The Check-Raise in No Limit Holdem

The Check-Raise in No Limit Holdem

The check-raise is one of the bigger taboo subjects among poker players because there are so many arguments that can be made for using or not using it. In my opinion, I think it’s a pretty useful move for when you’re trying to balance your range in the higher stakes games or bluffing marginal hands. In either case it does feel pretty good when you pull it off! (It feels almost good as getting big poker bonuses.)

Whether or not you want to regularly incorporate this move into your strategy and think it will really work; one thing that I will say is that it is much more successful against loose-aggressive players. To ensure that a check-raise works properly you need to be certain that your opponent will raise or c-bet the board. If your opponent was the pre-flop raiser then you can pretty much guarantee on this happening.

Before you make a check-raise you’ll need to know how big to make it. The size of your check-raise all comes down to the size of the pot but generally it needs to be about 2-3x the size of the previous raise. You need to show enough strength in a check-raise to make the others in the hand fold which is unfortunately where a lot of new player make a mistake in not raising enough e.g. only re-raising 25% of the pot.

Check-Raising with a Monster Hand

Most players will be familiar with the check-raise for increasing the value of pots when you’ve struck a monster hand like 3 of a Kind or the nut flush. It’s true that against some sorts of opponents such as LAGs and TAGs and check-raise can give you a bigger pot. I’ll particularly be more willing to check-raise flops with multiple opponents since you’ll still have dominated hands calling you off.

For example, on a board like As-Qs-7 when you hit trips with 77, you’re still going to get calls round the board from Ax, Qx, suited hands and even straight draws like J10. By check-raising out of position however you’re able to massively enlarge the size of the pot whilst removing a few dangerous drawing hands.

A caveat with check-raising is that it gives opponents a lot of information away about the strength of your hand. This is actually why I consider the check-raise such a taboo subject and awkward move to make. I don’t really seek out situations to do it. For instance, when you check-raise a board with TPTK on 10-J-9 with AJ then you’re really only going to be getting calls from hands that beat you. I would be even more scared to check-raise a board like QQ10 with A10, since again, you are only getting called by overpairs or trips. There is no value in the check-raise here.

Of course, the biggest danger with check-raising boards out of position is giving your opponent a free card to draw to. Unless you are confident that your opponent will c-bet the flop, or has a high enough Aggression factor to steal dead-money, then you can’t afford to give him a free card. It would be very dangerous to check TPTK on a board with lots of turn cards that your opponent could outdraw your with.

So basically what we have concluded is that it is not profitable to check-raise boards with strong hands if:

1) The board is dangerous
2) Your opponent is passive
3) Your opponents fold too easily

The Check-Raise Bluff

The check-raise bluff involves check-raising a marginal hand like mid-pair on the flop. It is the ideal type of semi-bluff. The main advantage to check-raising with mid-pair or a straight draw is that you fold other marginal hands or those that have missed the board. You also get that extra little equity in the pot from a stronger perceived hand range. If you do actually get called and hit your draw or turn a mid-pair into 3 of a kind then your implied odds will go way up.

For example I can happily check-raise 10J on a 857 type board. I will fold many Ax and even some A5/K7 and low pocket pair type hands. If I get called then it’s still ok since I still have plenty of outs and equity on the board. To win the pot I’ve still got two overpairs and a gut shot straight draw (9) which probably has my opponent’s range dominated.

Another example would be when I have A9s and check-raise on a 6-9-J board. If my opponent raised pre-flop and c-bet the flop then there’s a good chance his AQ/AK holdings, pocket pairs or Q10 – all of these I can make fold by check-raising. If I get called then I still again have a lot of equity in the pot with a mid-pair and an overcard. You need to remember that a lot of the time your opponent opponents in low-stakes games will be c-betting 90% of flops anyway and you check your HUD stats to see this. Before check-raising a player I also like to look at their F/c-bet% and how often they fold to re-raises post-flop. This is a big sign that they’re calling the flop with very weak holdings.

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