Concepts: The Check-Raise
The check raise is a deceptive move. It is passive at first, then it becomes active.
- Are you out of position (OOP)?
- Do you have a good hand?
- Does your opponent like to bet if we check to him?
If so, then we should consider a check-raise.
- Check-raise means to check with the intention of responding to an opponent's bet with a raise.
We check a good hand in order to pretend weakness. This in turn increases our opponents' willingness to bet. If this happens, we should raise.
If an opponent with a bad or mediocre hand knew that we had a good hand, he wouldn't bet. Thus, he falls into the trap we set and now has to react to an unexpected raise.
But a check-raise also has its downsides: If our opponents check all the way through, our plan has failed. Our check raise has unintentionally become a slow play. It's not our intention, but by doing so we're playing a good hand slow. We now have to bear the risk that our hand becomes vulnerable due to the upcoming changes on the board. So we haven't succeeded in getting more money into the pot the with our good hand.
Our opponents respect us as a solid player. We are forced to fight with the other side of the coin. If we bet, only good hands will call. If we don't bet, we then have to deal with the fact that our opponents will bet almost automatically.
- A check-raise now offers us the opportunity to directly collect our opponents' chips.
And we have another benefit: The table indirectly respects not only our bets, but also our checks. We will get more free cards if we don't have a good hand and therefore be able to win pots that are checked through every once in a while with mediocre hands.
Several conditions need to be fulfilled in order to successfully deploy a check-raise.
- We act in front of our opponents and think that we have the best hand.
- We and the relevant opponents have sufficient stacks. If only one reasonable bet is possible, we shouldn't check-raise.
- We think the probability of an opponent calling a bet is low, but the probability of an opponent betting is high.
These additional chips are the main aim of a check raise. We therefore induce a bluff from the opponent.
- Examples 1+2:
In both cases we are in the same situation in terms of cards. We have top pair with top kicker and think that we have the best hand. At an information level, there are actually two completely different hands taking place: In hand 1 the opponent is showing aggressiveness pre-flop, in hand 2 passiveness. These "tells" were both continued on the flop. Anticipating this in time by just checking in the first example will help us to become a good player. It is of course much easier to say this afterwards. But analyzing different situations correctly is a core competence of a successful poker player.
In the first hand we are defending our big blind and can normally expect our opponent to make a continuation bet.
In the second hand, however, our opponent calls twice pre-flop: First of all he limps and then he also calls our raise. This is a typical play of a calling station. We want him to pay in this favourable situation: So we should bet! If we don't, we will not only lose a potentially paid bet, we will also risk winning the entire hand by giving our opponents a free card.
Once we understand the basic idea behind a check-raise, we can also follow the same aims using similar methods.
Pre-flop: Since the first round of betting starts with an unbalanced pot (the blinds make a check impossible from a technical perspective), a limp re-raise is equal to a classic check-raise here. So initially we just call and raise an anticipated raise.
- Example 3:
Flop / turn: Instead of immediately responding to the anticipated bet of the opponent with a raise, we can also just call and then open the next round with a bet: Check/call – bet. The effect of this is somewhat different:
- Draws may have already arrived or only have half as much chance to appear. For this reason an opponent now has a different decision to make than if we had raised straight away.
- Distributing a classic raise on a call and a subsequent bet has a different psychological effect. Depending on the opponent's style, it may increase the probability of a call (salami tactic: We demand a lot of small bits rather than a big chunk all at once) or reduce it (turn hit question: We are representing a hand that has improved on the turn).
- Example 4 :
Check-raise bluff: As a check raise's main aim is to generate chips, thus indicates a strong hand and is an active move, it also has bluff potential. It is more expensive than a straight bluff bet, but also riskier since we are bluffing against a player that has already bet.
- Example 5:
The check-raise and its possible variations should be part of every poker player's repertoire. This move in its classic form, but also in delayed form or used as a bluff, is one of the most effective counterattacks against the continuation bet.