How to Think Like a Poker Pro (River Strategy Analysis)

Jason Koon

Over the last couple of weeks we've been sharing an interesting street-by-street discussion of a no-limit hold'em hand by poker coach Gareth James of MTT Poker School. The analysis was inspired by a recent blog post from poker pro Jason Koon in which he discussed the complex decision-making often demonstrated by players in high-stakes games.

After applying Koon's ideas to both the flop and turn in this particular hand, James has continued through to talk about the river as well. As before, when addressing what to do on the river James applies many of the questions Koon recommends players ask when trying to determine which action is best to take.

To recap where we are in the hand, the Villain had opened from the cutoff and the Hero defended the big blind by calling with {k-Hearts}{7-Spades}. The flop came {k-Spades}{2-Hearts}{7-Hearts} to give the Hero two pair, and the Hero check-called a continuation bet. Then the turn brought the {a-Hearts}, and this time Hero checked again, Villain bet again, and Hero called once more.

You can review those discussions here:

The river then brings the {a-Diamonds}, making the final board {k-Spades}{2-Hearts}{7-Hearts}{a-Hearts}{a-Diamonds} to counterfeit Hero's two pair. Hero checks, and Villain pushes all in. Now what?

Once again, there are several questions Hero wants to answer in order to make the best decision about what to do on the river:

  • Who is this river card better for?
  • Who has the bigger proportion of big hands here?
  • What is the stack-to-pot ratio (SPR)?
  • What is my opponent's range?
  • What is my calling range here?
  • Should I always call with {k-} and a heart?

As before, these are a lot of different questions to answer in a short amount of time. But by studying situations like this away from the table, you'll be better positioned to make smart, informed decisions relatively quickly.

Take a look:

By the way, here is Koon's original blog post for the partypoker blog: "It's the same game, but it isn't."

Gareth James coaches at MTT Poker School where his new MTT Game Changer modules are now available. He is also the co-author with Dr. Tricia Cardner of Purposeful Practice for Poker.

  • Prompted by Jason Koon, Gareth James shows how to "think like a poker pro" when playing the river.

  • Hand analysis: Gareth @gazelligpoker James analyzes a tricky river decision facing an all-in shove.

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