The River Strategy
The river strategy is based on one simple concept. When the odds are in your favor, play/call the hand. When the odds are really in your favor, raise the hand. Fold when the odds are against you and someone bets, even the slightest -1% disadvantage. In order to simplify the overall strategy, play/call the same river strategy on the flop and turn. The river strategy is the 'made' hands that have a positive advantage. If you have a hand that wins 11% of the time and there are 10 players, you have a +1% advantage. The strategy was designed around a full table game with 10 players at the table. When the same river strategy tested in a short-handed game (5 players), the percentage of winning hands on the showdown went up dramatically.
Pairs are the most common hands you will play/call. Therefore, how to play pairs is extremely important. Play/call any pair of eights or above. The percentage of advantage is only +1% however, a positive advantage is still a winner. When you have a pair of sevens and there are no over-cards on the board (the community cards), there will be a straight draw on the board making 7 s a losing hand, no matter what. Whenever the percentage of advantage is over +10%, you have a good hand to raise. A pair of queens has an advantage of +10%. Raise any pair of queens or greater.
An over-card is a board card that is greater than your pair cards. For example, you have a pair of queens and there is an ace dealt on the board, the ace is considered an over-card. Even though you would normally raise pair of queens, when there is an ace over-card, fold your queens. There is a disadvantage of -2% holding a pair of queens with an ace on the board. Some players will argue that if the ace appears on the river and you have queens, you should continue to play to protect your investment. When I ran this exact scenario over and over again with a full table (no one folds an ace in their hand), there was a constant 'bleeding' of money that was astronomical. However, in a real game, players will fold an ace with a low card in their hand before the river. This is poker so to call when the ace shows up on the river is up to you. Definitely fold if there are two over cards on board.
This is true during a full table game. However, when you a playing on a short-handed table (5 players), there is less of a chance someone is holding an ace in their hand. There is a +1% advantage playing a pair of eights with an over-card on a short-handed table. After further analysis, the amount of players determined whether or not to fold a pair with an overcard. Play/call the pair of eights or above with an over-card on board with five players or less. Play/call a pair of tens or above with an over-card on board with six players. Fold any pair with an over-card on board with seven or more players.
Raise pair Q s and above with no over-card on board
Raise any two pair, it is a winning hand. The percentage of advantage for the lowest two pairs is +29%.
There are times that you have two pair and one pair is on the board. That is not always a winning hand. Surprise, play/call a pair of eights with any board pair (+1%) as long as there is no over-card. For example, you have a pocket pair of eights, a pair of kings and a ten is on the board. The ten is considered the over-card and you have a negative advantage. You should fold in a full table game. During a short-handed game, playing a pair of eights with a board pair and over-card can be played (as playing one pair with an over-card). Fold if there are two over-cards on board.
When there are two pairs on board and you have a pair of eights and above with no over-card, call the hand. Again, if there is an over-card, fold your hand. If your pair happens to be the lower than the two pairs on board, fold your hand.
Call any two pair with a pair on board.
Fold any two pair with a pair and overcard on board.
Raise any two pair
Call pair 8 s and above with two pairs and no over-card on board
Even trip twos have an advantage of +51% in a full table game. Definitely raise any set or trip on the river. However, flopping two pair or a set is extremely hard to read by other players. Slow playing a set is extremely profitable. Calling with a set on the flop gives the impression you have a weak hand and you are just hanging on with a drawing hand. When the river comes and the board still looks bad for a flush (3 suited on the board) or trips (pair on the board), other players with high pairs will do all the raising for you.
An inside straight draw on the board is a problem with any set or less. Only one card is necessary for someone to have a straight. One card to make a straight means there are four actual cards in the deck that will make a straight for someone, and with nine other players in a full table game, you have a negative advantage of -4%. Fold any set/trips or less with an inside straight draw on the board.
With an outside straight draw on the board there are eight cards in the deck that complete a straight, you have even a greater negative disadvantage of -8%.
This disadvantage does not occur with a backdoor straight draw on the board (three cards that can be used to make a straight). Even a pair with a backdoor straight draw on the board is still a winning hand.
Raise any set or trips
There are two types of straights. A two card straight is one that both cards in your hand that are used to create the straight. A two card straight has an advantage of +62% and should be raised on the river. Just like having a set on the flop, having a straight on the flop can be slow played because it hard to read.
A one card straight is when only one card in your hand is used to create the straight. Even a one card low straight has a +22% advantage. .
However, when your one card is the lowest card used to create the straight, there is an open straight draw on the board and you a negative -4% advantage. For example, a ten, nine, jack and queen are on board and you have the eight for the straight. Anyone having a king would give them the high straight.
With an ace high straight and you have the ten in your hand, the top card that can beat you does not exist giving you a +45% advantage. Raise an ace high one card straight when you have the ten.
When there are three suited cards on the board there is a possibility that someone has a flush. However, the percentage of advantage of a straight is still positive with three suited cards on the board. Play/call even a pair when there are three suited card on the board.
However, when four suited cards are on the board and you do not have a flush, fold the hand, you have a negative -10% advantage, which means you will lose every hand!
Raise any two card straight
A two card flush is a powerful hand with a +66% advantage. With three suited cards on the board, some players almost expect someone to have the flush. You can slow play them and appear not to have the flush. When you do raise, especially on the river some players believe that you are bluffing and will even raise to 'call your bluff' especially if you catch the flush on the river. So either way this hand can be played effectively.
Sometimes one card in your hand will make a flush. There is also four suited cards on board and good possibility someone else has a flush. Not surprising, when you have an eight high one card flush (the eight is in your hand), you have a positive +2% advantage. Anything less than an eight, you have a losing flush hand. When you have a ten high one card flush, your advantage is +10% and should be raised.
A full house requires at least a pair on the board to create. However, even with a pair on the board, a straight and flush are still winning hands that should be raised. When there are trips (three of a kind) on the board, you have a negative -9% advantage. Fold any flush or less with trips on the board.
With two pairs on the board, the chances of someone having the full house are less but you still have a negative -1% disadvantage. Fold any flush or less with two pairs on the board.
Raise any two card flush
When you have a full house you have the winning hand. The lowest two card full house (pair on the board) has a whopping +73% advantage in a full table game. It is rare to have two players to have a full house when only one pair is on the board. So when it happens you lost a full house to another full house, no matter what someone says, that was the correct call. Never fold a two card full house.
When there are trips on the board and you have a pair to make a full house that is still a winning hand. In a full table game, as long as you do not have an overcard to your pair, you have a positive +13% and should raise the hand.
If there is an over-card, you have a -3% disadvantage and should fold. For example, you have pocket tens and three kings and a queen are on board. The queen is considered an over-card and you should fold the full house. Just like pairs, in a short-handed game do not fold the full house with one over--card. Fold if there are two over-cards on board.
Raise any full house
Of course raise any hand greater than a full house. Also note, raising is not necessary when you want to conceal your hand. Mathematically, if everyone stays in like normal your winnings will increase dramatically. But, raising a hand that can be easily read by other players will cause more people to fold.
Raise any four of a kind, straight flush or royal flush
Once in a while a monster hand such as four of a kind will appear on the board. Always call because the pot will be split between the players left.
One last note, a percent of advantage on the river means just that. So if you are heads up on the showdown, and your opponent just raised over your raise, you better just call.
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