Friday, May 02, 2008


There's no doubt that check-raising is fun.

It puts pressure on your opponents and can signal a broad range of hands. It can be used to build a pot or end it immediately. It can be used as a bluff or with the nuts. It can be a draw or an overpair.

With so many options and potential outcomes, you have to wonder: What exactly am I trying to accomplish with this check-raise again? Do I want a call or a fold? Is it for value or a bluff?

Spritpot wrote a couple of recent posts on the check-raise, in which he argued that the check-raise is often a bad play. If your opponent folds to your check-raise, that means he usually had a worse hand and you missed out on some value. If he raises or calls, he probably has the best hand and position. In these cases, it's often better to bet out rather than risk a potentially awkward situation later.

For example, I'm reminded of a hand I played skidoo's house over Christmas. In a multway limped pot, I completed from the small blind with A4o. I flopped top pair on an Axx board. It checked around to skidoo, who bet in position. I check-raised and took down the pot. While my check-raise "worked," I may have been able to get more money in with the best hand if I had bet out instead. I could have taken down the pot just as easily with any two cards in that spot.

"If you ARE going to check-raise, should it be done as a bluff or for value (?)," he asks. "I think there the answer is pretty obvious, it has to be both to balance your range."

There's a lot more discussion in those posts about when check-raises may be appropriate and when they're overvalued, so give them a look. I don't think there are many absolutes about when a check-raise is better than betting out.

I'm convinced that check-raising is a powerful move, if only because you don't have many weapons out of position. You can either bet or check-raise (calling and folding can't really be called "weapons"). The check-raise is the riskier move because it costs more, but it's also more likely to get your opponent to fold or gain accurate information about where you stand in the hand.

Absent many solid answers, I'd like to make a few more points:

_ Bets don't always have to be clearly defined as being for value or a bluff. They can be a mixture of both. That said, you should know what you hope to accomplish -- gain information, get a fold, stack your opponent, set up a turn push -- with the check-raise rather than using the move arbitrarily.

_ Check-raising or donkbetting at some point in the hand is almost always better than calling down three streets. Simply calling down out of position allows your opponent to accurately value bet and bluff. Throwing in a check-raise is more likely to end the hand while you're still ahead, although it turns your hand into a bluff with all but strong holdings with which you want to see a showdown.

_ A lot of posters in this thread seem to think Taylor Caby's flop check-raise "for value" with 2nd pair is a poor move, but it worked for him when he tripped up on the river. The discussion is very interesting, and I'll have to spend more time going through the whole thread.


spritpot said...

Rike this post a rot. For the first of your last few points, I def agree with this. One of the problems many check-raisers have is that they decide to check-raise the flop without knowing why or having a plan for future actions, which I think is a recipe for disaster.

For the second point, I don't necessarily agree, although I don't know what you mean exactly by "almost always". I just put up another post with a few situations where I thought check-calling three streets was best. If you're up against a very aggressive player, check-calling down fairly light is often the best strategy.


Greylocks said...

I've always felt the main reason not to go for a check raise is the other player(s) don't always oblige you with a bet.

But if the player is so reliably aggressive that you know he's going to bet, you have to be careful of check-raising too much. If he's betting too many hands after the flop, you don't want to push him towards playing more correctly by using the threat of a check-raise to get him to bet less often.

I rarely check-raise in NLH unless I can see a way to bust the other player on the current hand. If my hand isn't good enough to get all the money in, I'd rather just bet out and see what happens.

PLH is a little different. Because of the pot limit rule, you sometimes have to go for a check-raise, especially in multiway pots, to protect your hand or to get all the money in on the flop with a monster draw.

pokerpeaker said...

I prefer to get my check-raises on the turn, because at that point I've likely pot committed my opponent and he usually will call a bigger bet than had I just bet out on the turn and he just calls or folds. Make your opponent put in two bets and he is loathe to fold.

I usually don't check-raise bluff because I don't like to committ a bunch of chips on a bum hand for the same reason: A CR can committ you to the hand. I might semi-bluff with it though.