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The River

On the River - River Card

by Jesse Knight
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The River in Poker
River – The final card in a flop game or a stud game.


A flop type game, such as Hold’em or Omaha uses community cards. Community cards are cards which the dealer places face up in the center on the table, and all players share. In a typical flop game there are five community cards in total. These are split into three segments, and the delivery of each segment is separated by a round of betting. Each segment is independently named and has its own position between the betting rounds. The first segment of community cards is delivered after the first betting round. It consists of three cards and is called “the flop.” The second and third segments are a single card each and are called “the turn” and ‘the river,” respectively.

The “river” is also the terminology used for the final card in a stud game, but the context of its usage is slightly different. In a flop game, community cards are used, causing everybody to share the same river card. It is delivered face up to the center of the table by the dealer. This does not happen in a stud game. In a stud game, community cards are not used (except in extremely rare occasions when the dealer runs out of cards in an eight handed game.) Instead, each player is dealt their own series of cards. Some of the cards are dealt face up and some are dealt face down, and from these each player must form their best poker hand. Each player receives their own river card, which just as it is in a flop game, is delivered just prior to the final round of betting. In a stud game, the river card is typically dealt face down, so that it is concealed from the other players in the game, and is known only to the recipient.

Regardless of whether you are discussing a flop game or a stud game, the river is always the final card dealt. Over the course of a poker hand, the lead can change hands several times. The river card is so significant because it represents the last opportunity for players to improve their hands, and if the hand goes to showdown, it determines who the winner of the pot will be. Because of this, players tend to have a special, often superstitious relationship with the river card.

A “river rat” is a player who seems to be constantly making their hand on the river. In order to catch up on the river, you need to have been behind earlier in the hand. Players who have a tendency to chase are frequently behind, and are therefore more likely than tighter player to be in a position to catch up on the river. This is why players who chase are often thought of as river rats. Of course, they are only seen as river rats as long as they are running good and hitting on the river. When they are chasing and missing, they are more commonly seen as fish or donkeys.

If you hit a card on the river, it can be said that you have “rivered” that card. For instance, if the river card completes your flush, it can be said that you’ve “rivered” a flush. Similarly, if you have the best hand on the turn, and lose to another player on the final card, it is called, “getting rivered.” Getting rivered can be a brutal experience, especially if you hold a very strong hand, if your opponents hold very few outs, of if the pot is very large. If you repeatedly get rivered while you are holding favorites, it is referred to as “running bad,” or “running badly.” Conversely, if your hands are holding up on the river, it is referred to as “running good.”

Quite often, when a player gets rivered, they were a substantial favorite on the turn. This can be a jarring experience, to go from anticipating winning a pot to realizing you’ve lost it. It is an experience that will inspire certain players to complain vociferously. This is not an admirable quality, and most players regard excessive complaining about the river card as obnoxious. In addition to being annoying, complaining about and feeling victimized by river cards is not a healthy psychological approach to the game. It is much better to accept that sometimes you will get rivered, and to be at peace with it when it happens. If you can accept unfortunate events when they happen in a poker game, it can keep you from going on tilt, which can translate into more profit for you over the long run. And the other players in the game will appreciate not having to listen to the music every time that you are snapped off at the river.

Usage: Snapped Off On The River, River Showdown, Rivered It, He Keeps Rivering Me

Previous Poker Term: Ring Game
Next Poker Term: Rock

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