (Note that the same thing happens for the flop. When we bet 75% of the pot on the flop we should be barreling 70% of the time on the turn.)
Now we have the two pieces of the puzzle needed to figure out our value-to-bluff ratio on the turn:
- 70% of our river bets should be value bets (which will be almost the same value hands as on the turn).
- The river should be barreled 70% of the time.
Multiplying these two frequencies is how we can find the theoretically optimal ratio of value bets to bluffs for our turn c-betting range:
0.70 x 0.70 = 0.49 = 49%
So, 49% of our turn bets should be value bets in this hypothetical spot.
Note: This formula is merely an approximation because it assumes that value bets have 100% equity and bluffs have 0% equity, which is not the case. Sometimes we will value bet a hand that is actually behind, just like we will sometimes bluff and draw out on our opponent. But an approximation is far better than nothing.
C-Betting on a Brick Turn — Hand Examples
One last reminder before we get into examples is that our turn c-bet strategy stems from the flop c-bet strategy. So, if we don’t have a well-built flop strategy, then our turn frequencies will be out of whack.
The strategy I suggest in each of the following spots assumes you are using a polarized flop c-betting strategy–like in the Upswing Lab. If you use a merged flop c-betting strategy in your games, the exact solutions below won’t be of any use to you, but the concepts we discuss will be.
Hand #1 — Dynamic Flop, Total Brick Turn
Online $0.50/$1. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $100.00.
Flop ($5.50): T♠ 9♠ 7♥
BB checks. Hero bets $4.10. BB calls
Turn ($13.60): 2♦
BB checks. Hero bets $10.30.
Below we can see what our well-balanced c-betting range looks like on this flop:
Editor’s note: We’ve highlighted the relevant information in red boxes throughout this article for those of you unfamiliar with solvers.
And now for our turn strategy.
Below is the solver’s solution which proves that the approximate math presented in the first section is very close to accurate (notice the turn barreling frequency):
You may have noticed the solver suggests using a mixed strategy with many hands (such as KQo). As mere humans we cannot mix these frequencies effectively, so we will need to simplify this strategy while still remaining fairly balanced.
Here’s the simplified range I would use on this turn:
When the turn does nothing to improve our range, we will need to give up and check with some of our missed draws. We would be over-bluffing if we bet with all of them, which would allow our opponent to exploit us by calling–or even raising–much wider on the turn.
In this case, I would continue betting with:
- The same value hands as the flop
- Open-ended straight draw
- Flush draws
- Combo draws
- Gutshots that block the flush draws (these hands perform well as triple barrels on flush-completing rivers).
I would give up with all worse hands–gutshots that don’t block the flush draw and backdoor flush draws that missed on the turn.
By constructing your strategy this way your value-to-bluff ratio on the turn will be very close to a theoretically optimal 1:1.
Hand #2 — Dry Flop, Brick Turn Brings Draws
Alright, new hand.
Online $0.50/$1. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $100.00.
Hero is dealt two cards on the BU
3 folds. Hero raises to $2.5. SB folds. BB calls.
Flop ($5.5): K♥ 9♠ 5♦
BB checks. Hero bets $4.1. BB calls
Turn ($13.60): 4♠
BB checks. Hero bets $10.3.
Below is the polarized c-betting strategy I would recommend on this flop:
Now let’s see what the solver suggests for the turn:
The solver continues value betting most hands from the flop–though it does check some at a mixed frequency–while bluffing most straight draws and flush draws.
We now need to build a simplified strategy that loses the minimum amount of EV compared to the GTO solution above. Here is what I would suggest that solution look like:
(This strategy retained 100% of the GTO strategy’s EV.)
We should continue barreling all of the value hands from the flop. Since the turn didn’t improve any of our draws to a strong made hand–as most bricks do–we will need to give up some of the weaker ones in order to avoid over-bluffing.
In this case, I suggest bluffing with all open-ended straight draws, flush draws, combo draws and some of the gutshots. Since all of them have exactly the same value, I would select which ones to give up based on blocker effects since we’ll be looking to barrel with them on the river very often. This is why we’d chose to bluff all the QJ combos, which block our opponent’s strongest Kx hands, while giving up the QTo and JTo combos.
Again, by building your strategy this way you will end up with an almost perfect 1:1 value-to-bluff ratio on the turn.
The trend I want to emphasize is this: When the turn doesn’t improve any of our semi-bluffs, we will need to get rid of the weakest ones.
Building a strong turn c-betting strategy starts with a very clear and solid plan for your flop c-bet strategy. Furthermore, you need to be very aware of your range going to the turn, and how the turn interacts with your range and your opponent’s range.
I will be releasing a series of articles on this topic, which will focus on exploring other types of turns and how they influence your strategy.
That’s all for today! As always, leave questions and comments below. And good luck out there, grinders!
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