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Poker strategy: successfully integrate the check-raise move into your play

  • Written by David Bet
Poker strategy: successfully integrate the check-raise move into your play

The check-raise is a good play to have in your arsenal for a number of reasons. Many novice players tend to overuse the play and this can be detrimental to their overall bottom line. Let's see how to use this weapon!

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Check-raise: what is it

A good reason you should learn to implement the play is to “protect your checks”. If you check every time you miss, and bet when you hit, it will be easy for your opponents to figure out what you are doing. Every time you check, they will bet because they will know you don’t have a hand.

By throwing in a check-raise every once in a while, you will be telling your opponents that you are willing to check when you have a hand. It will also stop them from betting every time you check.

In Limit, a check-raise can be a powerful play when you want to protect your hand, as well as when you want to build the pot. If you expect a bet to come from your right in a multi-way pot (ie. You have called a raise in the big blind from a player on the button), you can elect to check-raise if you flop a vulnerable hand such as a medium top pair.

By checking with the intention of raising the pre-flop raiser’s flop bet, you will be able to thin the field, as the rest of the players will be forced to call two bets to continue. Had you bet out and got some calls from the limpers, and the button raised your bet, there is a good chance the limpers would call, whereas you could have chased them away with a check-raise.

If you flop a big hand, and expect a player to your left to bet, you can use a check-raise to trap the whole table for an extra bet on the flop. If you check, and he bets and gets a few callers, you can raise when the action gets back to you, and the pot odds will likely force your opponents to call the additional bet.

Many players in No-Limit will check-raise a pre-flop raiser when they flop a big hand. This is not always the best play for a couple of reasons. First, a pre-flop raiser is supposed to have a good hand, especially if he has raised from early position.

If you flop a big hand such as a set or two pair, it is mostly better to lead right out into the pre-flop raiser. If he has a big hand such as a big pair or top pair, he is probably going to raise you and commit himself to the hand. This means you can probably get all the money to the middle on the flop. If you check-raise, you allow him a chance to get away from the hand.

Good players know that a check-raise often means a very strong hand, and they may be able to get away from their hand having only lost a small amount. You do lose money leading into the raiser when he folds and he would have bluffed at the pot if you checked. The advantage however, is that leading ou it allows you a better chance of winning your opponent’s whole stack when it works.

The check-raise is a good play to have in your arsenal when playing the game of Poker. It is important that when using it, you have a good reason for it. Whether it be to thin the field, build the pot, or protect your checks, the check-raise will keep you from playing predictably. When used properly, it can be a very powerful play in all forms of Hold ‘em.

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Why Should You Check-Raise in NL Holdem?

Against loose opponents, check-raising gives greater value from your big hands.  This is because with a well-timed check-raise you’re effectively raising the pot with two bets in a single street, in contrast to building the pot with one bet (i.e. betting first-act-out and getting called).

Normally you have 2 possible objectives when check-raising.  The first is that you win the pot immediately and force your opponent to fold; the second is that you slowly build the pot up with the intent to take it down later.

Factors for Check-Raising

Importantly your opponent needs to have the right sort of table image for this to be successful.  In general terms your opponent(s) needs to be a regular LAG who regularly steals pots or cbets flopsopponents on unraised boards.

You also need to have the right stack size, including both you and your opponent.  A deep stack opponent with over 100BBs will find it easier to fold to a check-raise because they’ve got enough behind them to exit the pot without a fuss.  Small-average stacks on the otherhand are the best opponents to check-raise because often they’ll become pot-committed, especially later down the line on the turn or river.

Finally, you need to make sure you’re betting the right amount when you check-raise.  A common mistake is to bet too little.  When this happens you might still be giving your opponent good pot-odds to draw which is bad for you because you’ll end up losing these pots in the long-run.  A normal-sized check-raise on the flop, turn and river is twice what your opponent raised

Reasons Not to Check-Raise

In addition to the above information, you have to be very careful when deciding to check-raise your opponent.  If you do this too early in a hand then it’s extremely unlikely you’ll get paid off in later streets i.e. you’ve shown such a strong hand that he’s not going to be calling you next street unless he drastically improves his hand.

This is why we recommend only check-raising on the turn or river if you hit a monster on the flop.  If you’ve got an unbeatable hand, it’s completely pointless giving your strength away too early.  In fact, on a board where you flop a monster like full house for example, you should be check ing the flop to give your opponent a chance to catch up and hit something later – this is known as ”float play”.  You don’t necessarily want your opponent to raise here, you just want to help him catch something and keep him in the game so that there’s a chance he might pay you off later.

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