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Card Room Facing A River Lead

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Sep 20, 2023


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Key Concept: Facing A River Lead

You have reached the final table of a large field, mid-stakes poker tournament. You have 4,200,000 with the blinds at 40,000-80,000. It folds around to you in the cutoff and you raise to 160,000 holding ASpade Suit 7Heart Suit. Only the straightforward, tight-aggressive player in the small blind with more chips than you calls. The flop comes JHeart Suit JSpade Suit 7Diamond Suit and your opponent checks.

Question 1: Should you check, bet 175,000, bet 325,000, or bet 475,000?

Answer: When at the final table, you always want to be cautious when betting into an opponent who has a sizeable chip stack. Even though you are likely ahead, do not bet using a big size because when your opponent calls, you could easily be in tough shape. While betting for a small size is fine in this spot, it is disastrous if you get check-raised.

Both betting small and checking are fine plays, but checking is preferred because it ensures you never face a check-raise and you get closer to showdown with your strong marginal made hand.

You check behind. The turn card is the 4Heart Suit and your opponent checks again.

Question 2: Should you check, bet 175,000, bet 325,000, or bet 475,000?

Answer: Most players would bet the turn if they had a jack. When your opponent checks again, they essentially give you the green light to bet. It is unlikely you will be raised, but still be cautious as some tight-aggressive players will sometimes execute random check-raises with a range that will be difficult to predict.

A small bet adds money to the pot and will likely get called by plenty of worse hands. While you may be able to get called by worse if you make a big bet for 325,000, the smaller size is preferred unless you are against a calling station.

You bet 175,000 and your opponent calls. The river is the 8Club Suit and your opponent leads with a 450,000 bet (about 55% pot).

Question 3: Should you fold, call, raise to 1,300,000, or go all-in?

Answer: What an annoying spot! A poker solver may say this is an easy call, but if you take a moment to consider your opponent’s range on the river, it contains some jacks as well as straights and paired eights. With the straightforward image your opponent has, how many bluffs do you realistically think they would make this bet with?

It may be tempting to target a paired eight with a bluff raise, but your opponent may be able to find a hero call. Considering your opponent’s image and their range, it is best to just give up and fold.

You fold, and although they do not show you their hand, your opponent compliments your play and says they rivered a straight with 10-9. Even when you lose a pot, making a habit out of carefully assessing your opponent’s range and play style can help you save crucial chips in poker tournaments.

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