The River: Basic Play
This is Tournament style No Limit Texas Hold 'Em. The flop and the turn cards have been dealt and it's now time for a new community card to be exposed. This brings us to what is known as "The River Card." Also known as 5th street, the River Card is the fifth and final community card to be exposed in a hand of Texas Hold'em. The origin of the phrase "River Card" has been the subject of much debate over the years, but the common belief amongst gaming historians is that the term originated from a game called Down the River, or what later came to be known as 7-Card Stud. Hence, the last card to be played in a hand of poker became known as The River Card.
So now that we've had our history lesson for the day, let us take a look at what the River Card means for you. You've survived the three subsequent rounds of action and now this is it, the last card and the last round of bets. Whatever shall we do?
Well, first of all, relax. You're a smart player and you've gotten this far making good decisions so don't stop now. This is not the time to start making bad ones. Re-examine everything that has gotten you this far. Is the value of your hand better, worse, or about the same as it was after the Flop and Turn were dealt? What are the chances the River Card made it possible for one of your opponents to beat you? Will a big bet "steal" this pot? And just why is that guy sitting across the table suddenly smiling at you as you ponder these things? There are so many questions to ask, but if you've been playing smart and questioning the motives of your opponents, the answers to your questions may be obvious.
A good skill to use on the river to gauge the value of your hand is to take a look at the community cards and come up with the all the possible hands that can be made with available cards. If for example, you look at a board that has four diamonds and you have two black 2's, it might be time to let your hand go if you are bet into. Conversely, if you hold pocket Jacks and look at a board of Jx-9x-5x-3x-7x, there is a strong chance that you are holding the best possible hand. But as always, proceed with the utmost caution there ARE cards out there that can still beat your set of jacks. You can use this skill coupled with the information you've collected on your opponents to help you decide the best course of action when it's your turn to act.
In the next lesson, we'll focus on some in-depth strategic approaches to the River Card. Until then remember to stay alert, pay attention, and get your money in the middle when you have the best of it.