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Thin River Folds

Recently, a member of our poker forums, ‘kid hustlr’, started a thread in our tournament strategy forum seeking feedback on a hand where he was dealt pocket Kings. The hand history posted by ‘kid hustlr’, whose screenname is ‘c-biz-kid’ at this online poker table, is as follows:

Full Tilt Poker Game #20948326493: $75,000 Guarantee (158419291), Table 31 – 20/40 – No Limit Hold’em – 20:34:46 ET – 2010/05/18
Seat 1: moudro (2,180)
Seat 2: Firerang (5,350)
Seat 3: c-biz-kid (3,245)
Seat 4: RBC123123 (3,355)
Seat 5: BegsClutch (2,630)
Seat 6: Pokerccini (4,580)
Seat 7: dwf1029 (11,375)
Seat 8: 77kol0bok77 (2,340)
Seat 9: wmmcl (3,210)
moudro posts the small blind of 20
Firerang posts the big blind of 40
The button is in seat #9
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to c-biz-kid [Kc Kd]
c-biz-kid raises to 120
RBC123123 folds
BegsClutch has 15 seconds left to act
BegsClutch calls 120
Pokerccini folds
dwf1029 calls 120
77kol0bok77 calls 120
wmmcl folds
moudro calls 100
Firerang folds
*** FLOP *** [Th 3s 5h]
moudro has 15 seconds left to act
moudro checks
c-biz-kid checks
BegsClutch checks
dwf1029 bets 240
77kol0bok77 has 15 seconds left to act
77kol0bok77 calls 240
moudro folds
c-biz-kid calls 240
BegsClutch folds
*** TURN *** [Th 3s 5h] [Jd]
c-biz-kid checks
dwf1029 has 15 seconds left to act
dwf1029 checks
77kol0bok77 has 15 seconds left to act
77kol0bok77 bets 440
c-biz-kid calls 440
dwf1029 has 15 seconds left to act
dwf1029 folds
*** RIVER *** [Th 3s 5h Jd] [Td]
c-biz-kid checks
77kol0bok77 has 15 seconds left to act
77kol0bok77 bets 640
c-biz-kid calls 640
*** SHOW DOWN ***
77kol0bok77 shows [Jc Tc] a full house, Tens full of Jacks
c-biz-kid mucks
77kol0bok77 wins the pot (3,520) with a full house, Tens full of Jacks
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 3,520 | Rake 0
Board: [Th 3s 5h Jd Td]
Seat 1: moudro (small blind) folded on the Flop
Seat 2: Firerang (big blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 3: c-biz-kid mucked [Kc Kd] – two pair, Kings and Tens
Seat 4: RBC123123 didn’t bet (folded)
Seat 5: BegsClutch folded on the Flop
Seat 6: Pokerccini didn’t bet (folded)
Seat 7: dwf1029 folded on the Turn
Seat 8: 77kol0bok77 showed [Jc Tc] and won (3,520) with a full house, Tens full of Jacks
Seat 9: wmmcl (button) didn’t bet (folded)

I think the mistake ‘kid hustlr’ made on this particular hand was calling on the river. Others have suggested that he should have bet the flop or bet the turn, but I really don’t his failure to do either of those things was as big of a mistake as calling on the river was. I’m not writing this to knock kid hustlr’s play; he’s a tremendous player and has been on a tear in 2010 by winning a triple crown and by finishing 4th in the Mini FTOPS Main Event for $52k last weekend. I’m using his hand as an example because I know he’s a good player and a good guy and wouldn’t mind a decision he made at the table being used in a discussion for learning purposes.

kid hustlr’s river call on this particular hand was very thin. The only thing he was really going to beat was a busted heart draw. I think it’s pretty rare that you’ll see a player bet all three streets for value-sized bets on a busted draw. In this particular hand, the ten was a very bad river card for kid hustlr. As forum member ‘killcrazy’ pointed out, “with so many guys seeing the flop, i think a ten is in play an obscene amount of the time.”

kid hustlr’s river call was one that a lot of online poker players make, myself included. It seems that when you call a flop bet and a turn bet with a showdown-able hand, you almost always get lulled into calling the river bet as well. However, there’s a lot of money to be made (or saved, rather) by staying sharp when facing a third-barrel from an opponent on the river. In this particular example, even when one of the worst possible cards hit the river, kid hustlr still called. I don’t think anyone could have faulted kid hustlr for calling on the river if a complete brick had hit, like, say, the six of diamonds. It would be pretty hard to put your opponent on exactly a set or exactly Jack-Ten, so a call in that scenario would probably be okay. However, when the ten hit the river, there became a much wider range of hands that you’re now losing to.

In general, I find it pretty uncommon for players to fire bets on all three streets, including when in position after a scare card comes on the river, and not have a very strong hand. Usually players tense up and check behind when a scare card comes off. The fact that kid hustlr’s opponent fired a value-sized bet when another Ten came on the river suggests that he almost certainly had a Ten or a set. In a sense, it was actually a good river card for kid hustlr since it increased his likelihood of saving money with his second-best hand rather than paying off without hesitation like he would have if the river were the six of diamonds.

Keep the ‘thin river fold’ concept in mind in your future sessions. Don’t fall into the trap that almost all players have of paying off on the river with their showdown-able hand. Evaluate every river bet you face in a vacuum. Don’t just put the money in the pot because that’s what you did on the last dozen river bets you faced with a showdown-able hand. Sometimes you can throw it away on the river and save money. The key is knowing which spots are best for this play.

Most competent players know their opponent who called on the flop and turn is only going to fold on the river if they missed their draw. For this reason, their river bet is very rarely a bluff.

As players start to make this adjustment, there will eventually become a market for making river bluffs with more regularity. But for the time being, you can assume your opponents will a.) usually call the river if they called the flop and turn (unless they have a busted draw) and b.) almost always have a strong hand when they bet the river, especially if a scare card hits.


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