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StrategyNo Limit

On the River - Theory Put to Practice


In this article
  • Your options on the river
  • The role of position

In the article On the River - Theory, you saw which possibilities you have on the river. Many people have trouble figuring out where they stand with their hand, what plays their opponent could use against them and how they should react to these. This article contains examples of river play both in position and out of position.

You are in position

First off, we will look at examples where you act in position. We will use the player types that were described in the first article when identifying our opponents.

You have a made hand
Example 1

PartyPoker $25 NL Hold'em (6 handed)

Stacks & Stats
MP ($25)
CO ($25)
UTG ($25) (weak-tight type (Nr.2))
BB ($25)
SB ($25)
Hero ($25)

Pre-flop: Hero is Button with A , K
UTG calls $0.25, 2 folds, Hero raises to $1.25, 2 folds, UTG calls $1.25

Flop: ($2.85) J, 3, 2 (2 players)
UTG checks, Hero bets $2.25, UTG calls $2.25

Turn: ($7.35) K (2 players)
UTG checks, Hero bets $5.00, UTG calls $5.00

River: ($17.35) 6 (2 players)
UTG bets $11.00, Hero ???

Standard play all the way to the river. You raised before the flop, made a contibet and second barreled on the turn to keep your opponent from seeing any free cards.

On the river you suddenly see a donk bet. You have classified your opponent as weak-tight, he seems to be a calling station and is showing aggression on the river for the first time.

The river card is pretty good. A possible straight draw may have completed, but any flush draw is left unimproved.

So, what are your options?

You have to be ahead in 1 in 3.5 times to justify calling. Raising (in this case, shoving) won't generate any fold equity, since the only hand he could fold to a raise is a bluff, from which you wouldn't be getting any value, anyway. Folding is the only viable option that remains.

You have a medium made hand; there's no need to play for an entire stack against such a passive opponent. The only possible hand that you beat is a busted draw, which does seem likely given the his flop and turn play. He would also play check/call with KQ-type hands. On top of that, there are a lot of hands, such as a set, that are ahead of you. A calling station rarely tries to protect his/her set, but on the river they often fear a check behind and bet for value. All in all, the villain's range doesn't seem to include a lot of hands that you beat; folding is the best option.

Example 2

PartyPoker $25 NL Hold'em (6 handed)

Stacks & Stats
MP ($25)
CO ($25)
UTG ($25)
BB ($25) (aggressive type, “Bluffer” (Nr.3))
SB ($25)
Hero ($25)

Pre-flop: Hero is Button with 9 , 9
3 folds, Hero raises to $1.00, 1 fold, BB calls $1.00

Flop: ($2.35) 4, 4, 7 (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets $1.60, BB calls $1.60

Turn: ($5.55) K (2 players)
BB checks, Hero checks

River: ($5.55) J (2 players)
BB bets $5.00, Hero ???

Here you decide to check behind on the turn. You see your opponent as the really aggressive type who likes to bluff and who is more likely to bluff the river, than call on the turn. There also isn't a need to protect on this board.

You could also bet the turn to see a free showdown. Against a passive opponent and on a dangerous board, this would definitely be a better play. However, you are facing an aggressive opponent on a completely dry board, you correctly try inducing a bluff.

Then your opponent makes a near pot size bet on the river - you need to be ahead about one in three times to call.

At this point, you can safely assume this to be the case. As a result of your check behind on the turn, you will very often be successful in inducing a bluff. Your opponent can easily have a worse hand and simply be trying to push you off yours. A fold would, therefore, be too weak. A raise would make even less sense, since he would only call with a stronger hand and fold anything else. You're best off calling and going to the showdown.

However, how would the situation look if you were facing a standard-type player or a slowplayer?

A standard player also has a healthy amount of aggression on the river, and he could likewise attempt a bluff. For that reason, a call would most likely be +EV, but a fold could also be considered, given the overcards.

