The play on the river is totally different from playing on the other streets. Now the combinations are already formed and no one can improve his/her hand. The most important question is: are you and your opponents ready for the showdown? Very often people make mistakes when answering to this question and these mistakes cost them a lot.
The main philosophy of the play on the river is: the mistakes on the river cost really a lot and very often can destroy any, even the most excellent play on the previous streets.
Playing with short stack (with short buy -in) protects you from making huge mistakes during the last betting rounds. Until you are an inexperienced played you should play with short stacks in order to avoid very big mistakes. The same is true when you lose less by playing call instead of fold (similar to bet or raise instead of check, fold or call). At the same time, the more you begin to understand the nuances of the game (especially on the river), the larger role is played by “the reverse of the coin” i.e. the short stack: evaluating right what is happening, however, you don’t evaluate right the situations where the opponent is willing to pay you your entire stack.
In general, all your actions on the river can be divided into two main categories: provoking a bluff and stopping (preventing) a bluff. To provoke a bluff is called the situation when you try to make your opponent place a bet hoping that this will bring you more profit. To stop a bluff – on the contrary, is called a situation when you try to prevent a possible huge bet of your opponent when you are not ready to call. In fact, there are two important methods of playing on the river, closely linked with the inhibition of bluff. These methods are bluffing and trying to increase the pot (but this you can try only in case you believe that your hand is stronger) and make additional profit at the expense of your opponents.
In case you are the first to act on the river, as a rule, you should choose one of these two options and very often is not easy to decide which one to choose. In case you are the last to act on the river, very often you should try to understand what your opponent is doing and what reactions he is expecting from you. Let’s talk about some situations which depend on your position.
In case you haven’t managed to form a combination on the river, the only chance for you to win the pot is bluffing. In order to take this decision (to bluff or not to bluff) you need to know how often your opponent answers with fold to your bet on the river. Something more, you need to consider the structure of the cards on the table, the type of your opponent and your own actions during the previous betting rounds. The size of your bet when you are bluffing should not be different from the size of your previous bets (prevent a bluff or increase the pot size). The recommended basic bet on the river is about 60 % of the size of the pot. For instance: Your hand is an Ace of hearts and a King of hearts, during th pre –flop you played raise, and you were answered by one opponent. The flop is 2 of diamonds, 7 of clubs, 10 of hearts, you raise and your opponent calls. The turn reveals again a 7 of spades, you check and your opponent checks. So, if the river reveals something like a 4 of spades or a 5 of hearts, you can try to win the pot by bluffing.
In case you have managed to form a combination on the river, the first thing you should do is to evaluate your hand – how marginal it is (let’s say that a pair of Aces becomes very marginal when there are three cards of one suit on the table which form a straight). Then:
A.If you are ready to answer the bet, comparable to the size of the pot, you should play check in order to provoke your opponent to bluff;
B.If you are not ready to answer the bet, comparable to the size of the pot, in most cases (when the river did not change anything) you can prevent bluffing i.e. you can place a bet equal to 60 –70 % of the pot. You should not do that with marginal hands such as low pairs, middle pairs if there is an Ace or 4 cards of one suit revealed etc.
In case you have a strong combination, you have two options: to check or to bet (increase the size of the pot).
Your check in this situation is pure provocation of bluff. Only in this situation you always answer your opponent’s bet at least with a call (sometimes with a raise). Check is more suitable than bet in situations where the most possible hand of your opponent is a draw combination (for example, a flush draw) which was not completed on the river.
The bet with a strong hand is not different from the bet placed in order to avoid a bluff, but in this situation as an answer to your opponent’s raise you are ready to call or even to re –raise. This type of bet is used in order to increase the size of the pot (when you want to get more profit) with a strong hand.
Increasing the pot, avoiding a bluff and bluffing on the river – you should try to make it not very obvious – usually, the bet in these cases is equal to 60 % of the pot. This way your opponent will not know the strength of your hand. Actually, the biggest problem on the river is to choose: to avoid a bluff or to provoke one.