Most Poker Players Make the WRONG River Fold Here

Most Poker Players Make the WRONG River Fold Here
Learning how to play the river well is extremely important to your bottom line at the poker tables. And more specifically, you need to learn how to avoid making bad river folds.

Now don't get me wrong, sometimes you absolutely do need to make a disciplined lay-down especially against an extremely tight player on the river.

This is something that your poker HUD can help you with, as I will explain below.

But there are many instances, especially versus aggressive regulars and recreational players, where you need to be making the big call.

Many Poker Players Make a Bad River Fold Here

A perfect illustration of this is when you have a hand like pocket kings and the ace comes on the river. Then the fish makes a big bet, and you sigh and fold.

We've all been there, and it absolutely is frustrating. But should you actually be folding in this river situation all the time?


In fact, in my experience having coached hundreds of students at the lower stakes in particular, way too many people end up making a bad river fold here.

Let's look at an example of this to help illustrate.

Check out this hand for example that I recently analyzed on YouTube:

In this hand we raise preflop with pocket kings from early position in a 6-max game. Everything looks good so far, although I think the raise sizing could be a bit bigger.

This is something that I talked about numerous times in Crushing the Microstakes regarding the NL2 games in particular.

But let's just put that aside for now.

We end getting called by both blinds including a massive whale in the small blind with a VPIP of 91.

Now, if you don't know what this means by the way, these are HUD stats that you can get on your poker table that tell you what type of player you are up against.

A 91 VPIP is a huge, huge fish. Like literally, always.

So when the flop comes really good for us with an:

852 rainbow

We have an absolute no brainer bet here especially when the fish donk leads for the minimum bet sizing.

The fish calls of course (because that't what fish do!) and we head to a turn.

Once we see a turn card that is an 8, we usually need to proceed with a little bit of caution here. And that is because it pairs the flop top card.

This means that our opponent could conceivably have trips now.

But we also have to remember that we are not up against a reasonable thinking opponent here. We are up against a huge whale.

So when he checks to us, we have an absolutely mandatory bet on the turn here.

You Need to Make Thin River Calls

Now, of course the river is the interesting part of this hand when the ace comes and the huge fish leads out for 1/3 pot.

Should we call? Should we raise? Should we fold?

Well, I think that raising is absolutely out of the question here. The reason why is that raising accomplishes absolutely nothing for us.

If we raise with pocket kings on this river card, we basically only get looked up by better hands and fold out all worse.

This is a "lose/lose" situation that many strong players like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey talk about avoiding all the time.

So our choice clearly needs to be between either calling or folding on the river here.

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Most Poker Players Make the WRONG River Fold Here
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Check Your Pot Odds Before Making a Big River Call

Now the other crucially important thing to note on the river here in this hand is our pot odds. An astute poker player would have noticed that we are getting 4 to 1 pot odds.

This means that we rarely need to be correct (20% to be exact) in order to make this a profitable call. And that is what ultimately swings this situation into a clear call, rather than a fold.

And now, of course, it is easy to look at the results of this hand though (he showed an ace), and think that we made the wrong decision by calling.

But we have to remember that poker is not about individual hands and whether we win or lose in said individual hand.

It is instead about analyzing somebody's range correctly and making the correct river call or river fold depending on the math and any past history.

In this case, we have a clear call when we are getting such amazing pot odds versus a recreational player.

And this is because he absolutely can have a ton of missed draws, some worse value hand or even a total bluff. Remember, we only need to be right 20% of the time to break even on our river call here!

And so yes, it is true that he will flip over an ace sometimes like in this hand, and it stings. But we need to assess his/her entire range and remember that an ac e was just one part of it.

When we are getting 4 to 1 on the river here, this absolutely forces us to call.

It's Better to Make a Bad River Call Than a  Bad River Fold

And this brings me also to another very important point that in general it is better to make a bad river call versus a bad river fold.

At the risk of being called a "donkey" or a "calling station" you always want to err on the side of looking most people up especially in today's more aggressive games.

Because at least when you make a bad river call, they will know not to try and bluff you again next time.

But when you make a bad river fold, people will mark you as a weak poker player who can easily be run over.

In fact, I personally hunt these players at the micro stakes and bluff them all day long. I actually reveal several of my best river bluffing strategies in my latest book, The Micro Stakes Playbook.

I specifically look for players who are too weak and like to make the "big fold" against me on the river too often.

Bad river fold

These are the perfect targets for me to bluff over and over again. And this is one of the biggest reasons why I have been able to consistently post such big winrates in these games.

So, please, please, if you only take one thing from this article, it is always better to be known as a calling station in poker, than a weak scared player.

Don't be afraid to make the big river call. And avoid the big river fold unless you have very good reasons to believe that it is the right play.

In fact, this is yet another reason why I highly recommend using a good poker HUD if you play online poker and take it seriously.

Because all you have to do is look for the players with an AF (aggression factor) of 2 or less, if you are considering making a big river fold.

Because this means that they are passive players and they probably aren't bluffing as much. For everybody else though, who has an AF of 3 or higher, you should be making the call on the river.

Final Thoughts

If you want to be successful in poker, then you need to avoid making too many bad river folds.

Often this simply comes down to the math. And it is pretty simple math actually. You don't need to study any super advanced poker training for example to understand the basic pot odds.

When we are getting 4 to 1 on the pot, we only need to have the best hand a very small percentage of the time in order to break even on our call (20% of the time to be exact).

The other thing to note here in this specific hand that we analyzed is that we are up against a huge fish who is playing 91% of his/her hands.

This means that we should definitely expect this player to have a wide range of missed draws, worse pair hands, random bluffs and so on.

So putting all the pieces together we have a fairly routine river call in this spot. I hope this article gave you a brief introduction into my river strategy for the micro stakes in particular.

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Most Poker Players Make the WRONG River Fold Here