How You’re Butchering River Play (Part 1)

I have recently been getting paid to write articles about why you suck at poker.

It’s really strange to me how I am getting more popular as a coach the angrier I get, but hey, I am not going to argue with it. If Mike Ditka is what you kids want, then Mike Ditka is what you’re going to get.

And today I am really going to lay into you. Because we are going to talk about the weakest street you all play.

That’s the river.

I consider myself a fairly decent No Limit Hold’em player. If you put me on any table around the world, chances are I can crack it.

That doesn’t mean I am any great talent. Merely competent. I work hard, I pay attention, and I take care of myself in the offseason.

Again, I’d be playing MLS Soccer. Not Premiere League.

But guys, seriously, if you’re going to keep parading these players in front of me who are "the next great thing" then at least have the decency to suggest a guy who can play.

Let me break this down simply: The goal of No Limit Hold’em is to win money. This requires taking other’s chips.
If you have the best hand on the river and check back without thinking, then you are not trying to get the other poker player’s chips. You are not a poker player.

The river is the place to get all your chips in No Limit Hold’em. If you bet 1/3rd pot no one even looks at the size. No one even ranges you. If they have fourth pair, they call you.
1/3rd pot on a lot of rivers is eight big blinds. Guys. THAT’S HOW MUCH ACES MAKE YOU ON AVERAGE. You’re just going to pass that up because you’re scared the guy is going to checkraise you? How often does that really happen? 5% of the time? 10% of the time? How many guys are bluffing when they do that?

YOU’RE JUST GOING TO PASS UP THIS GOLD MINE?

Think of what you’re going to have to do to make this up. You’re going to have to be dealt aces. You’re going to have to raise three times without anyone calling you. Literally, the whole table has to fold. Three times. Or you can land one threebet bluff. And then another.

…Or you can value bet your weak top pair on the river and get paid off all the time.

There’s no other way to put this: If you check back the best hand on the river and it doesn’t eat you up inside, you don’t have what it takes to win at No Limit Hold’em. You don’t have that hunger. You’d have to put a gun to the head of a real player there to get him to check. Meanwhile, you’re content to take these puny ass pots.

What’s the worst thing that could happen? The guy check/jams all in with a bluff and then shows you?

Wow. You’ll lose some money. Your feelings will get hurt. Sounds like the end of the world.

Do me a favor in 2018. Go out there and make a f***ing mistake. Value bet the second-best hand. Show me you want it.

Let’s see your f***ing game face for once. Show me you have a right to play cards.

Spoiler alert: Accept that you’ve already lost, and you’ll be shocked by how seldom people play back.

Good luck to all you.

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