The river is the final stage of Texas Hold‘em and can often be the most crucial part of the game, because it can either make or break a player's hand. Hence the name; you either sink or swim.
What Happens on the River?
At this point in the game, there are four community cards on the table, a card is burned, and another is placed in the middle, making a total of five community cards. After this stage, no more cards are dealt, and there is only one more round of betting before everyone still in the hand shows their cards in the showdown.
1. Playing in Position
Being first to act can provide many benefits; you can set the tone, and project strength. While if you are last to act, you get a chance to see what moves your opponent makes first.
On the river, there is no way to hide a low-ranked hand; you either need to make a significant bet and scare everyone else away or fold. Going to the showdown with a weak hand is a pointless waste of chips. Don't bet on the river if you are unsure; it's safer to fold and live to fight nother day.
3. Think About Other Players’ Cards
If you get to the river and haven't been paying attention to how your opponents have been playing, you've missed a crucial chance. Trying to figure out what cards your opponent has is a vitally important component in poker, especially on the river.
- Don't get to the river with no plan, know what hand you are going for, or fold.
- Be careful with raises; the river is make or break, and unless you are confident of having the best hand, increases can get very dangerous and costly.
How to Play the River
Before the final community card is dealt, everyone still in the game should have a rough idea of what hand they are trying to make, and what they still need to complete it. The river is generally the most straightforward phase of the game because you either have strong cards and will attempt to lure other players into betting more, or you don't and should probably fold.
Playing a Strong Hand
It's easy to win when you have the highest-ranked hand on the table; the real trick lies in trying to get as much value out of it as possible. Bet too much, and opponents might be scared away, slow play and you won't get the best value out of the cards. Learning to play a strong hand on the river takes time, and you can't always make the right call. The key is to keep practicing and try not to make the same mistake twice.
Playing a Medium Strength Hand
Playing the river when you don't have the best cards is risky at the best of times, especially when there are multiple people still in the hand. At this stage, it's crucial to force your opponents to fold from a substantial bluff. If it fails, fold. Playing a medium strength hand on the river usually works best when you are first or last to act, you can scare everyone away with a big bet, or make an informed decision by seeing what everyone else does first.
Playing a Weak Hand
Taking low-ranked cards to the river is very risky and generally only pays off against beginners. There are only two options, make a big bet and try to scare everyone out of the pot, or fold. If there are multiple people still in the hand and the betting is getting high, fold. There is no way to win in the showdown with weak cards and refusing to fold at this stage is a sure-fire to lose your stack.