The river card can often make or break your hand, but even if you miss out on the card you were hoping for you can still come out with a win if you play it right. Getting your strategy right on the river is crucial to extracting maximum value from monster hands and limiting the damage when you are beat.
The river is the final card drawn on the table which precedes the final round of betting. When this card is dealt the players who remain in the hand have to weigh up all the possible hands of their opponents to try and decipher if they have them beat. After the round of betting that follows the river card, either one player remains and takes the pot or there is a showdown if the round is checked through or a bet is called.
When to Bet on the River
There are two circumstances when you should bet on the river, when you are trying to bluff or when you are confident you have the strongest hand and you are going for value. If you have a weak hand but think you can pull off a bluff against your opponent then a sizeable bet on the river can often cause your opponent to fold. This is a risky play but can win you some money, if you choose this strategy then make sure you commit to it with an aggressive bet or raise for the best chance to pull off the bluff.
On the other hand, you may be sure you have the best hand when the river card comes out and in this instance you are playing for value. You’ll want to choose the size of your bet wisely to ensure you get your opponent to call. A bet too large may scare off your opponent whereas a bet too small will be a missed opportunity to maximize your winnings.
When to Check on the River
There are also some occasions when you’ll need to check when the river card comes out. If you have a strong hand but the river card brings in to play hands that could beat yours then it might be wise to check in order to avoid a bad beat. If your opponent then bets big you can assume they have a better hand than you and you can fold before things get messy!
A check on the river can also help you win big. A check raise is a high risk, high reward play that makes your hand appear weak even though it’s strong. If you are confident you’ve got the best hand then a check might cause your opponent to bet big to try and get you off the hand. When that happens you can raise. Either you’ll catch out your opponent and they will fold or they will call as they’ve already committed to the pot, either way you are looking at a nice big win.
Your river betting will improve with practice. Its important to get a good read on your opponents and consider their moves prior to the river card. Keep in mind all your options to limit losses and maximize wins.