Winning at Low Limit Hold’em, Part V

Nov 17, 2009 5:02 PM
by George “The Engineer” Epstein |

In this final part of our poker series, we will examine strategies on the river. (Remember, these secrets are only for GamingToday readers. Don’t share them with others!)

The final card in hold’em is dealt on the "river," and if you’re still in the hand it often determines the outcome. Here’s what you should be looking for:

• The Best Hand – with no more cards to come; you believe you have the best hand. Then bet for value. If you’re in a late position and there is a bet before you, raise the pot. Try to maximize your profit – that’s betting for value. If you are in an early position, consider the check-raise to build the pot. It works only if you are quite certain that an opponent will cooperate by betting. Otherwise make the bet yourself and be sure there is at least a bet that your opponent must call on the river to compete for the pot. Your image can make a difference. If your opponents recently have seen you bluff, they are more inclined to call you down. The bigger the pot, the more likely you will be called.

• You Are Raised or Re-raised – sometimes, after you bet on the river, an opponent may raise you; or, after you raise, you then are re-raised. Now you have reason for concern. His presumed message is that he has your hand beaten and wants to take away more of your chips. Look to see if he still has chips in front of him; he may be betting off his remaining chips before he leaves the table. In that case, he may not have a strong hand at all.

Most often, there is so much money in the pot at this point that the pot odds justify a call – and pray that you have him beaten. Occasionally the pot is so small that the pot odds do not warrant a call. Reexamine your hole cards and the board to be sure you haven’t misread your hand. What if you have the nuts? If so, re-raise and hope your opponent goes crazy and keeps raising back at you. With only two players in the pot, most casinos have no limit on the number of raises – as long as the players still have chips in front of them. (You cannot go into your pocket for more money. That’s called table stakes.)

• Scare Card on the River – the river card looks dangerous – say it’s a third card to a flush; be cautious: check. Why risk paying off with a double big bet to an opponent who has drawn out on you. (Getting "rivered" happens to all of us.) If an opponent then bets, representing a strong hand, consider what type of player he is. Respect a tight player; but if there is a reasonable chance that you still have the best hand, call his bet. If the bettor is a tricky player, you might even want to raise him – especially if there is a good-size pot and another player behind you. Your raise my force him to fold the best hand; you then take the pot from the deceptive player who was trying to buy the pot.

• Bluffing – Your draw on the river didn’t materialize. Consider bluffing at the pot. If it succeeds more than 30% of your tries, you are ahead. It’s easier to bluff against one or two opponents, not more. The likelihood of success depends on the type of players you’re against and how well you convince them that you have the hand you are representing. Don’t try to bluff out a calling station – a player who will call with zip. The Esther Bluff tactic can work miracles. (For me, it succeeds 60-65% of the time. Highly profitable!)

Comments? George "The Engineer" Epstein can be contacted at: [email protected]

You can try out your strategy by playing our free live online poker.