Playing The River in Texas Hold’em

Playing the river in no limit texas hold’em is obviously going to be the biggest decisions you have to make during a hand. Even though there are four betting rounds and opportunities for a player to bet, given that there has been a lot of betting going on and you have reached this point in the hand, then chances are the pot is going to be pretty big, and so any mistakes made are going to be amplified.

So how should you play the river in texas hold’em? Well, that’s pretty much player dependant. Hopefully you have some history with the player you have a confrontation with on the river so you can exploit mistakes.

If you have a strong hand that is a good chance of being the winner, then you want to try and extract the maximum amount you can from your hand by getting worse hands to call. You should size your river bet in such a way that helps you to accomplish this. There is little point going for the all-in play if it’s going to be a huge overbet that is just going to get your opponent to fold. But if you know the player is a calling station then you can bet your hand strongly with confidence knowing they are not going to be folding.

Where a lot of novice players get it wrong on the river is they miss tons of value by not betting the river when they could have gotten another bet in. This is a very big mistake because when you miss value on the river it’s a bigger bet then what you could expect to make on the flop/turn due to bloated pot. River bets are made in relation to the pot.

If you have a good hand but it’s not great then you find yourself in a stickier situation. The first thing you have to ask yourself is do you still think you have the best hand, and secondly, can you expect worse hands to call? If the answer to those questions is yes then you should probably bet/fold.

Bet-folding the river with a medium strength hand can be much better then check calling because it enables you to get value from worse hands that would be happy to check back. A lot of amateurs think that the main difference between good and bad players is their ability to bluff, but one of the strongest attributes of good players is their ability to get thin value on the river.

When thinking about bet folding you want to consider the opponents still in the hand and the likelihood of getting bluff raised. In aggressive poker games this is a real concern, so there is the chance of getting bluffed off of the best hand. But when playing against straightforward opponents most aren’t capable of bluffing the river.

Keep in mind that folding the winning hand on the river is going to be a MUCH bigger mistake than calling with a losing one. This should be pretty self explanatory, but when you fold the winner, you’re losing a lot more chips than in the scenario of calling with a worse hand, since you have just given up the entire pot when you had the winner, instead of just losing the chips you’ve called with.

Another consideration when betting the river is the number of players that are still active in the hand. If it’s a large multi-way pot that is being contested, then players tend to be more straightforward, and large bets on the river are going to represent a lot of strength. If you don’t have a strong hand then you shouldn’t talk yourself into calling because you think the player betting is bluffing, when the reality is they are rarely getting out of line in these situations.

If you have a marginal holding on the river in texas hold’em, then you can’t really expect worse hands to call, and so you are just happy to see a showdown. Sometimes you will get to the river and you will have a busted draw. In such situations, you can either check/fold or think about going for a bluff.

You don’t want to consider bluffing with a huge frequency on the river, for the simple reason that if an opponent has reached this point in the hand, then unless they’re on a draw, they probably won’t be folding too much, since they will feel pot committed. All in all, bluffs will obviously be a lot more successful when you have a good image, and so you can expect your big bets to get a lot of respect.