Against a slowplayer, the situation is even closer. It would be perfectly normal for him to check/call flops with hands like 4x/77/TT+. He would probably also just with check Kx-type hands on the turn, potentially looking to c/r. In this case, the bet on the river is somewhat nastier, and it would tend to be a value bet much more often than in the previous examples. A fold would be very justifiable.

In all these situations, you have a made hand and are confronted with a river bet. You are forced to make some marginal decisions that depend on the odds and opponent type, as well as your relative hand strength.

You don't have a made hand

Let's look at an example where you can consider bluffing.

PartyPoker $25 NL Hold'em (6 handed)

Stacks & Stats
MP ($25)
CO ($25)
UTG ($25) (???)
BB ($25)
SB ($25)
Hero ($25)

Pre-flop: Hero is Button with 7 , 8
UTG calls $0.25, 2 folds, Hero raises to $1.25, 2 folds, UTG calls $1.25

Flop: ($2.85) 5, 3, J (2 players)
UTG checks, Hero bets $2.25, UTG calls $2.25

Turn: ($7.35) 2 (2 players)
UTG checks, Hero checks

River: ($7.35) A (2 players)
UTG checks, Hero...???

You decide to raise your suited connectors from the button before the flop. Afterwards, you contibet on the flop and take a free card on the turn, but unfortunately, you miss your draw on the river. Then your opponent checks to you...

A check behind with 8 high is the same as giving up the hand. Luckily, this is the kind a spot where bluffs can be very effective.

First of all, your opponent shows a lot of weakness with his check, and the ace is a good scare card that clearly lies inside your range. Moreover, it seems unlikely that you are up against a strong made hand, since your opponent would have tried to protect on the flop/turn or at least have value bet the river. Finally, missed draws with high cards above 8 seem very possible and so do small pocket pairs that were only willing to call a single bet.

But against what type of opponents would a bluff be profitable? A bluff would definitely be +EV against a standard-type player with this weak a line. If this type of player had a strong made hand, he would certainly have taken the initiative and tried to protect. You can safely assume that strong draws and very mediocre hands make up the largest part of his range. Hence, bluffing the river in this spot is likely to be successful (but not guaranteed!).

This is a much tougher decision when playing against weak players; they tend to prefer showdowns to aggression on the river. He could be in c/c mode with a small pocket pair, in which case you might be able to make him fold. However, if he is holding a draw, a bluff would force him to fold (this is important since even most draws beat you). Nonetheless, this is the type of player who is most likely to call a river bet, which makes him the least profitable player to bluff.

Bluffing is more likely to be successful against very aggressive opponents. A player who normally bets but is now checking on the river is very likely to simply have given up his hand. You have no showdown value; bluffing is the only way you can win. You're best off betting against either type of opponent, both bluffers and slowplayers.

You have now seen that playing in position often gives you a few good opportunities, but that these require close analysis before they can be put to action. There is no sense in making a blind call; only call when you have reason to believe that you can beat a lot of the hands in your opponents range. Call more often against players who tend to bluff on the river and bluff more often against players who tend to be weak on the river.

Playing out of position is much more complicated. Let's take a look.


That's not the entire article...

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Comments (7)

#1 fMatviiv, 19 Apr 09 10:19

Very good article

#2 naderh1, 26 Aug 09 21:17

Great Article
Concerning the check/call example, would it not make sense to raise the river against this kind of opponent (check raise)

#3 Koshburger, 22 Jan 10 08:46


#4 dicekeyrollz, 04 Apr 10 07:17


No because when you do that you isolate yourself against only hands that can beat you. When you check, and your oppponent bets, and you raise again, you're signalling so much strength that either your opponent folds the worst hand (which is the correct play on his part, giving you no value at all), or he calls/re-raises with the best hand, putting you in a tough spot. So at that point, the value you get from the hand is from the potential bluff that this LAG guy is likely to make. That last bet is just icing on the cake.

#5 Fubu27, 07 Nov 10 10:43


Exactly what dickeyrollz said. You could say that, if you raise here, you are risking a good part of your stack (or the whole thing) in order to win nothing at all.

#6 Tim64, 18 Nov 10 11:03


#7 Strongsl, 31 Aug 11 00:45