Check-Shoving

Occasionally, you will find yourself out of position with a holding that is profitable to c-bet but has the potential to set up an awkward turn scenario should you get floated. So instead of c-betting and being forced to make a turn decision, I find it useful to go for a check-shove instead. This play works especially well against aggressive opponents who are likely to bet with a variety of holdings when checked to.

There are two types of hands that I like to check-shove with. The first is for value with a middle or top pair hand which is vulnerable to a turn card such as J7 on a 742 board or A6 on 862. The second is as a semi-bluff with draws that include 8+ outs. This move allows more money to get into the pot against hands that may have folded to a c-bet while simplifying your decisions in a forceful way.

You are also adding a measure of unpredictability to your game and punishing aggressive players by giving them a chance to over-commit themselves against a short stack and make a fundamental mistake. Your range will also be balanced nicely, because you do not always want to fold after checking or you will become very easy to play against.

Example #12.7: Check-shoving top pair on a draw heavy board

No-Limit Hold’em, $1.00 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($220.96)
HJ ($25.33)
Hero (CO) ($28)
Button ($158.32) 37/26/32 40% fold to c-bet SB ($99.02)

BB ($115.17)
Preflop: Hero is CO with 9♥, 7♣

2 folds, Hero bets $2, Button calls $2, 2 folds

Flop: ($5.50) 6♠, 3♠, 7♥ (2 players)
Hero checks, Button bets $5.50, Hero raises to $26 (All-In), 1 fold
C-betting here will put us in an awkward spot on the turn quite often as there are very few cards that we will feel comfortable seeing. A check allows our aggressive opponent the chance to put

money in the pot with his air range and potentially commit with inferior equity where he otherwise may have gotten away from his hand.

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Example #12.8: Check-shoving bottom pair and a flush draw

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (5 handed)

HJ ($49.25)
CO ($49.25)
Button ($48.40) Hero (SB) ($17.70) BB ($34.30)

Preflop: Hero is SB with 4♥, 7♥
3 folds, Hero bets $1, BB calls $0.50

Flop: ($2) 7♣, 9♥, Q♥ (2 players)
Hero checks, BB bets $0.50, Hero raises to $16.70 (All-In), BB calls $16.20
A 25% stack flop bet followed by a turn shove would be fine in this instance. However, since we have both a pair and a flush draw, we don’t mind getting all-in right here and now since we have 49% equity against a hand as strong as AQ. Check-shoving has the best chance of getting more money in the pot and the potential to commit our opponent with a wider range. Note: A pair and an open-ended straight draw could be treated similarly.

Turn: ($35.40) 3♥ (2 players, 1 all-in) River: ($35.40) 5♠ (2 players, 1 all-in) Total pot: $35.40

Re sults:

Hero had 4♥, 7♥ (flush, Queen high). BB shows 6♠, 8♥ (straight, nine high).

Outcome: Hero won $33.65.

Villain stacked off with a weak open-ended straight draw. His play is questionable since many of his outs were dirty, and there was a better straight draw possible. Perhaps he believed he was committed after betting the flop versus a short stack.

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Example #12.9: Check-shoving an awkward straight draw

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (5 handed)

HJ ($32.85)
CO ($5.57)
Button ($52.95) Hero (SB) ($14.65) BB ($80.36)

Preflop: Hero is SB with J♦, 5♣
3 folds, Hero bets $1, BB calls $0.50

Flop: ($2) 6♥, 3♥, 4♦ (2 players)
Hero checks, BB bets $1.50, Hero raises to $13.65 (All-In), 1 fold
Opening a wide range in the small blind can frequently put you in awkward spots. That is why having easy and decisive plays, such as the check-shove, in your arsenal is important. With an over and a straight draw, we are doing pretty good equity wise against our opponent’s range, no matter what he has. Sometimes our opponent will turn over something crazy like QQ+, but even against those hands we are 32% to win. Other times he may fold hands that beat us like 4x or 3x which makes our play very powerful.
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Example #12.10: Punishing an aggressive regular No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($10)
HJ ($13.40)
CO ($78.81)
Button ($25.60)
Hero (SB) ($9.35)
BB ($74.33) Folds to c-bet 20% BvB, Bets when checked to 80%

