If you’re reading this, then chances are that you don’t check-raise enough and that you really have no idea when you should be doing it except when you decide to on a whim. We’re going to set out to change that today by giving you an understanding of the foundation and basics of check-raising so that you can identify situations where it might be a good idea and what you plan to accomplish with your check-raise.
Before we jump straight into that, however, I want to share some related reading on the subject of deciding when to check, especially as relates to bluffing.
- Checking to Induce in No-Limit Hold’em
- Studying Poker With Spreadsheets (Part 5): Checking to Induce
- Applications of EV Calculations (Part 3): River Checking vs. Bluffing
- Bluff or Check? Missing the Flop in NLHE (Part 1): Introduction
- Bluff or Check? Missing the Flop in NLHE (Part 2): Flop Texture
- Bluff or Check? Missing the Flop in NLHE (Part 3): Understanding Your Range
- Bluff or Check? Missing the Flop in NLHE (Part 4): Anticipating the Second Barrel
These should give you a background on understanding checking as a whole, especially how it relates to situations where you’re trying to decide if checking or betting outright is best. Checking is a very complicated subject because of all of the factors involved and the fact that people rarely study it. But that means that you can put the effort in to gain a big advantage over the competition.
Check/Raising for Value
In a vacuum, we’ll want to check/raise for value when we think that it’s better than betting for value. It takes some very specific criteria for this to be the case. Generally speaking, you’ll be relying on an aggressive opponent and the fact that you’ll get value from him bluffing a lot (see the checking to induce posts above). You’ll also need to get value from the times that he bet/calls you by being ahead of his calling range.
Sorting Your Range
Your check/raising for value hands should usually come from the very tip-top best part of your range. This is common sense in a lot of situations, especially if you have the deck locked down with something like AA on board of AAxxx. Instead of inducing bluffs just to call them off, however, you’re inducing bluffs to add more value to that part of your range that you wouldn’t get otherwise because outright betting has your opponent folding so much.
Check/Raising as a Bluff
When you check/raise as a bluff, you’re essentially going to be trying to induce a ratio of folds from your hand that’s favorable. One of the issues that you have to learn about with check/raising as a bluff is the bet sizes involved. Here’s a quick example.
Suppose the pot is $10 and we check to our opponent who bets $6.50. Suppose you raise to $25. Then this means your opponent has to fold about 60 percent of the time to break even on the bluff in a vacuum. If you compare this to just leading the pot for $8.50, we would only need our opponent to fold about 46 percent of the time to break even on the bluff.
In short, we have to know that checking really gets a lot of folds by skewing our opponent’s range towards hands that he will fold for it to make sense in a vacuum.
Sorting Your Range
In general, you’re going to want to check/raise bluff with some of the absolute worst hands in your range when you’re on the river that you aren’t check/folding. Hands with blockers for strong holdings and hands that do not have blockers for weak holdings for your opponent that can frequently fold are pretty important here. Note this isn’t necessarily the case for earlier streets, and we’re going to look at that now.
Consequences of Checking on the Flop and Turn
Checking on the flop or turn is a lot different than checking on the river because of the ability for more cards to come. This influences play in a lot of ways, and one of those ways is the fact that aggressive opponents will have a lot of draws in their range on boards that make them available. For example, a flop with a flush draw will put a lot of flush draws in your opponent’s hand. Along these lines, your opponent will be more apt to bet/call in position after being checked to. In short, your check/raises are going to get called more on wet boards early in the hand, and you need to understand that.
What This Means for Value Hands
This creates a situation for your value hands where you have a double-edged sword. If you check with a strong hand on a wet flop intending to check/raise, then it gives your opponent the option to simply check behind, which will give him or her a free shot at catching up by hitting a draw.
On the other hand, your opponent could bet a draw into you and feel compelled to call down a huge amount because they have position and outs to whatever hand they feel like you will pay them off with. It can go either way, and it’s up to you to decide what your opponent is likely to do so that you know which play is the best.
What This Means for Bluffs
Suppose we have the nut flush draw on the flop. If we check intending to raise as a bluff, then there are a lot of ways the hand can go our way. If it checks through, that’s not so bad because we get a free shot at hitting our draw, and even if we don’t, we likely have a profitable semi-bluff on the turn. However, if we do get to check-raise, then we can take the hand down right there, or our opponent could often call with a worse draw, a super-favorable result.
Come Discuss This
I know this isn’t the easiest topic to learn, so come to the discussion forum thread about this post and ask me your questions.