River Betting in Poker

Betting on the River and Extracting Value

Betting on the river is an important strategy to master simply because the river is the end of a story that a player was trying to tell throughout the hand. There are no more cards to come, and all a player can do to win the hand is either bluff at it or actually hold cards that are better than their opponent’s cards. What a player hopes to accomplish on the river is make a bet that will make them more money when they feel they are ahead.

Now, before running off to practice those river bets, it is necessary to understand some fundamentals or scenarios first because to bet, or not to bet, on the river can actually be quite tricky. Many players don’t understand how to extract value or gain the maximum value out of a hand when they are the best and either under or over bet the pot, thus losing on potential chips. On the other hand, there are also situations where it may still be warranted to go to showdown, yet to save chips it is necessary to do so as cheaply as possible.

Provided below are a few examples of what players need to consider about river betting while playing fixed limit and some no limit poker games.

Value Betting on the River

Extracting value on the river is important because to make hands or moves profitable in the long run, it is important to make as much money as possible on each one. Many players mess up on the river by getting excited and betting too much or by being afraid of scaring someone off and betting to little. So how much is the right amount? Well, the first thing to point out is that each case will be different. Each player will react differently to various bet sizes so it is important to analyze each player carefully and take note of what action they take when facing different sized bets.

In situations where there are no notes available on any one player, then it is important to look at the odds and expected value that you are laying your opponent. For example, let us assume that there are 2 players in a no limit hold’em hand, Player A and Player B, on the river with blinds at $50/$100 and $1000 in the pot with Player A confident that he holds the best hand. For our example only, we can assume that Player A knows that Player B knows that his hand will be good 30% of the time at showdown. Knowing this, Player A needs to put in a bet that will earn him the most money. Player B will make a crying call simply because he has the odds to do so.

To figure out how much that bet should be, the numbers should be in the simplest form. So for our example, we know that Player B will win his hand 30% of the time or 3 times out of 10. With $1,000 in the pot going to the winner each time, that means a total of $3,000 will be won by Player B over 10 times. What the goal is here, is to make it a +EV move for Player B to call Player A’s bet so anything under $3,000 over time will do. Say that Player A decides that $270 ($2,700 over 10 times) is sufficient. Player B would mathematically be correct to call these odds, as he will net +$30 on average for doing so. Player B makes the call even though he is sure he is beat, and he is and Player A extracts as much value as possible.

Now of course, this example is purely by the math and does not dictate how a hand may actually go. Many players will call much bigger bets and others will not call any value bets at all. However, this is a good way to do it if a player, such as Player A, is sure that they are ahead with no notes on their opponents.

Unsure on the River

There are going to be many times that on the river a player is going to be holding a middle pocket pair in relation to a heavy over pair board or maybe the board created flush or straight possibilities. Situations like these leave a player unsure of where they stand and are unique to each opponent that a player is up against. But even without a history, a player will still need to make a decision.

Most times these decisions will be based on several factors:

·  How has the opponent played his hand? Has he checked the whole way displaying weakness? Or maybe checked-called raises or even re-raised your raise displaying strength or even a strong draw.

· What position are you in? Being the first to act makes it difficult to get a “real” feel of where your opponent may be. If your opponent is in position and showing strength, there is a possibility that they are using position to try to bluff.

·  What is on the board? And most importantly, how has the opponent acted in terms of the first 2 bullet points in relation to the board?

It is a good idea to try and showdown as cheap as possible. In the event that your opponent has shown weakness all through out the hand, it can be a good idea to bet at the pot, say a probe or value bet, as many times your opponents will let their hand go if they are weak and re-raise you if they are stronger. In cases where they are unsure, then they will more than likely just make a call.

If all else fails, the option to check is always available. And a player can even fold if they truly feel that they are beat.

Conclusion to Betting on the River

It is important to remember that situations will always vary. Most times, they will be based on where you are sitting in relation to your opponent, your history with that opponent, and the texture of the board. Making a bet on the river can be intimidating, scary even for some players. But with a little bit of practice and by paying attention to what is happening at the table, a player can learn how to make bets on the river profitable, no matter if they know they are way ahead in a hand or unsure of where they stand