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  • When to Simply Check the River in Poker

An interesting topic for poker news today is to take a look at those times when you should simply sit back and check the river when the action is checked to you. Often you may go through a hand with something like top pair, and have bet both the flop and the turn. Then when the river card downs, your opponent checks to you once again (after calling you all the way down), and it is your decision about what to do from there. At times, the worst thing that you can really do is waste chips by pushing out another bet, as you could definitely be out-kicked, or simply beat out all together. There are different situations for both cash games and poker tournaments that you should consider, and a lot of things will depend on how strong your kicker is, and also how big your opponents chip stack is at that point. Let’s take a look at both cash games and tournaments here, and hopefully get a more in-depth look at betting that river card all together.

Cash Games

Obviously in many cash game situations players will worry less about their chip stacks than they will in tournament poker. But, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to it in many situations. If your opponent is a deep stack and the river card that hits is one that improved the board (gave it straight draws or flush draws) then you probably want to just stay away from it all together. There’s definitely a good chance that your opponent is looking to check raise you in this situation. Also, your opponent might bet out at you, which causes a whole different class of questions that you should be tossing around before making any moves.

Poker Tournaments

Tournaments are where your life is toughest when it comes to deciding on whether or not you should check or bet on the river. You have a limited number of chips to work with in this situation, so you should definitely factor that into your decision. If you are a short stack and only have top pair, then just checking down and seeing if you have the lead is typically the right decision. The way to think about it is to think about what exactly your opponent would call your final bet with. If they were to call, would your hand be better than ANYTHING in their range? If it wouldn’t be, then it’s simply a spot where you need to check and hope that your opponent was attempting to hit a draw and didn’t get there. Your job in a poker tournament is to slowly build that stack, and winning a pot that you’ve bet into on both the flop and turn will still help you pick up some chips.

Overall, just remember to put your opponent on a range. If you do this, it can help you make your decision about what to do much easier. Also, watch the board for any draws, and if that draw ends up hitting then there is definitely no point in throwing out a bet on the river, unless you are hoping to bluff your opponent out of the hand all together!

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