The purpose of this study was to compare respiratory-triggered balanced steady-state free precession (bSSFP) with breath-hold contrast-enhanced dynamic two-dimensional (2D) gradient-echo (GRE) and time-of-flight (TOF) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for portal and hepatic vein visualization and assessment of portal and hepatic venous variants. Sixty patients with liver disease underwent nonenhanced bSSFP and contrast-enhanced GRE, bSSFP, and TOF imaging. Contrast-to-noise ratios (CNRs) for portal and hepatic veins were measured. Two readers rated the quality of portal and hepatic vein visualization on a 5-point Likert scale. The diagnostic performance of each MRI series in the detection of portal and hepatic venous variants was assessed in 40/60 patients who also underwent contrast-enhanced multidetector-row computed tomography (MDCT). CNRs for portal and hepatic veins were highest on contrast-enhanced bSSFP images. Image quality of portal and hepatic veins was rated higher for nonenhanced bSSFP than for contrast-enhanced GRE (p<0.03) and TOF (p<0.003) and higher for contrast-enhanced than for nonenhanced bSSFP (p<0.003). Compared with MDCT, portal and hepatic venous variants were identified with an accuracy of 99% on bSSFP images, with an excellent interobserver agreement (kappa=0.97). Compared with MDCT, presence of surgically important portal and hepatic venous anatomical variants can be predicted with high accuracy on bSSFP images.