When you hold top pair, you feel like king of the world, but when that annoying ace comes on the river, your world begins to crumble. facing tough river decisions and knowing how to respond starts with proper study. Take the lessons from this article, and be prepared to make the right play.
Scenario: You are seven-handed, playing in a $5,000 buy-in online tournament. The blinds are 400-800 and you are on the button with 98,000 chips with K♥-J♥. The player under the gun makes a raise of just over the minimum to 1,760 and everyone folds to you.
Calling is usually the best option with hands the can flop extremely well, like K♥-J♥ especially when you are in position. Three-betting is also fine, but it’s usually recommended to call with suited big cards. If the K-J was offsuit, three-betting often makes more sense to help ensure the pot is heads-up, while also forcing the initial raiser to fold before the flop from time to time.
Action: You call and both blinds fold. The flop comes J♦-6♥-3♠ and the under-the-gun raiser makes a continuation bet of 3,200.
The Pot: 7,920
The Board: J♦-6♥-3♠
Effective Stack: 120 Big Blinds Effective
While you usually have the best hand, if a lot of money goes into the pot, you will find that you are usually in either marginal or bad shape. Facing a sizable flop bet in position, you should call with most of your continuing range. Calling keeps your opponent in with lots of hands that you crush, which is rarely a bad thing, especially when you are unlikely to get outdrawn.
Action: You call, and the turn is the 10♥. Your opponent bets 8,800.
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The Pot: 23,120
The Board: J♦-6♥-3♠-10♥
Effective Stack: 116 Big Blinds Effective
A raise on this turn would be more viable than a flop raise due to most of your opponent’s range potentially picking up a draw, but nonetheless, calling is again the best move.
While your opponent may pick up some additional outs with the 10♥, the odds of them hitting are low and you even block some of their draws with your king. While you should be unhappy getting all-in (aces, kings, and queens are still in your opponent’s range), it would be the only amount worth raising to because if you raise smaller, you will give most of your opponent’s draws acceptable pot odds to continue.
Action: You again make the call, and the river is the A♠. Your opponent bets 20,000.
The Pot: 43,120
The Board: J♦-6♥-3♠-10♥-A♠
Effective Stack: 105 Big Blinds Effective
The ace on the river is the worst card that could arrive because it connects so well with your opponent’s turn bluffing range. When you were already losing to numerous better made hands, and lots of draws arrive on the river, it is usually time to make the snug fold with your bluff catchers.
Conclusion: While frustrating, sometimes in poker you are ahead on the early betting rounds but get outdrawn on the river. Make the strategic fold and live to fight another day.
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