Using Check Raises

Check raises are a move that many players perceive as
incredibly deceptive. While there’s little arguing that check
raises do have their time and place, there are many players who
misuse them over and over again. Each stage of a hand will
usually tell something different about a check raise. A check
raise on the flop isn’t the same thing as on the river. The
most common signal is strength, but bluffs aren’t wildly rare
either. In the end, a check raise is most often a sign of
extreme strength or weakness, with few hands falling into the
middle. It’s most important that you understand how your
opponents will view your check raise so that you can best
implement them into your own game.

If the year was 2004, check raising would arguably be the
best way to get max value out of a number of made hands. Today,
however, the game has changed dramatically. Many players are
able to pick up on the (not so) hidden value in a check raise,
which has in turn deflated its effectiveness. Any move in
poker is only going to be useful so long as you can manipulate
and manage the way that your opponent will react to it. If you
are making see-through check raises on a repeated basis, you
shouldn’t expect much of a return on your efforts.

Pre-Flop Check Raises

A pre-flop check raise is the most obvious of all check
raises. Unlike plays post-flop, a check raise before the flop is
almost guaranteed to be a big hand. Think about it, why would a
player check raise pre-flop with anything other than a hand that
they wanted extra value from? If they get re-raised, they would
be forced to fold if they had a weak hand. A check raise with a
big hand also expects a lot of calls at a higher price, because
it’s the least likely time for players to fold. This isn’t to
say that check raises with weak hands never happen, because they
certainly do, but they aren’t at all an advisable play.

If you are contemplating a check raise, you’ll need to have
the exact right situation in place. Ideally, a pre-flop check
raise would take place in a game where players are aggressive
but also incredibly loose. You’ll need to all but bank on a
raise from one of your opponents, because otherwise you’ll be
in a multi-way limped pot. In addition to this, you’ll also
need to be pretty sure that the other players will call a big
raise. If all of these factors aren’t in play, check raising
pre-flop is a terrible idea. You need to ensure that your big
hands are getting the value they demand during pre-flop action,
and risking a limped pot is the best way to lose a lot of money
and to put your big hands at risk of being out flopped.

One important thing to note beyond the obvious factors in
pre-flop check raises is the simple fact that your hand will be
extremely transparent. You may get some calls pre-flop, but you
can bet that many of these players are going to immediately shut
down if they brick the flop. One of the most glaring flaws with
a pre-flop check raise is found in its inability to get three
streets of value.

Flop Check Raises

Flop check raises are great because they serve multiple
purposes. You can get away with value or bluffs when you check
raise on the flop. Another dimension of flop check raises is the
opportunity to make moves with big draws. These three different
hand ranges make flop check raises the most versatile of all
times to make a move.

If you are check raising the flop for value, you shouldn’t
expect to get a ton of big calls on the turn and river. Check
raises tend to scare even the tightest of players, so this will
make it difficult to attract any further action.

Check raises as bluffs work on the flop, but only against the
right opponent. If you want to check raise with air, the turn
will be the better time to do it. Of course, this will also
entail more risk.

The most ideal time to check raise on the flop is when you
have a big draw. When you check raise with these types of hands,
you’ll get calls that give you a chance to still make your
hand, you’ll get folds that take down the pot on the spot, and
you may get raised giving you a chance to put the pressure on
your opponent. Though a fold is the most desirable, there aren’t
too many bad outcomes when you make this play.

Turn Check Raises

Turn check raises are the scariest of all. They will let your
opponent know that you probably aren’t going anywhere, and that
if they call they will need to be in it for the long haul. For
this reason, bluff turn check raises work very well. This is the
time in a hand where players will fold for fear of losing a
monster pot. Though your risk is going to be much higher due to
the increased amount of money at stake, you should also find the
highest success rate in terms of the number of folds that you
are able to force from your opponents.

Check raising on the turn for value is also a viable strategy
and will allow you to get all of the money in once the river is
dealt. The one drawback to this strategy is that you’ll get a
lot of folds, but this is balanced out by the times that you get
calls. If you are facing a check raise on the turn, you should
assume that it means you are up against a very strong hand as
many players don’t have the guts to bluff in this spot.

River Check Raises

River check raises are made almost exclusively for value. As
backwards as it might seem, a lot less players will fold to a
river check raise than will fold to a turn check raise. The line
of thinking is that, if they have already put this much money
into the pot, what is the point in folding now? Though this is
usually a flawed approach, it’s the very reason why check
raises work so often.

If you are going to check raise the river in an attempt to
stack your opponent, you should either be in a situation where
it is the only way to get all of the money in the middle, or you
should think that the other player is super weak. If you think
your opponent has a big hand but is more likely to flat call
your bet, over betting is not the best plan. They will feel
committed to call if you check raise, and this is usually the
only way to inflate the pot size enough to get all of the money.

If your opponent has nothing at all, they should be folding
to most of your river bets. If they are aggressive, they will
bet when you check to them on the river in a last ditch effort
to take down the pot. This will allow you to add a little bit
extra to your stack that you otherwise would not have. When on
the opposite end of the stick, safely assume that a river check
raise is a donation of your money if you choose to call (without
a super strong hand). Only players near the highest levels of
the game will ever attempt river check raises as bluffs.