Poker strategy with Jonathan Little: over-betting on the river


Jonathan Small If you want to improve your poker skills and learn how to dominate the games, check out Jonathan Little’s elite training site at

In a recent $3,500 buy-in main event, I found myself in a difficult situation on the river that I’d like to share with you.

My main opponent in this hand was a 50 year old player who seemed to be a bit loose and passive. He also seemed to overvalue most of his premium hands, which is a common trait exhibited by most recreational players.

With an effective stack of 25,000, my opponent limped in from middle position to 100-200 with a 200 big blind ante.

I limped back from the button with 9Suit in spades 5Suit in spades. The small blind completed and the big blind checked.

With 9Suit in spades 5Suit in spades, I’m fine with all three options, limp, raise and fold. I prefer to limp because my hand is quite weak, but still has some potential post-flop. More importantly, though, I know that if I happen to flop a strong hand, my main opponent in the hand is likely to call me with all sorts of marginal hands.

If I thought my opponent was going to play weak and passive after the flop where he folded to a continuation bet most of the time, I would have raised. If I thought he was going to play well, I would have folded.

The flop came QSuit in spades 7Suit in spades 6Club dress, giving me a flush draw and gutshot straight draw. He’s lucky!

The blinds checked to the player in middle position who bet 600 into the 1,000 pot.

Both calling and raising are acceptable options, but I prefer to raise. The stacks are high enough and I want to build a pot so that when I complete my draw, I can make a sizable bet and ideally get paid a lot of chips.

I raised to 1,600. The blinds folded and my opponent thought about it for a few seconds before calling. The turn was the 10Heart dress, a complete blank for me. My opponent quickly bets 600 into the 4,200 pot.

This small edge is a bet most amateur players will make with a fairly strong, but non-premium hand. I thought he had something like KQ, 7-6, or maybe even set. I wasn’t sure if he would fold if I raised, but I was pretty sure that if I raised on the turn and then bet big on the river, he would fold most of his hands with a pair (making a river bluff extremely profitable). I also thought that if I raised on the turn and bet small on the river he would call (allowing me to get value from my nut hands).

I raised to 3,000, as I would have with my premium hands, like 9-8 and 7-7. My opponent quickly called. The river was 3Diamond dressanother complete void and my opponent checked.

When you find yourself on the river with the bottom of your range, which often happens when you have a bust draw, it’s usually a good idea to bluff, especially if you have a lot of value hands in your range.

While most people would bet “big,” perhaps 8,000 into the 10,200 pot, hoping to get their opponent to fold, I didn’t think this specific opponent would fold top pair or better to a “typical” big bet. To steal this pot, I had to make a bet that my opponent simply couldn’t justify calling.

So, I moved all-in for 20,175, betting double the pot. My opponent thought about it for about three minutes, counting chips as if he were going to call. I remained stoic throughout the process. In the end he folded 10Diamond dress 7Diamond dresstwo pair, up, giving me the pot.

What a relief, poker is fun! ♠

Jonathan Little is a two-timer WPT champion with over $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 poker educational books and 2019 GPI extension Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to boost your poker skills and learn how to crush games, check out his training site at

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