The River: Check or Bet?

January 17, 2010 |

When most people think of the ‘river’ they may think the Mississippi or the Nile. For us poker players the ‘river’ brings new meaning to the word ‘river’. The river can bring tremendous joy or it can bring a gut wrenching feeling when a bad beat occurs. You know the feeling. You get your chips in ahead pre-flop, on the flop, or on the turn yet the river brings the card that makes you yell PG-13 language. We’ve all been there, but what happens when the community cards are laid out and the decision is on you. Do you have a hand worth value betting or should you take the safe route with a check. Obviously if you are certain you have the best hand then it’s a good idea to fire the bet. Or if the only way to win the hand is with a bluff, it may be in your best interest to pull the trigger. Now let’s say you are holding a mediocre hand and your opponent checks to you. What do you do? I want to give a situation that happened to me recently where I should have taken the option to check, but ended up placing a bet. It back fired.

The hand goes as follows: I was holding pocket 10s (1 heart), I made the standard raise, and my opponent in the big blind came along with a call. The flop came 8 7 7 with two hearts on board. The big blind check and I proceeded to fire a continuation bet of 2/3 the pot in which my opponent quickly called. The turn brought the Q of hearts which made three hearts on board, and remember I was holding the 10h.

Me: 10h 10s Opponent: Unknown
Board: 8h 7h 7d Qh

My opponent in the big blind checked once again, and after seeing the turn card I felt my best option was to check behind as well. I didn’t necessarily dislike the card, but it wasn’t the best card that could of came either. The river brought the K of hearts making it the fourth heart on board.

Me: 10h 10s Opponent: Unknown
Board: 8h 7h 7d Qh Kh

My opponent once again checked for the third time, and with me holding the 10h I was fairly confident in my hand. I mean my opponent checked all three times, and my thinking at the time was that he would of bet if he had me beat. I was wrong. I decided to make a value bet on the river, and to my surprise my opponent almost instantly re-raised me. I felt I was beat but due to pot odds and curiosity I went ahead with the call. My opponent flipped over the 87 of clubs showing me a full house he caught on the flop. It was obviously well played on his part and a costly ‘value bet’ on the river. Obviously looking back on the hand I can see it was a bad decision but for different reasons. There is only a couple hands that I will get a call with in this situation. The 9h, 8h, or something of the sort. If my opponent isn’t holding these types of hands then he isn’t going to make a call. Thus the only way I will get action is if I am beat which is exactly what ended up happening. Looking back I should of checked the river and relinquished the hand. Well played by my opponent and shame on me. Take this into consideration when holding a mediocre hand in a river check or bet situation. Good luck at the tables my friends.

Craig Fleck

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