This is the biggest event in a hold’em game. With all five community cards on the board, it is now almost certain whether you are going to be a winner or not. That is why there are only two options here. If you believe you have the strongest hand, you should bet as much as possible, since you would want to maximize your winnings. Some players like to ”show mercy” in a situation like this by simply checking and letting their opponents save some of their chips. It is up to you how you are going to act in a position like that, but there is no need to respect that unless you are playing with close friends, family, or in some situation like that. So you should try to get as much money in the pot as you can, because you are probably going to be the one who will take it. After all, poker is the game where players are supposed to be prepared to lose money, just as they are always hoping to win some.
If the river card didn’t bring you what you were hoping for, the situation is much more complex. However, folding is almost never a good choice on the river. First, assuming you were playing properly up to that round, you should still have some chance of winning the hand, even though you were unlucky with the river card. Secondly, after you go this far, the pot is most likely going to be pretty big, so throwing some additional money into it in order to buy a chance of winning it is usually a good move. Last, but not least, never let anyone bluff you off the river – you should consider the reputation you are trying to build for yourself. One of the worst things you can do to yourself is gaining a reputation of a player who can be bluffed easily, especially on the river. If other players sense that weakness of yours, you will be facing on-the-river bluffs constantly, and no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to fight them all off.
Only few situations justify folding on the river. One is when you are facing a very conservative player, the one that almost never bluffs. If such player keeps calling all the way, there is a very good chance that he or she has struck a very strong hand. The other would be the occasion when you are left with two other players, both of which start calling and raising after the river card is drawn. At least one of those two must have a strong hand, so keeping up with the two of them would probably be a very bad move. Finally, another reason to fold on the river is if the pot odds are totally against you. If you have calculated that your chances of winning are very poor, compared to the pot size, you should back off. As said above, if you played good poker until the river, it is not likely that you are going to have extremely bad chances after the river card comes out, but it still can happen occasionally, so you should be aware of that possibility too.