Playing the River
August 08, 2011 :: Posted by - Poker Tips :: Category - Poker Tips
Tip #14 – Playing the river in Texas Holdem
The river is the moment of truth. Your hand will not improve anymore, neither will any of your opponents. Whether you are a poker beginner or a seasoned pro, you will only have a couple of moves that you can make at this point of the hand.
How should this affect your river strategy? Obviously it means that missed draws should be folded to a bet. But it also means that there is no reason to try and drive out opponents with your made hands. Therefore, you should not always bet when you think you have a winning hand.
For example, if you have a top pair against a single opponent, and you suspect that your opponent just have missed a draw. Now if you are right about his draw and bet, then your opponent will fold since he doesn’t have anything. Then you will gain nothing by the bet. On the other hand, if you are wrong and your opponent has a better hand than you, he might raise, in which case you lose an extra bet.
The only ways to gain equity on a river bet is if you:
- Bluff your opponent, making her fold a hand that is better than yours. Be careful with bluffing missed draws when its obvious you have nothing. You have been warned.
- Make your opponent call with a hand that is worse than yours. This is known as value betting the river.
Therefore you should only bet out if you think your opponent will call with a second best hand, or fold a better hand than yours. In other cases, you would be better off checking and calling.
When you decide whether you should call your opponents bet you have to take the following factors into the consideration:
- The pot size
- The strength of your hand
- The cards on the board
- The number of opponents
If the pot is large you should call more often, since it might be expensive to mistakenly fold the winning hand. You shouldn’t fold a hand that has reasonable chance to win if the pot is fairly large. If the pot is ten times as big as the bet you invest you only have to win 10% of the time for the call to be profitable.
Of course you still have to be able to drop your hand if you are obviously beat. The scarier the cards on the board and the more opponents you are up against, the more likely it is that you are beat. If three players have called before you and the board looks dangerous you should probably drop your top pair if the pot isn’t very large.
Strategies for Playing the River
So some things you should think about on the river in Texas holdem is don’t automatically bet just because you think you have the best hand. The bet is only profitable if the opponent calls with a worse hand, or drops a winner. If it is likely they are on a missed draw then they obviously can’t call so consider inducing a bluff. This can obviously vary whether you are playing a single garage tournament or whether you can bust out and play another game with your sit and go strategy.
On the river, always evaluate the strength of your hand in relation to the cards on the board and the number of opponents before you call. For example, if you have a straight on a flush board, and the flush got there on the river, play it cautiously, you may not have the best hand. In saying that, you can still value bet the river if you think worse will call, but fold to a raise, you are always beat.
If the pot is large you can sometimes call a river bet even if its probable you are beat. For example, if the pot is ten times as big as the bet you call, you only have to win ten percent of the time to make a profit. You are getting good pot odds to call. Don’t let this be a leak in your game though. Value bets are always small because they want a call. If your gut is telling you that you are beat, then just fold even if you are getting good pot odds.
The great thing about getting to the river in Texas holdem is you get to pay attention to what cards the other players have in showdown. It can give you useful information about their style of play.
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