The river is very different compared to the flop and the turn. You now have all the information that you are going to get and there are no more cards that can change the value of your hand. At this point you do not have to worry about pot odds or that an opponent is going to hit a draw. The river is hence in many ways easier to play then the earlier stages of the hands.
The river do however make you face a number of unique challenges that you have not been facing earlier in the hand. It is very common that players play the river too aggressively with marginal hands. The river should only be played aggressively when you feel certain that you got the best hand or when you feel very certain that an opponent will fold to a bluff. Excessively aggressive river play is especially common on micro tables.
How you choose to play the river should be decided almost exclusively on your cards. You should only to a lesser degree base your decision on your opponents choices.
There are 3 common scenarios for the river.
- You think you have the strongest hand
- You think you have the weakest hand
- You are unsure of the value of your hand.
You think you have the strongest hand
If you think you have the strongest hand then you should usually bet out to make sure that you get as much money as possible into the hand. You can choose to check the hand if you are convinced that another player is going to raise.
You should usually bet large. This provides the best value over time. You might be called less frequently but it will help cultivating a looser image and you will win more money when you do get called. It is seldom a good idea to bet small in the hope of getting called. Doing that does not maximize value over time.
You think you have the weakest hand
If you think you have the weakest hand you should usually fold to any action. It is unlikely that anyone will bet out with a hand worse than yours.
You can choose to bluff. You should only choose to bluff if you feel convinced that your opponents will fold if you do.
You are unsure about your hands strength
This is a hard situation to be in. How you should choose to play this hand depend on how your opponent is playing. If your opponent is betting into the pot then you will need to make a decision on whether to call or not. You will need to make this decision based on how aggressive your opponent is and how he has played the hand so far.
If the opponents have check to you then you should almost always check as well. There is no value in betting a hand you are uncertain of.
- If you have the best hand then your opponents are likely to fold and the bet will not provide any value.
- If one of your opponent have a better hand then you are likely to get called and loose your bet
This is why you do not gain anything from betting this type of hand. Your bet increase your risk but provide little to no upside.