This is the third in a four-part series of articles covering basic strategy for PokerStars’ new game Fusion in a street-by-street manner. If you’d like to start from the beginning, the first article is here. If you’re not sure how Fusion is played, a comprehensive description and review of the game is here.
On the turn, players finally have all four of their hole cards, meaning that Fusion is finally starting to play a bit more like Omaha. That said, it’s not only the cards that matter, but all the action which came before, so it would be a mistake to think that you can start playing Fusion as if it was identical to Omaha once you reach the turn.
Specifically, ranges are going to be a lot wider on the turn because Fusion plays so loose on earlier streets. By the same token, hole cards will tend to be considerably less coordinated than in Omaha because players have only just received their fourth card, and there’s no guarantee it has anything to do with the rest of their hand.
In other words, pretty much any combination of two hole cards is possible, but the sorts of highly coordinated monster draws you see in Omaha will be rare. You’ll see more weird full houses on a 69J6 board than you will in Omaha, yet if it’s 69J4 instead, an opponent on a straight draw type of hand is not typically going to have as many outs on the river as you’d expect in Omaha.
There are no blanks
The fact that everyone received two cards at once – one community and one hole card – has one extremely important consequence, which is that you can’t afford to think of any turn as being “a blank.” Some turns are going to be wetter than others, of course, but no matter how irrelevant the community card seems, you can’t discount the possibility that an opponent received just the thing they were looking for in the hole.
For instance, players should be playing a lot of flopped one-pair hands with additional forms of equity, for reasons I explained in the last article. It’s important to remember, therefore, that any one-pair hand has roughly a 4% chance of improving to a set on the turn. That may not sound like a lot, but the fact that it exists as a possibility virtually every time you go to the turn means that it’s going to come up pretty much every session.
Similarly, if the flop made something like a flush or straight possible, you can’t think strictly in terms of whether the opponent had it on the flop or not. They may have been drawing to it in the hole as well. A classic example would be a board with three spades. If an opponent wakes up on a seemingly blank turn, it’s not just a matter of guessing whether they were slowplaying or going for a delayed bluff: it’s also entirely possible that they had a naked Ace of Spades in the hole and picked up a second spade to go with it just now.
In other words, level one thinking isn’t going to get you very far on the turn in Fusion. It’s not enough to ask yourself how strong your hand is on the current texture. Rather, you’re going to need to rely a lot on your opponents’ actions and your observations of their tendencies to deduce whether they improved or not, and if so, how much.
If you have any experience playing draw games like 2-7 Triple Draw or Badugi, that might serve you well here. In these games, you have very little direct information about how likely or not it is that your opponent improved. A player drawing two is likely to have improved somewhat, but unlikely to have made their hand, while a player drawing one is unlikely to have improved, but if they have, it’s to a made hand.
So it is in Fusion: on a wet turn, everyone is likely to have improved at least a bit, while on a dry one, there’s a lower chance of improvement, but if it happens, it’s likely to be improvement to a well-disguised monster. Interpreting your opponents’ actions accordingly is key.
Improve or die
The fact that improvement on the turn is so likely has another implication, which is that it’s now time to tighten up. It’s correct to play extremely loose preflop in Fusion and somewhat loose on the turn because there are so many cards left to see and equities run so close. The opposite is true on the turn, as there’s now only one card left to come and you’re assuming that your opponent(s) will usually now have stronger hands than they did on the flop.
In other flop games, the turn and river are close to equivalent, as you have the same chances to improve on each. Unless something happens to change your assessment of the situation, a draw which was good enough to see the turn with is usually good enough to see the river with. Not so in Fusion, where you’ve only got about half as much chance to improve on the river as you did on the turn. Intuitively, that means you should need about twice as many clean outs to go to the river as you did to see the turn.
In Omaha, the conventional wisdom is that you want to hit the flop hard or give up. In Fusion, it’s the same thing but on the turn. All those hands you would have been folding in Omaha but continued with in Fusion need to improve significantly on the turn, or else they do in fact become garbage.
Conveniently, the pot-limit structure of the game combined with its loose-passive nature on early streets means that the turn is also the point at which it’s likely to become expensive to continue. You’ll likely see more raising here and on the river than you did on earlier streets, especially from inexperienced opponents who don’t know how to evaluate the strength of their hand until they’ve received all four hole cards. The fact that so many chips are likely to go into the pot on the turn and river just makes it all the easier to let go of those high-potential hands that bricked the turn.
Position pays off
The fact that so much information was gained between the flop and the turn also means that this is the point in the hand at which having position really starts to pay off. It’s the advantage held on the turn and river that makes it worth your while to play virtually any hand preflop when you hold the dealer button.
For starters, it means you can bet a heavily polarized range of hands if it’s checked to you. For instance, if you have a draw that not only didn’t hit but became worse (for instance, a flush draw when the turn pairs the board, or a straight draw when a potential flush hit), rather than giving up you can take a stab at the pot, and hope your opponent’s check indicates that he also failed to improve.
Conversely, you’ll also have a lot of hands here that wouldn’t be worth calling a bet, but with which you’re happy to take a free card. These include all your draws with fewer than ten outs, and also marginal made hands like two pair which you can hope to take to showdown cheaply or perhaps use as bluff catchers on a dry river.
The fact that the button has access to these strategies means that when you’re out of position, balancing your range is even more important than usual. That means making sure that when you check, it’s with the intention of calling or raising at least as often as check-folding, since if a check means you’re surrendering most of the time, it becomes far too profitable for the player with position to bluff. It also means that when you’re betting out, you need to be bluffing a decent amount of the time.
The specifics of range-building are far beyond the scope of this article, but pay special attention to how often you’re check-folding the turn out of position. If your checks are met with an opponent’s bet more often than not, and you’re folding to a disproportionate number of those bets, you need to adjust.
If you find that your opponents are folding a lot when you bet out, you can adjust by taking some of the weak draws you’ve been check-folding and turning them into bet-fold semibluffs instead. Alternatively or additionally, you can punish your opponent’s aggression by developing a check-raising range, using a mix of some of those same weak draws as semibluffs, combined with some big draws and concealed monsters that you would usually be betting out with.
Taking all this together, here are the important points to remember when playing the turn in Fusion:
- Because they’ve received an additional hole card, you should expect that your opponents will have improved at least a bit most of the time, even if the turn looks like a blank.
- You should also expect that it will often become expensive to continue on the turn and river, because the game will start playing less passively.
- Consequently, you should be ready to give up most of the time if you haven’t improved significantly, except with those minority of hands which were monsters to begin with.
- The true value of position becomes apparent on later streets. The player with position can expect to force a lot of laydowns when checked to, while also having the option to take a free card with his own marginal hands.
- To counter the power of position, players out of position need to take care to balance their ranges, especially their checking ranges.
There’s now only one street left to look at: the river. Here, finally, the game will play a lot like Omaha, except with weaker expected ranges and more unlikely combinations cropping up.
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.