Betting on the river
November 7, 2006 8:29 AM   Subscribe

My poker game is improving slightly--I've managed to cut out my sillier all-in Matusow-style moves in favour of a more thoughtful, measured approach, but I'm worried that I'm becoming a little too conservative on the river. Example: Last night I called an early position raise and hit a flush and straight draw with my low, one-gapper cards. He raised small amounts all the way, giving me the right price for my draw and on the river I hit my flush. Because it was a low flush, I just checked along with his final check, and he showed AA (I didn't put him on AA, because his raises were so small, almost as if he was TRYING to keep me in the pot). Afterwards, i felt silly that I had not pushed all in because he would have surely called, but my mind was too occupied with the possibility of a higher flush. Does anyone have any tips on how to know when to go for it on the river with a great hand that's not the nuts?
posted by Mrs.Doyle to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A conservative play on the river is not a horrible thing. Here's the problem:

If you put your opponent on a potential bigger flush draw, you should not be drawing to the flush, period. However, the odds of that kind of thing happening are pretty low. It does happen where two people have a flush, but it's rare enough that you just shouldn't be too concerned.

Similar example: You have KK, flop comes KQQ - boat for you.

If someone has QQ for quads and you go broke - you were just really unlucky, and if you don't go broke here, you're too weak (as in conservative) of a poker player unless you really have some insanely disgusting ability to read that someone has quads (not bloody likely)...

With a small flush, you either shouldn't be drawing to it at all, or you should be willing to put in a value bet on the river and live with the fact you might get raised. The only way I'd check the river is if the board was paired and you thought someone having a full house was a legitimate possibility. If it's a bigger flush you're afraid of, you either need to not be drawing, or to put that bet in on the river and live with it if someone has a higher one.
posted by twiggy at 8:36 AM on November 7, 2006

We need way more info to make any sort of judgement. Tournament or cash game? Short handed or full ring? What were your chip counts and the blinds? How does villain normally play? How much did he raise?
posted by ODiV at 8:43 AM on November 7, 2006

I don't know that he would have called an all-in move on the river. If someone was passively calling me with straight and flush draws on the board and the flush hit on the river, I'd likely fold to an all-in bet with merely a pocket pair (depending on the opponent of course).

I think your opponent made a mistake by not making a sizeable bet on fourth street to try to get you to fold your seemingly obvious attempts to draw out to the flush (and/or straight).
posted by papercake at 8:48 AM on November 7, 2006

Often on the river bet, you get the situation where the only hand that can call you is a hand that can beat you. Your opponent likely had that in mind when he (wisely) checked the river. Maybe you also had that in mind.
His betting pattern was inconsistent with a holding of pocket aces (for a good player, anyway), especially with potential draws on the board. If he had held large suited cards on the same flush draw (AJ, for instance), his betting pattern was more correct and I would have been worried about him hitting the flush. In short, I don't think your play was that bad. I would have made a value bet, enticing a call with aces, or a massive re-raise with the nut flush.
posted by rocket88 at 8:55 AM on November 7, 2006

I agree with rocket88. More often than not, an early position raise in a tournament is usually AA, KK, QQ, or AK. How were the continuation bets? Were they pot sized? From the sounds of it, the other player is at fault for making it too cheap for you stay in and for not betting on the river.

Depending on the person, if they had the nut flush with AKs, I usually see a lot of check re-raises, which might have forced you to fold.

Of course, all of this depends on many variables like chip stacks, what blind structure you were in, etc., etc., etc.
posted by jasonspaceman at 9:23 AM on November 7, 2006

Did you have two cards of the same suite? or just one, and four came out on the river?

I think you played the hand fine. I actually think you had no business in the hand if the only thing you were going for was a low flush on the river.

Instead of focusing on how you could have played the hand better, I think you should focus on how badly your opponent misplayed the hand.

If you were in a really gambly mood however, if you had two cards of the same suite, and two more came on the flop, and you started re-raising, he would have pegged you for the flush. You might have been able to pull a few more bucks out, but I don't think he would have gone all-in (unless he was really stupid).
posted by unexpected at 9:36 AM on November 7, 2006

His raises certainly were not pot-sized, so I was suspicious that he was drawing me in with an even better flush draw. It was only afterwards I realised how timid I was being.

And sorry, yes, this was at a nine-handed table during a tourney. He was in first position and I was on the button.
posted by Mrs.Doyle at 9:36 AM on November 7, 2006

Not a comment on this hand, but you will probably get more and (better) advice by posting to the 2+2 forums where they not only specialize in Poker, there are specific forums micro-limits, tournament play, small stakes short handed, etc.

2+2 forums
posted by justkevin at 10:07 AM on November 7, 2006

I can't shake the feeling, while reading this question and the replies, that I'm hearing a conversation between a bunch of Scientologists, instead of a bunch of poker players.

