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Too cautious to bet the river

Too cautious to bet the river - Sat Oct 08, 2011, 02:23 PM
JARGON1977's Avatar
Since: Jan 2011
Posts: 66
Hello ,

One of my main issues in cash poker is being all too cautious on the river , always concerned that a bet will be raised or beaten & I find myself particularly checking behind just to take down the pot as it is , if I have the best hand .

Here is a classic example - perhaps I need more bottle .

Can you offer me some advice about 'pulling the trigger' instead of thinking I might lose the individual trial ?

Surely I should have bet for value here . Bad beats and suck outs are taking there toll .


Last edited by JARGON1977; Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 02:55 PM..
Sat Oct 08, 2011, 02:53 PM
77wopke77's Avatar
Since: Aug 2010
Posts: 482
i think in this example it's not so bad that u checked! i am not a pro but if he plays KQ the he is extracting cash from u! so keep thinking what he might be playing and what beats u. with this board u are not sure u are holding the nuts and he is following evry bet u make down to the river. u could have betted for value but i wonder if he paid it?

Sat Oct 08, 2011, 03:29 PM
PaidInFull6's Avatar
Since: Jun 2010
Posts: 342
Value betting the river depends on your read of you opponent. Loose calling station opponents I'm willing to value bet pretty thin, if they station TP no kicker through the river than you should definitely value bet the river, if your opponent is tight and wont go to showdown without a strong holding than you should be more cautions betting the river. In this particular case I think top 2 pair is worth a value bet on the river, villains line seems like a flush draw, weak pair of Aces, maybe even just a pair of Jacks. I would have expected villain to bet the river if he made a hand that could beat top 2. I probably would have stuck another 60% of the pot on the river.
Sat Oct 08, 2011, 04:46 PM
JWK24's Avatar
Since: Jun 2010
Posts: 24,814
Here's one thing to think about for it.

Could the river have completed the opp's hand. In this situation, the only hands that the river could help are 99, Q8 or 78. Those three hands don't really make sense due to the bets they've made/called during the hand. Realisticaly, the only hands you're behind are a flopped set.

If you bet like you're in the lead on the flop and the turn, then especially if the river could not have helped their hand, you need to fire the 3rd barrel.
Sat Oct 08, 2011, 08:29 PM
JDean's Avatar
Since: Aug 2010
Posts: 3,145
A river bet for value can be a tough decision whenever you do not hold the nut hand. Jargon, you do seem to have a handle on WHY this is true though, and that's a plus. For those who do not know, let me define why:

When out of position, your river value bet may result in a RAISE you are un-comfortable calling.
A check/call of a smaller amount seems less costly.

When in position, betting the river for value is an act which RE-OPENS the betting, instead of closing it via a check. Again, this can lead you to a bigger LOSS if an opponent is slow playing a big hand waiting for a river bet by you.


Because the value bet decisions on the river are so tied up with your reads of opponents, and their tendencies, it would be pretty hard to cover ALL facets in anything short of a small book length article (not that this has stopped me before! ). Instead, let's look at some "basics" that help lead you out of a 50/50 "cloud of un-certainties" when faced with a river bet for value without the nut hand...

FIRST: Know why you SHOULD be getting at least some value bets in on the river.

This is pretty obvious, if you habitiually check the river, opponents may not put value in for you with a bet (or their bets may be SMALLER than you;d make them), and you may miss calls that would add value to your bottom line.

Since money you do not LOSE is equal to money you win in what you can BUY with that money, it should be pretty clear that money you do not WIN because you do not TRY to win it, means less money in your plus column too...right?

So leaving too much value on the table can easily swing you from a small winner to a loser.

SECOND: "Know the Nuts"

This is an incredibly BASIC "skill", that even beginners can easily acquire.

It is a very important skill to have though, because the use of community cards in hold 'em dictates that oftentimes, you and your opponent will be using the SAME CARDS. This makes your hand strength in hold 'em largely a facet of its relation to the nut hand. Example:

Quads is a very good hand, right?

Can you see the DIFFERENCE in the relative "strength" of Quad 3's on these 3 board?

You = 3h3d

Board #1: 3c 3s Ad 6c 5h
Board #2: 3c 3s As Ad 5s
Board #3: 3c 3s Js Ts Qs

The CLOSER your hand is to the absolute nut hand, the more willing to make a river value bet you should be.


Let's now look at the boards above again...

You = 3h3d

Board #1: 3c 3s Ad 6c 5h
Board #2: 3c 3s As Ad 5s
Board #3: 3c 3s Js Ts Qs

In all these hands, you flop the nuts.

But which of these boards holds the greatest "threat" to your quads in a multi-way LIMPED (pre-flop) POT, if you check down to the river on your quads?

Which hand holds the the greatest chance that a river bet by you might get called by a LESSER hand than your quads if it had checked down to the river?

If the pot were raised to open, and you called in position to set mine, which hand would hold the biggest "threat" to you if it checks to the river? Which hand holds the biggest "threat" to you if there was a flop bet AND a turn bet?

How big do you think all these various threats are for your quads?

The point of this is that even without a great deal of info about opponents' tendencies, you are far more likely to see someone holding an AA hand with some "action" at the pot, and you are more likely to see a 24s somewhere if there were no raises, and very little action at all.

So, the 3rd board COULD be AKs in someone's hand, but what kind of "action pattern" would you NEED to see to make that hand more than a really REMOTE possibility?

By remembering ALL the action in the hand as the board rolls out, you can put a "weight" on whether a given "threat" hand is possibly there or not. The LESS the action jibes with the an opponent holding a hand which is AHEAD of you, the more willing you should be to value bet the river.

So now let's look at THIS hand in particular...

You raise AJo UTG +1 at a 6 max table by making it 6c (3BB) to go over the UTG limper.

At a full ring (9 or 10 handed), especially versus aggressive or tighter players, this MIGHT be a bit "loose" 9because you are oop with a "trouble hand), but at a 6 max table it is fine, especially since your smaller raise amount choice can lead to a LOOSER raise standard overall (because folding a small amount to play back is not very "expensive" for you).

Personally, I'd prefer a LARGER raise amount here, making it at least 4BB to go instead (3BB plus 1BB for the limper), as this creates a larger initial pot. That choice tends to either make it HARDER for LP players to try leveraging position only against me by making it more expensive for them to "take shots", and it also makes any take down on a C-Bet I may get slightly larger than it would otherwise be.

NOTE: If your country happens to get the broadcast feed of this show- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Stakes_Poker
You'd see a LOT of really "wierd" calls of raises by hands you;d NEVER call a raise with in an MTT or SNG. The reason for that is simple...they are playing a CASH GAME.

Cash games tend to feature deeper stacks than most MTTs (except in the very EARLY stages), and without the same emphasis on chip preservation in a cash game (because you can re-load as often as you like), "taking shots" from position becomes a much more viable play. As such, when I play live $1/$2 cash games, my STANDARD open raise at a full ring table tends to be LARGER than your MTT "standard" 3BB +1 per limper to go.

I often make my standard OPEN RAISE in an amount of 5BB or 6BB even when I am playing extremely loose, aggressive, and opportunistic tables, and when the money is deep enough (over 100BB effective). If I must FOLD that larger amount, the cash game realities do not make that as "damaging" to my chances of booking a profit as I might see in an MTT or SNG...see?

So long as you are keeping your pre-flop raise sizing choices CONSISTENT, there are pluses and minuses to both raising large and small amounts.

You get both blinds calling, and also the UTG limper to call.

What does this tell you about the likely TYPE of hands these guys may hold?

Is there anyone here (especially the BB) who would FAIL to raise a big pp like AA or JJ when the pot may well go multi-way? Who here is possibly someone who might call a SMALL raise with a baby pp to set mine? What kinds of hands have they seen YOU raise over limpers before, and are they aware enough to make note of your play?

Asking yourself these questions BEFORE the flop even comes can begin to formulate your play on the flop. When you open with a hand like AJo, you gotta know you are likely to miss a good deal of the time, and even when you hit, you will hold one pair more often than not. Starting your thought processes about how you may WIN this pot whether or NOT you hit immediately can help you form your "plan" for the entire hand...but you need to access the INFO on opponents to know that stuff, right?

Ok...the flop comes.

You hit pretty big, with top 2 pair. NICE.

Is that enough to slow play?

Well the UTG player makes a donk lead for a min bet. What hands will he do that with?

If you LACK info on his tendencies, that tiny bet should be viewed as pretty "polarizing"...

