Though it isn’t often the path to higher profits at the poker table, there are certain situations where it is correct to call a bet on the river with only an Ace high hand. This usually happens in a limit game, but I have seen professional players make similar calls in no limit tournament play.
Like most hands at the poker table, many things must be taken into account, including the size of the bet and the size of the pot, but the most important things to consider are the tendencies of your opponent, betting pattern of the hand and the make up of the board.
It is very important to understand your opponents playing tendencies. Many players will not bet on the river without holding at least a pair. Needless to say, you would never call a bet from one of these players with only Ace high.
On the other hand, many players will play a draw aggressively on the flop and / or turn, and when they miss, the only way they can win is if they bet and you fold on the river. I have used this style in many games against opponents who would fold for one more bet when I missed a draw.
Here is an example to illustrate when a call may be correct. You have AK, raise before the flop and have two callers. The flop is T 9 6 with two clubs. You bet, one opponent calls and the other folds. The turn is a blank, you check, your opponent bets and you call. The river is another blank.
Assuming that you check, if your opponent bets you need to seriously consider a call. He or she may very well have been on a flush or straight draw, missed and is trying to steal the pot from you.
Knowing the player and their playing tendencies will sway your decision, but folding every time a situation comes up like this is incorrect. Even when you lose you send the message that it is difficult to bluff you on the river.
While you are at the tables this week, look for situations where players may have missed a draw, to learn how they handle the situation. Until next week, good luck at the tables.