Points to Consider When Playing On The River In Poker

Every player who is playing any of the cash games such as rummy online or Poker for a quite good time knows the basics of the game. But, what he needs to know are the further strategies of playing this game. There are five rounds of betting in Poker which every player must be aware of. But, how to play every round and what strategies have to be used at every round is of utmost importance. One of the betting rounds is the River round. This is a Post-flop round when five community cards are opened on the table. So, What you need to understand is explained below in detail.

1- Introduction to the River

When playing on the river round, you do not have to face the draws or semi-bluffs. You just have a mixture of value and bluffs. The river is a complex street to master. This is where you generate a huge edge.

Important definitions:

  • Value Bet: Betting when you expect to win at showdown when called greater than 50%.
  • Bluff:  Betting when you expect to lose at showdown when called equivalent to 100%.
  • The goal of Value Betting: Extract maximum value from worse hands, as often as possible.
  • The goal of Bluffing: Force better hands to fold, and get opponents to call your value hands.

2- Thinking through the River

When faced with a decision to bet, we need to ask ourselves several questions while playing online poker:

Analyze Your Range:

a) How many bet sizes should I be using to bet for value in this spot?

  • Typically on the River, you will want to utilize two distinct bet sizes. This two-size strategy serves two purposes:
  1. Allows you to extract maximum value with hands that are way ahead.
  2. Allows you to extract some value with hands that are slightly ahead.

General Rule: “Bet bigger with your premium hands, and smaller with your marginal hands.”

  • This is NOT an unbalanced strategy.
  • You will balance both sizes with bluffs.

b) What sizes should they be?

  • Small Size = 10 – 50% Pot.
  • Large Size (Polarized) = 67 – 500% Pot.

GTO strategy is to bet the maximum amount with the nuts. For balance, you will need to also bet large with some bluffs. This strategy is called polarization. It makes you difficult to play against.

More about Polarized Betting: 

Perfect Polarization: Betting the maximum amount possible with both nut high and nut low. Value hands always win in perfect polarization betting and the bluffs always lose.

The goal of Polarization: The goal of such betting is to put opponents in a position where they are indifferent to calling.

Example of Indifference: You bet the river for a pot-sized bet with a perfectly polar range. The range has 67% value hands and 33% bluffs. Opponent’s pot odds are ⅓, so they need to win 33% of the time to break-even.

They will win 33% of the time when they call, resulting in a 0 EV call. The best they can do now is to not lose money by calling perfectly.

c) How exactly should I structure these ranges?

Imagine that your entire range can be classified into 4 categories according to equity:

Premium Made Hands: Best hands that will usually want to bet Large.

Thin Value: Marginal hands that will usually want to bet small.

Some Showdown: Occasionally win when checked.

No Showdown: Never win when checked.

Example: You raise 3bb preflop from BTN and get a caller in the BB. You c-bet 33% pot on the flop, the turn goes check/check, and BB checks you on the river. How might you classify these hands on the following board?

Ad,6h,7d  Js, Jc – Board Cards

Case1# Ac, 2c (Hole Cards) = Thin Value

Case2# Jh, 10h (Hole Cards) = Premium made hand

Case3# 10d, 8d (Hole Cards) = No showdown

Case4# 7c, 6c (Hole Cards) = Some showdown

Structure your 3 Value ranges and bet accordingly in such cases.

  1. Bet large with your premium made hands for value.
  2. Bet small with your thin value hands, and 5-10% premium hands to protect this range.
  3. Check with a mixture of your worst hands, and 5-10% premiums (OOP) to protect this range.

Structure your 2 Bluffing ranges and bet accordingly in such cases.

  1. The larger sizing you use, the more bluffs you can use. You should bluff infrequently using a small bet size.
  2. You should bluff more frequently using a large Bet size. Bluffs come from a mixture of some showdown/ no showdown hands.

d) What percentage of bluffs do I need to have (for each size)?

Check the trends and then bluff.

Trends: The larger sizing you use, the more bluffs you can use. Max bluffs converge to 50% (1:1) as the bet size becomes infinite.


% Bluffs in Range = Amount opponent needs to call/Total pot they could win.

Example: On the river, you bet 33bb into a pot of 100bb. What percentage of bluffs should you have? Answer is 33/ (100 + 33 + 33) = 19.8%

Common bluffing percentages:

Recall: Max bluffs converges to 50% (1:1) as bet size becomes infinite.

  • Small Bet (33% Pot) = 20% Bluffs.
  • Small Bet (50% Pot) = 25% Bluffs.
  • Large Bet (100% Pot) = 33% Bluffs.
  • 2x Overbet (200% Pot) = 40% Bluffs.
  • 3x Overbet (300% Pot) = 43% Bluffs.

Calculating Bluffing Percentages:

Example 1: What is the max percentage of bluffs allowed in range with a 75% bet size?

% Bluffs in Range = Amount opponent needs to call/Total Pot they could win.

Example 2: What is the max percentage of bluffs allowed in range with a 500% overbet size?

% Bluffs in Range = Amount opponent needs to call/Total Pot they could win.

Impact of traps on Bluffing percentage:

A “trap” is an opponent hand that can beat hands in your polarized value range in card games online. The more traps in an opponent’s range, the less we get to bluff. The factors that increase the traps are:

  • The opponent has a large nut advantage (They are more likely to have monsters).
  • The opponent has a large range disadvantage (they can’t bet with most of their range).
  • Small Bet sizings (more hands that opponent can beat you with).
  • A player is known to slowplay (player-specific tendency).

e) How did the River card impact my range/equity?

Check the impact of River cards on checking or betting. Generally, the more frequently you are betting, the smaller the bet size.

  • Good rivers with nut advantage give you the ability to increase bluff % with large sizing.
  • Good rivers without nut advantage give you the ability to increase bluff % with small sizing.
  • Bad rivers that give your opponent more equity force you to check more of your range.
  • Bad rivers that give your opponent extra traps force you to bluff less overall.

All these strategies, you can apply while playing Holdem texas poker and master the rounds of betting in the game. So, start today and master the River round with these points explained.

Bhupendra Chahar
Bhupendra Chahar from Agra, a professional with a master's degree in Computer Science. He has over a decade of expertise in the world of poker. As a seasoned poker player, he understands the complexities of the game. Through his blogs, readers can gain valuable insight to improve their card game skills.

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