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How to Avoid Mistakes on the River

April 5, 2023
by Lex Veldhuis

This video from PokerStars Team Pro player Lex Veldhuis covers key strategies for playing in deep stacked poker tournaments. Lex provides insightful commentary on selected hands to help you strengthen your tournament game on every card.

Preflop Decision Making

It’s critical to know proper opening ranges based on your position at the table. Lex recommends studying preflop opening charts to determine which hands to open raise, call or fold from each position. As stacks get deeper, make your preflop raises larger, around 3-4 times the big blind from early position and 5 times from the blinds further on.

Postflop Play: Value Betting Strong Hands

When you hit strong hands like top two pair or better, bet big for value. Don’t bet small with the mindset of “just getting called.” Think about how much your opponents may call on each street and size your bets to maximize value. For example, with a hand like bottom two pair, Lex recommends betting around half the pot on the flop, then possibly 2/3 to full pot on later streets.

Defending the Big Blind

It’s a mistake to fold too often from the big blind versus opens and raises. You need to defend with a wide range, around 50-60% of hands. While it can be difficult, learn to play marginal made hands like middle pair after calling from the big blind. Be willing to check-call and float to take away the initiative from the preflop raiser.

Bluffing in the Right Spots

Choose spots to bluff where your opponents are likely to fold often, such as when there are multiple players yet to act behind you. Hands that block strong value hands, such as Aces or Kings, also make good bluff candidates. For example, King-Queen unsuited is a great hand to bluff with since it blocks Ace-King and Ace-Queen, two hands opponents may continue with. It’s what Lex describes as a semi-bluff as “it’s not terrible, but you’re not in love with it either”.

Putting it All Together: Hand Examples

Pay attention to things like preflop open sizing, value betting effectively on the flop and turn, defending the big blind with suited connectors and using blockers to determine good bluffing spots. Your position to the blinds is important as well, reacting to raises before you can help understand the table dynamics and mean you won’t end up at the river in a poor position.

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