The River Value Bet and You

Jason Glass

Quite often in the course of an average poker session you'll be faced with this dilemma: should you bet the river when in position for value?

The plus side is obvious. When your opponent calls with a worse hand, you stand to win a bigger pot.

But by betting the river, rather than checking, you make yourself vulnerable to a check-raise.

If your opponent does check-raise you'll be in a tough spot, whereas you could have avoided all that by seeing a cheap showdown.

So before deciding to bet the river for value, you must take several factors into account.

A Variety of Hands Can be Value Bet

First you must decide whether your hand warrants a river value bet or not.

There's no one answer - merely a sliding scale based on the factors below.

There are very few hands that you can paint with a broad "Always value bet" or "Always check down" brush. Poker is not that easy.

Your hand must be strong enough that if you are called, it's best at showdown.

After all, that's what you are doing with a value bet: trying to make your opponent call with a worse hand.

Depending on the factors below, you could decide to value bet the river holding anything from a single-pair hand to a full house.

Guillaume Darcourt
Punish loose-passive players.

Punish Loose-Passive Players

Your opponent is easily one of the most important factors when deciding to bet for value or not - he or she makes all the difference.

One opponent may call large river bets with any pair; another may fold everything but trips or better.

You must identify your opponent's playing tendencies before opening yourself up with a value bet.

The ideal opponent to value bet is a loose-passive player. Loose-passive players play too many hands and go too far with them.

These players are just ATMs dispensing cash. Value bet them relentlessly.

If you notice a player calling down lightly (with worse-than-average hands), hammer those rivers with top pair, good kicker, because you know that player will call.

Further, due to their passive nature, loose-passive players are less likely to punish you with a check-raise.

Don't Ignore Tight-Aggressive Players

Tight-aggressive players can also be targeted for value betting.

This may sound counterintuitive - after all, how can both loose-passives and tight-aggressives be value-bet targets?

Doesn't a tight-aggressive style tend to defeat loose-passive players? Wouldn't that mean that TAGs are less likely to make river calls with worse hands?

Yes and no. It depends on how good a player he or she is.

Over the years TAGs have learned about pot control and found that value betting other TAGs with one pair is a losing proposition because TAGs do not pay off rivers with a worse one pair.

These same TAGs now know that a player firing three barrels (i.e. a river bet as well) has either a monster or a stone-cold bluff.

There are fewer monsters out there than bluffs, so a lot of TAGs will end up making hero calls against a player who fires three barrels.

It's up to you to find out who these players are.

Some TAGs are fixated on trying to make hero calls on the river. If you can find those players, you can exploit them.

Your Image

Your image dictates how your opponents are going to play against you.

It affects every decision they make, so ultimately it should determine every decision that you make.

Tom Dwan
Use your image to your advantage.

You can obviously then use your image to your advantage.

If you have caught a wave of cards and been very active, but haven't shown anything down, players will perceive you to be loose-aggressive.

If your opponents think you're loose-aggressive they'll call you down lighter on the river.

This is what you want. A player who will call you down light will also pay off your value bets.

River = Big $$$

The river is the most important street to play.

Sure, you don't play as many rivers as you do flops, but it's by betting the river when the pot is big that you'll make your money.

Don't get into the habit of wanting to see cheap showdowns. Use all the information you have available and look for good spots.

If you feel that your opponent might call with a worse hand, absolutely stick a bet out there.

Making good river value bets can take your game to the next level. If you look for good spots, you can make a killing.

If you don't, you'll be leaving money on the table.

More strategy articles from Dan Skolovy:

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Carla Bennings 2010-02-05 06:27:32

I got interested to read on when I've read the first paragraph regarding betting. I've never taken poker seriously until today. Maybe I am still not getting used to playing poker online and I am giving it a try. :D thanks

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