Hand reading skills are so important when you are making river bets. The board, your opponent’s hand range and the way the betting led into the river are all indications on how you should move forward with the hand you are playing on the river. Avoiding unnecessary big river bets or making bets that are too high on river are common mistakes that can lose players a lot of value during a session.
In essence the old saying “Win as much as you can, but lose as little you can” is a well-founded poker strategy. In fact it is the most obvious strategy, and just by adjusting the way you play poker will help you lessen those situations where you are kicking yourself for not getting value out of your bets.
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You are in a pot on the flop and the board reads 9h-10h-9d. Your hand is Kd-10c, so you have top pair. There is a possible trips scenario here, but you bet to see where you are in the hand anyway. Your opponent calls your bet.
What can you read from this?
There are a few real possibilities here:
- Your opponent has trip nines
- Your opponent has a heart flush draw
- Your opponent has a straight draw
- Your opponent has a full house
- Your opponent has a jack or higher pocket pairs
Pre-flop raising can indicate if your opponent has a jack or higher pair through 3-bets and 4-bets, nut this depends on who was the pre-flop aggressor, you or your opponent. Let’s say you were, so your opponent called your bet, and so you rule out option 5.
The turn: 9h-10h-9d-4c
On the turn you fire another bet, and your opponent calls again.
The River: 9h-10h-9d-4c-5s
You still have to consider options 1 to 4 by the time you reach the river. Here is your thought process before you fire another bet.
- Surely your opponent would have bet to eliminate draws while holding trips
- Your opponent’s calls would indicate chasing a flush draw
- Your opponent’s calls would indicate chasing a straight draw
- Your opponent has a full house and would certainly slow play
You decide that the most likely scenario is your opponent has a missed draw with something like King or Ace high. You make a small river bet. If your opponent has a full house, he/she will come over the top, and you are left to decide if this is a bluff or not. If your opponent has nothing, there no reason to call. At the same time, your small river bet will not lose you a lot of money if your opponent does happen to have a full house.
In this situation there is absolutely no point in betting big and risking a lot of chips in a situation where missed draws are likely. Your opponent has no reason to call any sized bet with a missed draw. However, if you are up against a full house, you haven’t risked an excessive amount of money in attempt to get a fold. Check out Daniel Negreanu’s video on river bets in the vid below: