The huge mistake of checking the river.

F Paulsson

F Paulsson

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I won some pots last night, that I shouldn't have, because my opponent made the mistake of not daring to bet the river, when he had (semi)bluffed on the flop and the turn. This is a big mistake that will cost a lot of money. Here's how it happens:

You're holding K♣5♣ in the BB.
The flop comes up J♣8♣6♥.

Three other players in the pot, all limped in. Your table image is good, and you decide to bet. Often a good idea with a flop like this one.

Two players call. You decide there's a good chance they're either on a straight draw, or they have might have a J. But you didn't get any raises, so if it's a J, it's not one with a strong kicker. You might be getting slow played, of course.

Turn comes 2♠.

That card likely didn't help anyone, unless you're dealing with total calling stations (who would consider calling preflop with J2, 82 or 62, or possibly calling your bet on the flop with a 22).

So you bet again, this time to drive them out, or to expose their slowplaying, if there is one.

One fold, one call.

River comes 7♥. There's a possible straight on the table now, and you didn't hit your flush. Did the single opponent left just hit his straight? What is he holding that he's just calling with?

So you check. He checks. He shows 9♠7♠. He takes down the pot.

Truth is, though, that it wasn't the river that cost you the pot, it was the check. There's no way that player would have called the big bet on the river, with only a pair of sevens. He missed his draw, and was waiting to get out (he might even have checked the Check/Fold box already).

In this situation, you should always bet the river. In the pot, after the turn, there's 4 small bets, plus 3 small bets, plus 2 big bets. 5.5 big bets, at that point, meaning that if he folds only one time out of five, you still have a positive expectation of betting here.

Happened three times last night to me (where I was the "other guy" who was checked to) where I would have happily folded had he bet. Not exactly like this hand, but the idea is the same.

If you're the kind who has been checking the river like above often, try betting it in these situations instead. Chances are you'll be surprised to see how often the other person folds. Look at it from his or her point of view: You've been betting strongly, from early position, all the way from the flop. You're representing at least top pair, possibly with a strong kicker. Maybe two pairs. Maybe you hit the straight. By betting the river, anyone with less than two pairs has to think very carefully about calling that bet. It's a good idea to make your opponents make tough decisions, because when forced to make tough decisions, a lot of the times people screw it up. Use it to your advantage, and make some extra cash.

FP (Hi, Nick!)


Great Post

Never really understood the idea of betting the river if you were still semi-bluffing. I will be using this as soon as possible. Let you know how it goes. Thanks


Good advice, though I would say its only really worth it at NL.

The amount of money I lose doing this on the limit tables is annoying. You tend to get called down with anything. 1 extra big bet they are normally going to call on the 6max tables. If they are going to fold its normally before this. Worse yet they reraise your missed hand. Then you got to decide if its worth calling the extra bet with your K high.

Nice bet in NL will work wonders for stealing pots
F Paulsson

F Paulsson

euro love
It depends on who you're up against, sure. If you're up against someone you know will always call with anything, then betting might cost you money. But keep in mind that this doesn't have to work everytime, it doesn't even need to work the majority of the time. It only needs to work 20% of the time (or sometimes less, depending on the pot you're betting into).

Even at most of the micro limit tables, I'll get folders often enough to warrant this bet. Sometimes, there's a player at the table who will always call everything down to the river. Such a player isn't usually around for very long though, but if he does get lucky and managed to stick around, a quick mental (or online) note on him, and you know not to try to push him out on the river.

Although driving a weak hand out of the pot is easier in no-limit, that's a different kind of animal than this general tactic. Betting on the river, when you've represented a strong hand since the flop, isn't primarily to make your opponent fear you, it's about playing the odds. Don't think of it as a bet to drive your opponent out, think of it as a bet that he won't call. "I bet one dollar that he won't call, and if he doesn't call, I win 6." Those are fairly high odds, and you only need to win that bet once every now and then to make it show a profit.

Of course, if you're up against a known calling station, you're likely throwing your money away. I make it a habit to check my notes on players before making any move on them, including this one. If I have no notes on someone, I'll make this bet every day of the week, though.


If you're trying to bluff the hand and steal the pot, then checking on the river is like telling your opponent, "Heh, just kidding, here you take it!" Unless of course, you think your opponent actually has a hand to beat you and will call your bet. Otherwise, if you've been betting strongly throughout the hand, the river is not the time to chicken out if you want to steal the pot. Get rid of those chasers!


Rock Star
Betting the river for value on a missed semi bluff is critical. When you shoot to kill you must fire 3 bullets. Pre flop setup doesnt count. Fire 1 at the flop, fire 2 at the turn and fire 3 at the river. Excellent advice!

