If you want to become an expert no limit hold player you should really work on depolarizing your river betting range. What does this mean? Most players have a polarized range on the river especially when the pot is large—that is they only bet bluffs or their very strong hands. Part of the reason why they do this is because they do not want to open themselves up to being raised—most are incapable of folding. They have subconsciously countered this flaw in their game (not being able to bet-fold for value) by simply not betting.
I call this type of player a “showdown monkey”. He loses tons of value at the end of the hand by checking behind so that he can get to showdown for free. The funny thing that he does not know is that when you get raised on the river, whether in or out of position, your opponent is bluffing so infrequently that you are almost never getting the correct pot odds to call. So he is scared of a bluff that basically never happens.
As good players we know how important it is to make thin value bets in order to achieve a top winrate. When we bet hands that are not strong or weak on the river we are depolarizing our range. If we can effectively make this adjustment we become very difficult to play against and it is hard to catch us when we are bluffing.
Let us take a look at an example. Say in a $5-$5 game with effective stacks of $800 an under the gun player raises to $25 and there are three callers including us, in position on the button. We hold K♣ J♣. The flop comes out Q♣ 2♥ 3♣. The UTG player bets out $80 into the pot. The two players fold in between and we call. The chances are the UTG is pretty strong as he has bet close to pot on somewhat of a wet board into three other players. His hand is most likely at least a queen or an overpair. The turn falls the 9♠ and he bets large again this time $200. We have picked up additional outs to a queen or an overpair as a ten brings us in a gutshot straight. We call again. The river falls the K♥ and now our opponent checks. The pot is $660 and he has $500 left. Should we bet?
To answer this question we have to do some simple hand reading. It is obvious that our opponent has shown a good amount of strength by raising under the gun and betting close to pot on the flop and turn. He could have AA, KK, AQ, KQ or maybe QJ. Which of these hands though, check the river when a king falls? It is very unlikely that he checks KQ or KK. AA is close because again our opponents are showdown monkeys and do not want to be raised off of the best hand. So it is possibly that he has AA but I think that AQ or QJ is more likely. If we bet will he call? In this situation our hand looks so much like a flush draw I think he will definitely try and catch our bluff. Now what happens if we check the river behind? We lose the value bet amount that he would call with AQ and QJ and we also start to have a polarized river betting range something that we want to move away from. If we only have KQ or a busted flush draw he can profitable check call a decent sized bet, especially since he has a queen blocker to KQ. If we are good enough to bet any single paired king here, (running into the river with a flush draw) than he cannot profitably bluff catch us because we have other, medium strength hands in our range that he loses to—we are not only very strong or weak.
Not only do we make extra money making these thin value bets but we make it much much harder for our opponents to play against us and it opens the door for us to bluff more against people who are paying attention.