Playing the River when You Have a Marginal Hand

You need to start thinking about folding on the river when your hand isn’t close to the strongest possible hand. Again, however, you need to take both your opponents’ tendencies and the texture of the flop into account when deciding whether or not to bet or call on the river. Remember the hand in Figure 11.1, but give yourself two pairs instead of the one-card straight made possible by the board. You can assume with some certainty that none of your opponents can beat your two pair with another two pair or a set, but there’s a very good chance that someone caught a straight on the end. If a fairly solid player who hadn’t bet before the river suddenly bets, you should give them credit for a hand and fold. If you’re uncertain about whether you’re beat, go ahead and call. It’s better to lose the $10 it’ll cost you to call than the $90 in the pot.

Another situation you need to look out for is when you have top pair but another player has raised consistently throughout the hand. For example, if you have A♠J♠ in the big blind and called a pre-flop raise, you’re pretty much stuck checking and calling when the board comes J♥3♦7♣. You lose to anyone who has 33, 77, JJ, QQ, KK, or AA (J7 and 73 are unlikely given the raise), but you have to be on guard against giving away a pot to an aggressive player who is pressing with AK.

Playing When You Have a Weak Hand

This situation is easy to play. If you’re drawing at a flush or straight and didn’t hit it, fold, unless you backed into top pair, and the player who drove the betting through the turn checked on the river. Even then, you should check, unless you’re last to act and you have top pair with a decent kicker.

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