River Betting


A common dictum about poker is that it rewards those who are diligent and punishes those who are complacent. If a poker player assumes that he has a lot of experience and has mastery over some poker theory, then it is a certainty that he will be punished. If he plays without keeping his eyes and ears wide open, he is more likely to lose and lose heavily at that.

River betting provides an ample example of this dictum. It is a well-known fact among professional poker players that when a player bets the river, he must bet for either value or bluff. He cannot do both. Unless and until one of these is clear, it is better to check. But as they say, there is no such thing such as perfect poker, and a player can break away from convention and bet on the river without being certain whether to bluff or value-bet.

Now, the question arises when to bet on river? It must be kept in mind that to bet on river or not depends on the player's return on bet and not on existing pot. Possibly, there are four scenarios as a result of river betting excluding a situation where there are raises.

When the player's opponent makes a call with a bad hand, the player wins the amount of the bet but not pot which could have been his if he would have checked.

When the player's opponent makes a call with better hand, he looses the amount of bet but not pot which he could not have won in any case.

When the player's foe folds a better hand, he wins amount of the pot which he would not have won if he would have checked.

When the player's foe folds a worse hand, he wins nothing though he gets the pot which was his in any case.

Thus, a river is an unparallel round. One need not knock anyone out, and one cannot semi-bluff. This changed atmosphere requires change in strategy.

While betting the river, one should bet for value. The player should not turn timid and check fearing getting beaten. If the player is not sure that he is outmatched, he should bet. If he wins more than half a times using this play, he should do it.

How to Call River Bluffs

Most of the good bluff should be set up on turn instead of on the river. Keep watch on this and in case call is tough, assess your opponent whether he is bluffing too. In case you lose, pot odds can be used. In case pot odds are greater as compared to the chance that the opponent is bluffing, then call. Suppose, the pot is of $110 and the bet $10, one is likely to get 6-1 odds. If the opponent is deceptive, the odds may be 3-1 against him bluffing. Hence, you should call. If such situation occurs four times, there are chances that you may lose $10 three times totaling $30 loss. But you gain $110 when your opponent is caught and the profit is $80. But suppose your opponent is straightforward, he may bluff only once out of every eleven such hands. The odds in this case will be 10/1 as compared to him stealing. Then, to catch him bluffing will be too risky and it is better to fold.

Stealing on river may not win all the time, but a player has to do that just to let opponents know that he can do it. The bluffs must be consistent with the manner in which the player has played his hand and cannot come from nowhere. But when everyone checks, the player should bet. He needs to be occasionally successful to make this kind of play remunerative. In a case where the player remains unconquered aggressor in the hand even with a busted draw, he must bet. Larger the field, higher the chance of someone calling and maybe all may miss. This is the time when reading opponents means everything and stealing pot may be the difference between losing and winning that particular session.

The trick in river betting is to bet on opponent's weakness. Opponents must be given chance to show their weakness which becomes visible by their lack of betting and mannerisms. It is almost hanging in the air and can be felt. Bluffing on river is most often the only route to a win. Though it is advisable to use it sparingly, but defiantly one must not hesitate to use it.


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