When I can't even *intuit* what the jargon means, I'm up the river bad... :-)

Now I understand why these guys can make a million a year.
posted by baylink at 10:29 AM on November 7, 2006

You didn't say on which street you hit the flush ... this is important because it tells us whether or not there was a single-card flush draw possible. If there was, then your hand is much better; you opponent is more likely to call with a worse hand if a draw just missed.

If there wasn't, I think that it is unreasonable for your opponent to expect you to bet, and so unreasonable for him to expect to successfully checkraise. This is especially true considering how passively you play. Therefore I believe his bet indicates a weak hand, and he is not being deceptive.

You should bet, but not all in. A large bet cannot be called by a weak hand, and you would be in a bad place if you were called.

You have just experienced firsthand the problem with playing passively while holding low-ranked, gapped cards against straightforward, decent play. If you cannot collect on the river -- which I agree, you cannot make a large bet and simultaneously be happy when it is called -- then that means that all the calls you made earlier in the hand were wrong. Your play is inconsistant and it's because your starting two cards were weak.
posted by cotterpin at 1:16 PM on November 7, 2006

I'd also pitch the ITH Forums as a friendly source for detailed hand history type discussions. It has fewer members than 2+2, which is the biggest and best place for poker discussion -- but it is a lot more friendly and populated with fewer out-of-control college kids.

In general, you should only draw to hands that you are going to be confident enough to bet when they hit. If you make your draw and you are still not happy, you should reconsider chasing that draw.

In this case, you probably should have bet something less than all-in. When a player raises pre-flop and fires two more barrels and then checks the river when an obvious flush draw hits, he is saying that he had a good hand but now is afraid of the flush. With good reason, as it turns out. The best bet for you is usually going to be one that isn't so big as to let him make the glamorous fold, but not so small as to fail to extract value from the hand. It depends a lot on what kind of player he was and if he is a big chicken or not, but a bet of a quarter to half the pot is probably going to get called almost all the time by an overpair. A decent player could easily lay down AA on a an obvious flush board if you pushed all-in. But if you gave me the right odds, I'd probably have to call and get you to show me the hand.

The river is a place for extracting value. Betting too small (or checking behind!) is costing you money in an obvious way, but betting too large so that people will not call you costs just as much. Learning the proper bet sizes is an art.
posted by Lame_username at 1:22 PM on November 7, 2006

If you cannot collect on the river -- which I agree, you cannot make a large bet and simultaneously be happy when it is called -- then that means that all the calls you made earlier in the hand were wrong. Your play is inconsistant and it's because your starting two cards were weak
We don't actually know this. It is possible that the AA guy made bets that amounted to 10% of the pot on each street, in which case, she was perfectly able to call with her draw without extracting anything else from the guy on the river. We just don't have enough details. She does appear to grasp the notion of pot odds from her description of the hand. However, I would agree with you that baby suited one gappers are probably not the best hand for someone who is asking this kind of question to play to an EP raise. But poker is fun at all levels of proficiency.

By the way, Mike is going to mad that you think he is the poster child for all-in pre-flop play. He's actually not one of those guys. TV makes everything look crazy. You should have used Hoyt or Tuan as an example of all-in pushbots. Mike loves to see flops. He usually doesn't do anything dumb until later in the hand.
posted by Lame_username at 1:33 PM on November 7, 2006

Lame_username: Mrs.Doyle didn't say anything about preflop all-ins.

Mrs.Doyle: I second the 2+2 forums as a place to post hand histories. Make sure to leave out the showdown though (you want to avoid results oriented thinking).
posted by ODiV at 3:48 PM on November 7, 2006

Ok, so it was a tournament. But when during the tournament? What were the blinds? How much money did you each have? How many players left and how many started? What was the average stack size? How many players left till the money? What did the flop come? How much did he bet? There is a ton of information missing here.

You say he raised small amounts. Do you mean he bet small amounts? He was first to act. Or did he check-raise you?

All I see is that you called a guy who raised up-front (and he had AA like he's supposed to) and you called with a weak hand, and got lucky, and then were confused as to why you didn't think he could have AA. What DID you put him on? He raised and you thought, what? He has QJ suited?
posted by idledebonair at 6:06 PM on November 7, 2006

Hey, Idle? I know you want to show you've got chops, but I got my answer from someone who was able to understand the question without knowing the blinds, my stack size, my shoe size and my favourite song. Why don't you just bow out of the conversation if you're going to be a blowhard.
posted by Mrs.Doyle at 2:46 PM on November 8, 2006

Lame-Username, I didn't mean to suggest that Mike blows up before the flop. I know he's a good player.
posted by Mrs.Doyle at 2:54 PM on November 8, 2006

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