This guy has either flopped a MONSTER that he is hoping to keep folks around with on later bet rounds (when he will "lower the boom", like a flopped set), or he has a pretty cheese-y hand he is trying to keep playing to see improvement. Look at BOTH SIDES of that...

With 2 hearts on the flop, hands like any 2 hearts, 2 hearts between the A and 5, top pair weak kickers, 2nd pair hits etc, are all possibilities. Of these hands, which of them represent a decent "suck out" chance versus your top 2?

On the flop side...

There are only 3 possible hands that are BETTER than your hand right now: AA/JJ/55. Since UTG is still leading the betting, is he really likely to not thin the field a bit after limping, then seeing a raise, if he held AA or JJ? That leaves only 55 with a really good chance of being there.

From this info, it appears you make a GOOD choice by firing a strong bet over here 2c donk lead, but you also do not fire such a LARGE bet that he cannot call with worse. That is exactly what you should do. This is true simply because he could have a decent chance of being on the draw, and any threat cards for you may sap your willingness to put your own value in, and any FURTHER non threat cards may sap the villain's willingness to CALL more with only 1 card to come. It also tests the willingness of the players who checked their blinds to keep playing. Nice work.

The UTG villain flats an 18c (75% pot) raise by us, and sticks for the turn.

The Tc comes, and puts a 3rd straight card out there.
The Villain checks.

He then CALLS a 36c bet by us (60% pot).

Does that card (Tc) REALLY help him a ton?

Well, he'd have to be pretty loose to call our flop bet with KQo, right?
Even KQs would be pretty tough to call on because we bet pretty strong on the flop, but this is possible if he is loose enough.
TT? Again, with 2 overs to his pp on the flop, that would leave him drawing pretty thin to call a 75% pot bet with only 2 outs.

Bottom line is, if he has shown a willingness to try using "blocker bets" to help get him a good price for DRAWS, his failure to donk lead here on the turn AGAIN probably means he did NOT see any significant improvement very often (if he blokcs with small bets, he probably does it to induce bluffs when he improves too). That leaves us with a lot of what we had on the flop: 55 is the most likely better hand, and there is a small chance he has KQh specifically.

On to the river...

9c comes, and villain checks yet AGAIN.

The pot is now $1.26, and it is such a size that his remaining $1.70 represents a smallish pot over bet if he jams. Since he has seen you bet every street for a good amount, there is a strong chance you have at LEAST a calling hand.

This fact means he probably HAS to fire something on another donk lead of some sort if he is strong, or else the possible straights here now may force you into NOT betting something like a top pair/middle kicker hand. The river represents his "last chance" for value if he holds a monster (which is what it would take to beat your top 2), and when he passes that chance up, you SHOULD key to the fact he may well NOT be stronger than you...

(Note: since you say you have fallen into passive habits, there is a stronger chance too you will not value bet the river. Again, that is a factor that argues strongly against him holding a very STRONG made hand.)

the question is, what should you bet for value?

Well, this is striking me as either a weak flush draw chase by a big time Calling station, OR a hand with some calling value, but one vulnerable enough to seek some pot control.

Versus a busted draw you are not getting called, but you probably WILL get called for another half pot bet by a weaker made hand.

your biggest "worry" is a c/r JAM after you;ve bet, right?

Well for that, we look at the POT...

$1.26 in the pot.
If we value bet 63c, which represents an amount which can be CALLED by a weaker made hand than ours, we see the pot grow to $1.89.
If the villain then JAMS his last chips in, we are faced with a CALL of $1.07 for the chance to win $1.89 + $1.70 = $3.59

that gives us 3.55 to 1 pot odds...

THAT "price" means we need to only be "right" that he is trying to leverage our tight/passive image to bluff steal this on the river about 28% of the time to BREAK EVEN on a call.

If we look back on the ENTIRE hand, I think there is a pretty good chance that the villain does NOT hold a better made hand than our top 2, 72% plus of the time...

If we had just AQ or A9 here, sure we would be less likely to want to value bet and see that jam, but then there'd be MORE hands that would be ahead of us...a LOT more (any spiked 2 pair at all). but when we hold a strong hand like top 2, the choice is pretty clear...

Bet what you think will be CALLED, and what makes it pretty easy to call a jam with; half pot on the river fits that bill admirably.

and THAT is how you think thorugh a river value bet decision...

Hope it helps.

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