Picking Off River Bluffs

The river bluff is something you see fairly often in low stakes games.

A lot of players often use it as a final attempt to try and take down the pot. Even when the bet itself doesn't make much sense given the action on previous streets.

When there's a high chance that your opponent is bluffing, don't be afraid to call his river bet if you think your hand is best.


$7 6-max SNG non-turbo – Level II (15/30 – ante 4)

Button: Villain (2486 in chips)
Big Blind: Hero (1326 in chips)

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [8 8♣]

UTG: folds
Cutoff: folds
Villain: calls 30
Small Blind: folds
Hero: checks

*** FLOP *** [7 4 9♠]
Hero: bets 60
Villain: raises 60 to 120
Hero: calls 60

*** TURN *** [7 4 9♠] [K♣]
Hero: checks
Villain: checks

*** RIVER *** [7 4 9♠ K♣] [6]
Hero: checks
Villain: bets 210
Hero: calls 210

*** SHOW DOWN ***
Villain: shows [Q A♠] (high card Ace)
Hero: shows [8 8♣] (a pair of Eights)
Hero collected 755 from pot

Villain is very loose and plays 60% of his hands.

Pre-flop he is passive, raising only 10% of the hands he plays. Post-flop, however, he is quite aggressive and bets and raises with a high frequency.

When villain limps the button I look down at a pair of 8-8. A good hand that I could definitely raise here. However, I think that a raise is not the best play in this spot for a couple of reasons:

  • Villain is the chipleader with close to 2,500 chips and is very loose-passive pre-flop. If I make a raise, he will call the majority of the time.
  • Making a raise here would mean I would have to play my 8-8 out of position against the big stack who is playing aggressively post-flop.
  • Making a raise here would increase the pot size, meaning I would also have to make bigger bets post-flop. In this situation, I'd rather keep the pot small.

I decide to check and we see a flop of 7-4-9. My pair of 8-8 looks pretty good on this flop and I decide to lead out with a 60 chips bet.

The main reasons for betting here are to get some information from my opponent and also to take the lead in the hand. If I check this flop, my aggressive opponent is almost always going to bet in which case I don't have any idea where I stand in the hand.

Villain then minraises my flop bet to 120. An odd play. His limping range pre-flop is very wide and it's unlikely he limped with a monster hand. He could have flopped a pair but since I only have the 9 to worry about, I think my hand should usually be good here. I decide to call and see what happens on the turn.

The turn brings a King, which is another overcard to my pair of 8-8. I decide to check and villain checks behind.

The River Bluff

The river is a 6 and I decide to check again to try and induce a bluff.

At this point I think the only hands I should be really worried about is a slowplayed monster (unlikely) or a pair of 9's perhaps. I'm not too worried about him having a pair of Kings. I think he would definitely have bet the turn if he had a King in his hand. After all, I showed some interest in the pot by leading the flop, so he most likely would just value bet the turn if he had a King.

An aggressive player with a big stack who sees me checking both the turn and the river. That's just the ideal spot for him to bluff the river and try to take down the pot.

He bets 210 chips, I call and he shows A-Q high.

His river bet looks very suspicious based on the line he took in this hand. The only hand that he can really represent is a pair of 9's, which he raised on the flop, then checked on the turn because he was afraid of the King, then value bet on the river because he thought it was the best hand.

A King or a weirdly slowplayed monster don't make too much sense and if he has a lower pair on the board, he would probably just check behind for his showdown value. All in all this bet really looks like he wants me to fold.

The river bluff is a move you see fairly often in low stakes games. Be prepared to pick off these bluffs if you think there's a high chance that your hand is best.

Consider the following factors when deciding whether your opponent is bluffing or not:

  • Your opponent's estimated hand range on the river.
  • Your opponent's post-flop aggression and general bluffing frequencies.
  • Your opponent's stack size (on the low stakes, many players drastically increase their aggression and bluffing frequency if they have a big stack).
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