Calling Big Bets on The River
In no limit hold'em, betting escalates with each betting street, so by the river, you could be facing a very large bet, even a bet for all your chips. When should you call such a bet?
There is no guaranteed way to know if a call on the river is correct or not. However, there are some guidelines you can follow to help you make your decision.
Calling on the River: Putting the Pieces Together
Each street in a game of poker does not happen in a vacuum. You need to be collecting information on every street. Has your opponent been making progressively larger bets, massaging the pot, and then moving in on the river?
That is consistent with a big hand. Has he been check calling and suddenly moving in on the river when a blank card comes? That is more consistent with a busted draw. Everything must be determined in context, but the play of the hand should give you clues as to whether or not you have a river call.
Calling a Big Bet on the River: Board Texture
A lot may depend on what card comes on the river. If an ace or a card that completes a straight or flush hits, there is a good chance that that card completed an opponent's hand. However these are also great cards to bluff on, so again you will have to go back to how the hand has been played so far and how this opponent typically plays to determine whether or not you have a call.
Warning on Big River Bets
Do not assume that simply because an opponent has made a huge overbet on the river that they are bluffing. In today's poker culture, many players assume such a move will be read as a bluff, so they like to push with a big hand, hoping they will get a hero call and win a huge pot. Use your instincts, your read and your observations.
Do not make any unfounded assumptions, and if you are not sure, a bad fold is usually less costly than a bad call.