Reading Hands, River

{Continued from Reading Hands, Turn}

[NN] “The river is the exciting conclusion to a four-act play”, Nate the Natural continued. “With a good read, you can pick off a bluff by a missed draw, like naming the murderer in a whodunit.”

[FF] “I don’t get killed that often, but they’re certainly always stealing my chips”, Figaro the Fish amended.

[NN] “Okay then, just a bit of larceny to discover… or commit. If you think you’re behind, can you try to steal the pot? If you’re ahead, how much value can you get from the final street of betting? If you’re in position or do you fear a check-raise? If you’re out of position, are you better off betting or hoping to pull off your own check-raise?”

[NN] “So, if a blank hits on a draw-heavy board after your opponent has check-called you the whole way, you’re not going to get paid off much. You have to hope the draw included a weak pair. In tournaments, you may not want to risk a small value bet if your opponent is a known check-raiser (unless of course you think he check-raise bluffs too often).”

[NN] “Likewise, if a money card hits on the river but your opponent still checks, there isn’t much point in betting.”

[NN] “The interesting case is when a draw comes in and your opponent leads out.”

[FF] “Easy fold.”

[NN] “Against most of the players here, probably. But what about against someone crafty like Elias the Eagle?”

[DD] “I try not to get into hands with him in the first place.”

[NN] “True, but you have top pair, and you never even had a chance to fold, since he never bet or raised. So here you are now with a board that shows K♥Q♥T♣4♦2♥. Elias bets half the pot. What are the odds he actually has the flush?”

[DD] “I have to fold or else he justifies his odds for chasing his draw.”

[NN] “The Birdman chases a lot of draws, because his implied odds are higher than ours are. When we didn’t bet him off on the turn, he called with pretty much 100% of his holdings, so he still has:

	AA, JJ
	ATs+, K8s+, QTs+, Ah9h-Ah2h+, Jh9h+, Th9h
	AKo, KJo+, QJo-JTo

Count up the hands, and you’ll discover that he was on a straight draw more than three times as often as a flush draw. But by representing the flush, he more than doubled his ‘outs’, got us to fold, and stole our chips!”

[DD] “So, the only way to apprehend the criminal is to catch him in the act by calling his river bluff.”

[NN] “Right. Now suppose the board was dry instead: K♥7♣2♠4♦2♥, and your opponent is Roderick the Rock instead of Elias.”

[FF] “No draws there, so he has a real hand.”

[NN] “Yet he’s only been check-calling us.”

[DD] “He has top pair but doesn’t like his kicker.”

[FF] “Maybe a pocket pair lower than Kings?”

[NN] “It depends on who you are. If his opponent is Carlos the Crazy, Rod would have no problem calling with a pair of Tens. If it’s Mildred the Mouse, he’s folded all but his best Kings.”

[DD] “So, not only does he have a King, but it almost has to be King-Queen. Because he would have raised with Ace-King preflop.”

[NN] “Very good. So if we’re Mildred, and we actually hold pocket Sevens for a set, how much should we bet to extract the maximum value?”

[FF] “I’d probably pay off anything up to half a pot.”

[DD] “He’s tighter than you are. I don’t think he’s paying off much at all. I might try a quarter pot or even smaller.”

[NN] “I agree. That’s all you’re likely to get. He shouldn’t call anything, but we all hate to get bluffed, and we’re all curious to see what our opponents have.”

[DD] “Mildred isn’t ever bluffing here.”

[NN] “What if the opponent was Elias with an unknown hand instead of Mildred? If he bets a quarter pot, should Rod call? A half pot? Pot?”

[DD] “Roderick would probably call the first two but fold to a pot bet.”

[FF] “Unless Elias had been bullying Rod out of a bunch of pots recently.”

[DD] “Precisely when Elias is most likely to show up with the goods.”

[NN] “Maybe. But if you do a good job of putting him on a hand range, he won’t be able to fool you nearly as often as he does now.”

[DD] “Thanks, Nate. You could write a great book about reading hands.”

[FF] “I don’t know about palmistry, but you sure could write a good poker book.”

[NN] “Thanks, but Ed Miller already has. How To Read Hands At No-Limit Hold’em is expensive1 but worth the price. You can easily win that outlay back in a single cash game or tournament.”

Footnotes:

  1. Currently still selling for its original list price of $49.99 at Amazon. The book deserves a full review, but I’m not qualified to write it. Maybe in a couple years.
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