If you have read or listened to my training material in the past you know how important that I think it is to make thin value bets on the river. In fact at the mid to low stakes games this can comprise as much as seventy five percent of your winrate.
One of the most common mistakes that recreational players make especially when the pot gets big, is getting scared. Certain cards may come and because they are incapable of betting for value then folding to a raise they just check to take a free showdown. This approach keeps them losers in the game overall.
One of the situations that scares these players the most is when a card falls at the end that can make an opponent hold two pair. Let us take a look at an example. Say we raise under the gun with pocket kings to $20 in a $2-$5 game with $800 effective stacks. Both the cutoff and the button call. The flop comes out Q♦ 3♦ 2♣. We bet out $45 into $65 and both players call. The turn is an 8♥ and we bet $125. This time only the cutoff calls. His range is a little stronger than the button’s as he has to worry about the button behind him. Most likely he has some sort of queen. The river is the J♠. A lot of weaker players would become scared of this card, as there is a chance now that the cutoff has made two pair with QJ. What they do not realize, however, is that it is less likely that this player holds QJ due to combinatorics.
Combinatorics, although sometimes an intimidating word, is simply the study of mathematical combinations. When a card appears on the board there are less combinations of hands with that card that a player might have. So for example if the cutoff only calls with QJ suited to a raise he has four combinations total of QJ, one for each suit. Because the board is Q♦ 3♦ 2♣ J♣ he can no longer have Q♦ J♦ or Q♣ J♣ only Q♥ J♥ or Q♠ J♠. So, before the river, he has three possible combinations of QJ suited—but after his total is cut by 33 percent. He is more likely to hold KQ suited as there are three combinations still remaining instead of the two of QJ. On a more advanced note people are more likely to call a raise with KQ suited as opposed to KQ off-suit so there actually is a much better chance of that holding.
This is not to be confused with the river pairing the queen as our opponent has many Q× hands in his range although he may also have a busted flush draw. Again, however, basic hand reading reveals that he should have a stronger hand on the flop and the turn, skewed towards a queen because he his next to act after the preflop raiser and still has a player to worry about behind him. Most players also do not call the turn with naked flush draws so he would have to have a pair or a straight draw with the diamonds in order to continue on.
Remember this article the next time a card comes where you think your opponent may have improved to two pair; chances are it is actually more likely that you have the best hand.