Playing the River in Texas Holdem

How to Play the River with +EV

The river is the final card to be dealt and by now you should know whether you are ahead in the pot or not.  If you’re ahead then you’ll want to maximise value from the river making the optimum sized bet to get your opponents to call.  If you called the turn on a draw and missed however, then you’ll probably want to check/fold (sometimes you might even decide to bluff your opponent though).  Unfortunately there will be situations when you’re unsure whether you’re in front or behind.  A lot of the time you’ll have some sort of mid-pair or weak flush hand that you just cannot navigate through and simply don’t know whether to check the river for value or semi-bluff it.

Value Betting

Value betting in itself is pretty simple.  If you have the best hand and are confident that you won’t be beaten t show down, then you want to maximise value.  Unfortunately a lot of players butcher the value bet on the river because they do it with the wrong sorts of hands.  They either bet after their opponent checked only to get check-raised, or they don’t bet when they’re in front enough times.  The whole point about value betting is that you want to get worse hands to call you whilst folding better hands.  Most of this comes from your hand reading skills and knowledge of your opponent.

If you’re certain that you’re in front with a hand like AQ on a A-2-10-A-4 rainbow board, then you’ll want to make a bet of about 1/3 to 2/3 of the pot.  The exact amount that you should bet for value depends on your opponents tendencies and whether you think he has a good hand.  Against a passive player who’s happy to call you off light than you want to make a bigger raise towards the 2/3 pot-size amount, where as against a player who is capable of folding mid-pair types hands then you need to tempt him with a smaller sized 25% value bet.  This is low enough to get him to call you whilst not being too low to miss a some calling value from the hand.  Also be careful against min-betting against regs, since if it looks like you’re begging to be called then he might be put off e.g. if you hit a flush on the river.

A common mistake among micro-stakes players is to value bet at the wrong time.  For example, if you have 67 on a A-8-9-10-J board then you shouldn’t value bet really since there is a higher straight on the board.  Even if the chances of your opponent having a straight are slim, he could easily bluff-raise you on the river making the cost of calling his re-raise a difficult decision to make.

Block Bet – Out of Position

A block bet is a move that helps to control the size of the pot and make seeing a show down cheaper. If you are first to act, and aren’t sure whether you’re ahead or behind then you can make a small 25% min-bet.  A lot of the time this actually “blocks” your opponent from making a larger raise then what would have happened if you simply checked to him.  Hence, by betting out of position first you can see a cheaper show down then if you checked and he raised 50% of the pot instead.  Another advantage to block betting of course is the added equity you receive from making your opponent fold some of his weaker hands.

Checking for Value – In Position

Similar to value betting, checking for value basically involves checking to your opponent’s check to see a cheaper show down.  Whenever you’re unsure whether you’re behind or in front by the river you should simply check for value.  This will earn you more chips in the long run, especially when you’re opponent’s range is merged.  For example, by raising behind your opponent instead of checking, he’s probably only calling you down with hands that beat you, and folding hands that are better than yours.  Hence, there is no value to be had from raising him when he checks.  By checking yourself, you’re able to sacrifice a little calling value from your stronger hands in return for avoiding the possibility of being re-raised.

Related posts:

  1. Texas Holdem Starting Hands