One question, when is it appropriate to re steal, and thwart a steal attempt?

If you suspect that He is semi bluffing and ultimately fails to improve, how do you time a raise? Could you reraise the turn or the river to confirm, and hopefully resteal the hand?

In the hand you describe your calling all the way, I beleive. How would things have turned out if you popped him on the turn, or even the river?

GREAT POST! I look forward to discussing this.



I see this all the time, and have been guilty of it (checking) on a number of occasions. Thanks for this advice, I'm gonna take it to heart. I think this is a critical part of the game that I have not been utilizing. It's one of those "playing strong or playing like a pussy" things that is bound to help my game. Thanks again!
F Paulsson

F Paulsson

euro love
Bill_Hollorian said:
One question, when is it appropriate to re steal, and thwart a steal attempt?

If you suspect that He is semi bluffing and ultimately fails to improve, how do you time a raise? Could you reraise the turn or the river to confirm, and hopefully resteal the hand?

In the hand you describe your calling all the way, I beleive. How would things have turned out if you popped him on the turn, or even the river?
"It all depends."

But to qualify a bit more, I usually play one of two ways (presuming I'm intent on staying in the hand because the pot odds makes my draw worthwhile).

  • If I'm in last position, I'll often raise on the flop. Very few players at the lower limits are strong enough to see through that to counter with a reraise when they're on a draw. But some are, however, so be watchful of that. The purpose of that raise is to test the strength of his hand, primarily, but secondly to see if he'll check the turn (in which case, he's no longer semibluffing). If the turncard doesn't react the way I want it to, and he checks, I get a free river. Of course, checking the turn on the button after reraising the flop is one of the largest signs of weakness you can give. He's sure to put you on a draw at that point, and so he can probably tell on the river whether you hit or not.
  • Last position, sometimes (rarely), I'll call the flop and raise on the turn. This is more to mix up my own game than a good way of making money right then and there. Presuming that the turn didn't help me, my raise on the turn serves only to push others into folding and might reduce my winnings if I do hit on the river.
  • In earlier position than the guy who bet the flop - presuming I don't just fold or call, as I generally don't like playing aggressively with a draw out of position - I might checkraise on the flop. Checkraising is one of the primary signs of strength at the table, and might really make your opponent wonder what you just hit on the flop. A checkraise on the flop, and then a bet on the turn might just make him fold unless he gets pot odds to continue to the river.
You asked what would happen if I popped him on the river, which is an interesting idea. Clearly, he's shown tremendous weakness (or incredible trickyness, and you're facing a checkraise, but I've hardly ever seen that play - interesting idea though), and a bet here would therefore be positive outcome if he folds to your raise once in a while. But here, I'd also stop and consider how he must reason now. He's bet out on the flop, on the turn, and then stopped to check on the river. All of a sudden you - who's just been calling - decide to bet. He perhaps had you figured to be on a draw, and nothing indicates that you had gotten what you were looking for. Surely you're just trying to steal it? Of course, he can't call, as he has nothing, so you're taking it home.

That river bet, though, falls mostly into the category of "if he calls, you'll lose and if he folds, you would have won anyway", so I'm not so sure I'd recommend it. If you want to make a move, I'd do it on the flop (early signal of strength) or on the turn (where the raise hurts him more to call).

But this is really an "it all depends" situation. To be aggressive with a draw, you need to feel confident about who you're up against, you need to have a feeling for the texture of the flop and that he's unlikely to have hit anything. You need to have a table image of someone who's not a maniac, and you need to not be afraid to lose money if it fails. If you do fail to draw or push him out, and he cackles as he realizes his Q2o was good with the pair of deuces he got on the turn, you need to re-evaluate how you're perceived at the table. Anyone who watched that hand will immediately now presume that you're a complete maniac bluffer.

This is extremely dangerous to you, because from that point on, you're much less likely to be able to bluff anyone. But it's also extremely profitable to you, if you're aware of what just happened in the minds of the other players, as you can now flop a monster and bring down huge pots.

I think a lot of people feel that micro- or lowlimit players don't really notice anything about anyone, so any idea of "table image" is a waste of time. I disagree. People notice more than you may think - heck, they notice more than THEY think. They may not have consciously registered that you just fired all three barrels and got caught with nothing, but somewhere in their head, a little flag just went up that says "FPau is not trustworthy!" The next time you bet into them, they'll go "Hmm. I wonder if he has it. I'm not sure why, but I don't think he does."