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March 24, 2005

The Magic of Checking on the River

Posted at March 24, 2005 01:49 PM in Poker Strategy , by Greedy Gecko.

It is the unwritten code of magicians to not reveal their secrets to laypeople, and breaking this code attracts the hatred of all guild members. A discussion of the poker technique of checking on the river, when in position, feels very similar in nature. Checking on the river is a defensive, cost saving move that is rarely used by most low limit players.

Checking on the river is useful when you hold a strong hand, but nowhere near the nuts, and have been betting your position throughout the hand. If your opponent(s) has check then called your bet at each stage of betting, you have no information about their hand. Let’s explore some of the possibilities below:

Opponent has nuts or near nuts:
So you have been betting your top pair throughout the hand and your opponent has been simply calling you. Little do you know that your opponent is slow-playing a monster hand, and letting you bet the hand for them. Based on your play of the hand, most low-limit opponents would expect another bet on the river. Consequently, they will check to you awaiting an opportunity to check-raise. In this situation, you’ve bet your strong hand throughout, and only suffer to lose more money with a bet on the river. A bet will result in a dilemma as to whether to call a raise, and may result in additional losses should you choose to call.

Opponent is on a drawing hand:
Again, you’ve bet each round and have been called by the opponent(s). On the river, a card that seems of little help to anyone hits the board. Your opponent has been calling you in an attempt to hit their drawing hand, and missed on the river. In fashion with the other rounds of betting, the hand gets checked to you. In this situation, a bet by you will either be met with a fold, or a significant raise as your opponent(s) tries to bluff his way to victory. Again, I would advise avoiding this situation entirely by checking on the river. If the drawer is the folding type, nothing is to be gained by betting. If the drawer chooses to raise, you are again left with a difficult dilemma and will have a hard time differentiating whether your opponent is on a bluff or has been slow-playing.

Based on the likely outcomes of the above scenarios, I would strongly recommend checking on the river with position, when you are holding a strong, but vulnerable hand.

The Greedy Gecko