River Strategy

Were you Rivered?

If you’re going to bet on the river you’d better be prepared for at least one opponent if not more to call you, otherwise you’re just throwing your money away.

Before we get into any scenarios we should start by repeating what poker pros have been saying for years. If you think you have the best hand on the river you need to throw out a bet. Opponents who didn’t make their hand or believe their hand to be weak will fold and opponents who do think they have a winning hand will either call or raise you. Checking the river because you are unsure of the quality of your hand leaves your opponents with extra chips in their stack that should be in your stack. Also you should know by now the quality of your hand and have made up your mind as whether or not to bet or fold, not check. If you are on the other side of the coin and think you have a winning hand but aren’t sure and an opponent has bet at you the correct play is to call rather than raise, unless you smell a bluff / weakness. If you smell weakness you should probably raise. We say probably because some opponents may be wolves in sheep’s clothing, displaying weakness when they’re strong. Depending on how good of a read you have on your opponent’s style of play will tell you if you should just call or raise.

Now that you’re at the river card its best to make sure that the board hasn’t completed any flush or straight draws before you bet with your top pair or better. If you don’t see any then go right ahead and bet. If you do see any bet a little smaller than you would if you hadn’t as a feeler bet to see if any opponents have the intention of reraising you. Depending on the size of the raise, the speed of the raise, and any other possible tells the player gives away as well as your read on how your opponent plays will tell you whether or not their reraise is legit or if its just a bluff to pick up the pot on the river.

The problem with the river card is that some players may have just made two pair to your one pair. Checking your top pair won’t help you find out which of these players has made such a hand, however. They’ll bet at you and you’ll still call losing to their two pair. This is why you should always bet the river. If an opponent has made their two pair then they will either raise you or call you.

If you were on a draw and it didn’t hit its probably best just to fold unless you’ve been driving the betting on every previous round then the correct play would be to bet again, unless you want to cut your losses short and surrender over the pot.

Bluffing on the river may win you a pot here or there but can be costly as well. As with pulling off bluffs at any other point in the hand this all depends on your opponents and their opinion of you. Opponents that you could / should be able to bluff out of the pot include: anyone on a draw that did not catch their card(s); opponents with middle or bottom pair who were hoping to make three of a kind or two pair; and opponents holding top pair with a weak kicker. The size of your bet and effectiveness will vary depending on which opponent we are talking about. Opponents in the draw category will fold to any sized bet whereas opponents in the other categories may or may not be tied to their hand.

What else can we say? There’s not a lot to say about the river being that everyone has either made their hand or hasn’t and there’s no need to make protection bets so opponents can’t draw to better hands.

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