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OTB #030: How to Study River Spots With a Solver And Improve Your Approach to River Play


IP vs the BB single raised pots are the bread-and-butter spot that every serious MTT player should study and train.


DTO has a nifty scoring system that will show you exactly which street and position you're struggling with:


Most, if not all, players struggle OOP on the river, as you can see in the graphic above.


And I believe a lot of the problems in this area come from one particular node:


You check call a c-bet on the flop and then the turn goes check check. You now land on the river after the preflop and flop aggressor has declined to bet again on the turn.


If you bet now, that is a river probe.


A probe bet is a bet made by the out of position player after the in position aggressor from the previous street didn't bet.


Probe bets are only possible on the turn (after the IP player decides to check back rather than c-betting the flop) or the river (after the IP player decides to bet the flop and check back the turn).


Here's the spot


The HJ (46bb) opens to 2bb and you defend in the BB (33bb) with 5c 2c.


The flop comes Kc Qd Tc. You check, the HJ bets 1.5bb into 5.5bb and you call.


The turn is the 6s and it goes check check.

And now you land on the 6h river with 5 high.



What should you do?


Today I want to show you how to study river spots like this so you can improve your own approach to playing this tricky spot.


Let's dive in...


Looking for clues


I would expect to see the HJ use a big bet on the flop most frequently in this spot, so my first assumption here is that they are a weaker player who is incorrectly using a "one-size-fits-all" c-bet strategy of 27% pot and is therefore c-betting their entire range.


This also makes it easier to analyse as they land on the turn with all the hands they started with preflop.


When the HJ checks back the turn they give us some really important information - we now know which hands they don't have.


Exploring the previous street strategy like this is one of the most important parts of improving your strategy on the next street. You can apply the same approach when looking at turn probes when the preflop aggressor declines to c-bet the flop.


Most players are going to continue to bet the turn here with the following hands:


  • Straights (AJ/J9)

  • Sets (QQ,TT,66) - KK might check back blocking a lot of our obvious top pair continues

  • Most two pair (KQ,KT) - QT starts to check a bit and K6 and Q6 check back a lot more

  • Overpairs (AA)

  • Top pair with a straight draw (AK,KJ) - K9 starts checking back and there's a lot more checking with the weaker suited Kx like K8s and down


This means that the checking range is made up of:


  • 23.0% 2nd pair

  • 20.0% low pair

  • 17.0% 3rd pair

  • 15.5% ace high

  • 14.1% top pair

  • 5.4% nothing

  • 4.3% two pair

  • 0.7% sets


Getting to the river


Once you have a good understanding of what your opponent's range looks like going into the river, you can work out which river cards will be good, bad and indifferent for you, and this should guide your river strategy.



A Jack is the worst card for you in terms of equity and you should check it 100% of the time. Over half of the HJ's range is now a straight and you don't want to bet into a range so full of strong hands.



Lots of bet size options


One of the major issues with this particular node is that when the HJ bets small on the flop, and then checks back the turn, the pot is quite small relative to the effective stack size on the river.


This means there are suddenly more betting options available to you when you land on the river:


The 6h is one of the better cards for your range. As such, you get to make use of all 4 bet sizes, which makes things incredibly complicated and is understandably why a lot of players struggle:

25% pot

75% pot

125% pot

All-in (352.5% pot)

Check

32.36%

7.86%

28.59%

9.04%

22.15%

When you use a small block bet of 25% pot, you'll need to have 5 value bets for every bluff.


When you jam on this river for 3.52x pot, you can have 1.28 value bets for every bluff.


Obviously then, the bigger you bet, the more you can bluff. And the smaller you bet, the less you can bluff.


When studying these spots, you want to look at each bet size to work out how the solver is constructing its betting range so you can see the hands it bets for value and the hands it chooses as a bluff.


The important thing is that you should have both value bets and bluffs in all of these bet sizing.


Now it's just a case of choosing a sizing that accomplishes what you're trying to achieve.


What does the HJ's range look like now?


You should now have a pretty good idea of what your opponent's range looks like after analysing their check back strategy on the turn.


This is what the HJ's range looks like on this specific river:


  • 25.1% 2nd pair

  • 18.4% low pair

  • 17.3% 3rd pair

  • 15.8% Ace high

  • 14.3% top pair

  • 5.5% nothing

  • 1.9% full houses

  • 1.7% trips


The 6h is one of the best cards in the deck for you and you want to do a lot of betting. And your opponent has very few really strong hands.


Let's go through each bet size...


How does Bob Marley like his doughnuts?



You get to jam on this river with a polarised range.


That means jamming trips, straights and full houses for value and then some Ace highs and missed flush and straight draws as a bluff. The bulk of the jamming range for value in this size comes from trips.


When you jam for value, you're mainly targeting the top pair bluff catchers in your opponent's range. Of course you can get value from weak trips, but the bulk of the HJ's calling range comes from Kx (top pair) hands.


When you jam as a bluff, you're applying a lot of pressure to the bluff catchers that include some Kx discussed above together with some Qx and Tx that will be indifferent if you have the right balance of value hands and bluffs.


And then you can get a lot of better hands to fold like low pairs (22-99), Ace highs and any remaining nothing type hands that are better than 5 high.


Our exact hand is a great candidate to jam as a bluff because we unblock the hands we want to fold and can get a lot of better hands to fold.


Overbetting (125% pot)



You get to overbet (125% pot) with some full houses straights and trips, but the main chunk is coming from top pair. And then you balance that with some bluffs with Ace high and missed flush and straight draws.


As the bet size gets smaller, the strength of your main value bets goes down.


When you bet 125% for value, you're mainly targeting top pair (Kx) hands and trying to make the weaker bluff catchers, like Qx, indifferent.


When you bet 125% as a bluff, you're targeting most Tx, 33-99, Ace highs and nothing type hands.


The "standard" 3/4 pot



The 75% pot gets used least frequently.


The main focus of the 75% pot bet is on value betting with top pair and 2nd pair for value, and then some Ace highs and missed straight draws (Jx) bet as a bluff.


When you bet 75% for value, more Qx and Tx hands have to start calling.


When you bet 75% as a bluff, you can still target 33-99, Ace highs and nothing type hands to fold.


Block betting (25% pot)



You can block bet for 25% pot with some full houses and a fraction of straights, but your main focus is on 2nd pair hands now.


Again, notice how the strength of the hand goes down based on the bet size used. You can also block bet on the river with some top pair for value, and then some Ace highs and missed flush and straight draws as a bluff.


When you bet 25%, you can now get value from all Qx and most Tx and then the low pairs (33-99) are indifferent.


When you bet 25% as a bluff, you can still get those Ace highs and nothing type hands to fold.


Now you can see that the HJ is going to call with a lot of hands on the river, you can see why you need to have a lot more value bets than bluffs.


What about checking?



There are also some hands that want to check, and that's mainly built around 3rd pair (Tx) and Ace highs.


Of course you don't want your checking range to be too weak, so there are bit of full houses, straights, trips, top pair and 2nd pair sprinkled in there too.


Summary


Walking through the different bet sizes and identifying how the solver is constructing its range, while at the same time figuring out the 'why', will really help you improve your approach to river play.


Remember:


  • Look for clues (on the previous street)

  • Work out which river cards are good and bad for you

  • Explore each possible bet size to work out what and why the solver is doing


That's it for this week.


See you next Saturday.


 

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