River Probe

River Probing: How to Play Rivers When Your Foe C-Bets, Then Checks Back

Your river probing strategy in 2020 is more important than ever before.

Most players c-bet over 60% of the time on the flop these days. This means you will frequently find yourself calling a flop bet, then having to decide whether to bet or check on the river after the action checked through on the turn.

Not paying attention to this part of the game tree will have a significant negative effect on your winnings.

First, I’ll cover how to approach probing on the river in a general sense. Then, I’ll go over a couple of example hands to help you cement your understanding of these spots.

If you’re unfamiliar with “probing” in poker, expand the section below. Otherwise, let’s begin!

How to Approach Probing on the River

Suppose you’re in the big blind and call a raise. You check and call your opponent’s c-bet on the flop, then both of you check on the turn. Now, it’s your turn to act on the river.

Generally speaking, you will have to split your range into hands that will:

  • Bet for value
  • Bet as a bluff
  • Check-call
  • Check-fold
  • Check-raise for value
  • Check-raise as a bluff

(Note: The most important ranges to have nailed down are the hands that bet and the ones that will check-call or check-fold. While not unimportant, building a complex check-raising strategy will not have a meaningful impact on your win-rate.)

Bet for value: Hands that will bet for value will be the ones that are going to get called by more than 50% worse hands but are super strong.

Bet as a bluff: Hands that will bet as a bluff will be ones that don’t have showdown value (in most cases).

Check-call: When we check and face a river bet, we will be looking to defend close to the minimum defense frequency concept.

Hands that will check-call will be the ones that have showdown value and block potential value hands from the opponent while not blocking potential bluffs.

Check-fold: Hands that will check-fold will be the ones that were un-paired and may have had showdown value on the flop, but are not strong enough to check-call by the river.

Check-raise for value: Hands that will check-raise for value are the strongest value hands you can have.

Check-raise as a bluff: Hands that will check-raise as a bluff will generally be hands that have some showdown value but not enough to call and block some potential bet-call hands from the opponent’s range.

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River Probe Examples

We will take a look at big blind vs button situations as these are most frequent and the ranges are the widest, which makes the concepts a bit easier to understand.

Hand #1

Online $0.25/$0.50. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $50.

Hero is dealt two cards in the BB
Button raises to $1.25. SB folds. Hero calls.

Flop ($2.75): J 8 5
Hero checks. Button bets $1.80. Hero calls.

Turn ($6.35): 7
Hero checks. Button checks.

River ($6.35): 2♠
Hero…

Here’s how we could build our betting strategy in this spot:

(This analysis based on a PioSolver solution for this spot. Click here to view the solution.)

  • Value-bets: Top pairs, for sure. The solver elects to check most two pairs, but you can bet those as well if you want to simplify your strategy.
  • Bluffs: All the missed draws except for those that are A-high or K-high.

Now, let’s talk about what we’d do if we check and face a bet:

(This analysis is also based on a PioSolver solution. Click here to view the solution.)

  • Check-call: Mid-pairs and the lower pairs with the top kicker.
  • Check-raise for value: Top pair top kicker and better.
  • Check-raise as a bluff: Pairs that block the set of deuces.
  • Check-fold: All the other hands.

Hand #2

Online $0.25/$0.50. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $50.

Hero is dealt two cards in the BB
Button raises to $1.25. SB folds. Hero calls.

Flop ($2.75): K♣ 6 5♣
Hero checks. Button bets $0.90. Hero calls.

Turn ($4.55): 8
Hero checks. Button checks.

River ($4.55): T
Hero…

Here’s how we could build our betting strategy in this spot:

(Again, this analysis is based on a PioSolver solution. Click here to view it.)

  • Value-bets: Top pairs and optionally you can bet the two-pairs if you want to simplify your strategy
  • Bluffs: All the missed draws including the weakest A-high ones because we are running out of bluffs without them

Now, here’s a synopsis of how we will play our checking range versus a bet:

(This analysis is based on one final PioSolver solution of this article. Click here to view it.)

  • Check-call: Mid-pairs, 3rd pairs and the lower pairs with the top kicker
  • Check-raise for value: 2-pairs and better
  • Check-raise as a bluff: 6x hands that block weak top pairs and rivered two-pair (76s, 96s)
  • Check-fold: All the other hands

Wrapping up

Probing on the river well will boost your win-rate, especially in tough online games.

In addition to this, understanding the underlying concepts will help you build better strategies in similar situations.

If you really want to make sure your strategies are well built, make sure you put in adequate time working on your game away from the table.

I hope you learned something new from this article. If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know in the comment section down below!

Want to improve your mental game next? Check out How to Avoid the Unhealthy Mindset That Tortures Poker Players.

Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!

Note: Ready to join 5,000+ players currently upgrading their No Limit Hold’em skills? Crush your competition with the expert strategies you will learn inside the Upswing Lab training course. Learn more now!

Home > River Probing: How to Play Rivers When Your Foe C-Bets, Then Checks Back
Home > River Probing: How to Play Rivers When Your Foe C-Bets, Then Checks Back
About the Author

Dan B.

Online grinder aspiring to reach the highest stakes and crush the toughest games.

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