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Two Pair Against a Possible Straight on the River: Bet or Check?

Two Pair Against a Possible Straight on the River: Bet or Check? 0001

DECISION POINT: In a $1/$2 live no-limit hold'em cash game, you are dealt {a-Spades}{q-Diamonds} and you raise 4x the big blind from UTG. The player in the hijack seat calls and everyone else folds. You bet the {a-Clubs}{q-Spades}{10-Diamonds} flop and your opponent calls, then after the {8-Clubs} turn you bet again and once more the hijack calls. The river is the {k-Spades} and the action is on you...

PRO ANSWER: When considering a river bet, we should analyze its profitability as both a value bet and as a potential bluff.

In this hand, it's pretty hard for us to get value from worse hands than ours. Most two-pair combos that we beat, such as A-T, Q-T, or K-T will all fold to our river bet very frequently. That means that when our opponent calls, they will usually have a better hand than ours.

There's also no real reason to bluff, since few better hands will fold. We might occasionally get sets to fold, but most players will find a call on the river for only a half-pot bet.

This makes checking the best play against a default opponent. If the player moves all in, we should typically fold against most opponents. Fewer opponents are capable of turning something like Q-T into a bluff on the river, so when they bet it's usually a value-heavy range.

If we are up against an opponent who will always call with all two-pair combos, then we can justify betting the river.

Otherwise, checking is the best play.

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