Texas Hold ’em – Playing the River

In Texas Hold ’em, the river is the fifth and final community card placed face-up on the board. By this point, it’s normal for all but two or three opponents to have folded. If you’ve come this far, it should mean that you’ve got a strong hand and a good chance of winning the pot.

Unlike in the previous betting rounds, your actions once the river is exposed will depend on the actual value of your hand rather than on its potential value (given that no more cards will be added). This means that strategy for this round needs to differ.

Bet, Check or Fold?

Most importantly, avoid checkraising unless you’re pretty certain you’ll have the best hand if you’re called and that an opponent is likely to bet if you check. If you check a big hand and your opponents just check behind you, you will have lost an opportunity for a bigger pot.

If you’re holding the top pair when the river goes down, there’s a good chance that you have the best hand – unless an opponent has two pair or a flush. A flush is more likely if the river card adds a third suited card to the board. Also, an opponent with two pair is likely to have raised on the turn.

If there’s a bet in the last round and a raise during the flop and the turn, it’s likely that the pot for a Texas Hold ’em game will have grown pretty big. The possibility of a big payout makes it more likely that players with second pair or possibly top pair but a weak kicker will stick it out rather than folding. At this stage, you have to know your opponents.

If you think there’s even a one in ten chance that your opponent is bluffing, it’s best to go ahead and call. Even if you call several times, this is a less potentially costly course of action than folding with a possible winning hand and losing the pot.

If you’ve got a reasonable chance with your hand and a player before you places a bet, it’s often better to raise. This may encourage your opponents to fold – provided you haven’t given any clues that you might be bluffing.