By checking first, after your opponent makes his bet, then raising your bet, you can counter the opponent's position advantage. In this way, you are also able to increase the size of the pot while maximizing the opponent’s pressure when you are bluffing.
The check-raise is a must-have skill for your poker games, but if you overuse it without comprehensive understanding to the topic, it will become a huge weakness in your play instead.
Definition: Check-raising means that when it's your turn to act, you choose to check first, and then you raise after your opponent bets. In general, the check-raise is an ambush.
This move is suitable for all types of Texas Hold'em poker games, even tournaments and SNGs. However, since you have to check before you can have a chance to raise, you can only use it when your position is unfavorable.
If you are still a beginner, you need to be careful when using the check-raise. Even if it is useful and effective, it can also hurt you if you use it hastily and frequently.
The first thing you need to understand before you use the strategy is what your motivation is. What role does the check-raise play in your entire poker strategy?
First of all, we must establish the correct expectations and know what we aim to achieve from using this move. In general, Check-raising is mainly for two purposes:
- You believe that you are holding the strongest hand on the table and hope to increase the pot by check-raising to maximize value.
- You think that your opponent's hand is better than yours, but not that strong. You want to force your opponent to fold through a check-raise.
Check-raising protects your checking range, because you check more frequently, and your overall checking range is more balanced. In this way, your opponent will not think that when you check it is a sign of weakness, and always attack after you check.
When you check-raise for more value:
As a beginner, your check-raise should be based on value. You need to always consider how to maximize value when you think you have the nuts.
The stronger your hand is, the more willing you are to put in more chips. Check-raise allows you to take the initiative from your opponents to determine the size of the pot.
In most poker games, checking is a sign of weakness. When you check, the opponent with advantageous position has the idea that he has wider range of hands to play, even the weak ones. Of course, there is always a certain percentage of strong hands in the opponent's range, but you still have to think of it as a whole to understand.
Through the check-call, when the opponent folds an air, you have no loss. But on the other hand, you will be able to win extra value out of their drawing hands and moderately strong hands. In a mid-stack or short-stack game, be prepared to call your opponent’s all-in after check-raising.
Here are a few factors to pay special attention to when checking-raising in poker:
- You would have to be the first to act
- Ensure that the opponent is aggressive enough. That is to say, he is the kind of player that when others check he will bet a wide range.
- Check-raising with a super strong hand in a multi-way pots can often win you a great deal of money.
But take it into account that check-raise puts a lot of pressure on your opponent, and sometimes your opponent will even give up some moderately strong hands. So, don't over-play when holding the cards which might drive the opponent away when the opponent is weak or his hand does not have much room to play.
When you check-raise for a bluff:
As aforementioned, check-raise puts great pressure on opponents, which makes it one of the most common bluffing techniques as well. In many common scenarios you can use check-raise to easily knock your opponent out of the pot.
The most common situation for you to use a check-raise as a bluff happens when you enter the heads-up pot passively during a pre-flop. Many beginners, and even players with some level of experience, once they raise during the pre-flop, will always continue to bet without thinking after the flop, not to mention that player in the earlier position in the heads-up has already checked.
You can take advantage of this trick to make good use of their excessive continuous betting frequency.
For example, your opponent, as a pre-flop raiser, continues to bet on the flop of 4♥ 5♥ 6♠. This is your perfect check-raise time.
When you check-raise with a draw, you are making a semi-bluff. Your opponent folds and you take the pot directly. Once called, you still have a chance to overtake. The most important thing is to put pressure on the opponent. People are most likely to make mistakes under pressure.
For the check-raise, which hands could be used, or at what frequency, require you to learn more advanced poker strategies.
But even now, based on your own experience and observation of the game, you can surely find many scenarios where you can use the technique. Go ahead and try it. Have fun!