Preflop: Hero is SB with 6♦, 9♦
4 folds, Hero bets $1, BB calls $0.50

Flop: ($2) J♥, 6♠, 5♣ (2 players)
Hero checks, BB bets $1.34, Hero raises to $8.35 (All-In), 1 fold
These player types are not that difficult to exploit, once you know how. Since you know he is almost never folding to a c-bet and is always betting when checked to, it makes it simply a game of maximizing ranges. Our 2nd pair hand here is almost always good, so we surely could try to bet 3 streets for value. But since more over cards will likely come by the river, I much prefer to simplify things and win the pot on the flop. If we had 43, 87, or 5x, we would play it the same way. If we had Jx or an over pair, it would be an obvious bet-bet-bet. With air, it would all depend on his tendencies on the turn and river, but check-shoving two overs would often be profitable due to the huge amount of fold equity.

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Example #12.11: Check-shoving 2nd pair in a 3-bet pot

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

UTG ($50)
HJ ($63.99)
CO ($29.60)
Button ($112.18) 22/28/35 Hero (SB) ($15.25)

BB ($112.85)

Preflop: Hero is SB with Q♠, 8♥
3 folds, Button bets $1, Hero raises to $2.50, 1 fold, Button calls $1.50

This opponent opens 46% from the button, so I 3-bet small with a polarized range and get flatted. This appears to be a pretty awful play against a short stack, unless he is trapping with a big pair.

Flop: ($5.50) 6♦, 8♦, 10♠ (2 players)
Hero checks, Button bets $4, Hero raises to $12.75 (All-In), Button calls $8.75
I flop middle pair on a draw heavy board. Leading here will likely only get me action when I am crushed, so the obvious play is to check-shove. Folding 2nd pair here in a 3-bet pot is never an option.

Turn: ($31) 3♥ (2 players, 1 all-in) River: ($31) 6♣ (2 players, 1 all-in) Total pot: $31 | Rake: $1.55

Re sults:

Button had 5♣, 7♣ (one pair, sixes).
Hero had Q♠, 8♥ (two pair, eights and sixes).
Outcome: Hero won $29.45.
The button makes a -EV play by flatting a 3-bet with lousy implied odds. He is then forced to stack off with an open-ended straight draw on the flop. This is a rare situation, but it highlights a couple of the strengths of playing a small stack. Being short both amplifies our aggressive opponent’s mistakes and makes it very easy to leverage our stack against him.

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Example #12.12: Check shoving a draw against a player who floats often

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (6 handed)

Hero (UTG) ($11.80)

HJ ($21.42)
CO ($15) 48/10/35 Folds to c-bet 33% Button ($38.76)
SB ($23.86)

BB ($20.27) 87/2/25

Preflop: Hero is UTG with 7♦, 9♦
Hero bets $1, 1 fold, CO (poster) calls $0.50, 3 folds
Hero opens a suited semi-connector with two fish behind. With dead money posted, we are hoping for a multi-way pot.

Flop: ($2.75) 6♠, 8♦, Q♠ (2 players)
Hero checks, CO bets $2.75, Hero raises to $10.80 (All-In), 1 fold
Hero flops open-ended with a backdoor flush draw. This is an easy situation to play incorrectly. Hero could c-bet big and shove any turn, but in doing so would only invite action from much better hands. A much better play is to check and either keep the pot small or shove over any bet and get the money in with two cards still to come. This allows the possibility of two profitable scenarios. We either get to see the turn cheaply and make a delayed c-bet after being shown weakness, or we allow our opponent to bluff at the flop and force him to fold many hands that beat us.
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Alternative Line On Dry Flops: The Turn Check-Shove

Against a variety of players, this is an exploitative play I like to use with my tier 1 and strongest tier 2 hands while out of position. It is designed to take advantage of the inherently aggressive nature of online players. It works very well against both habitual floaters and players who you expect have a strong range when they call your flop c-bet.

The way it works is that after you c-bet the flop and get called, you check the turn with the top of your range in order to induce a bet. If your opponent bets, then the trap is set as you spring to life with a check-raise and stick the rest of your chips in. While this line is only useful out of position, the reason it is so powerful is that it exploits both tight players and those that float with a wide range in position.

Tight players will usually have a strong range and will tend to bet when checked to, since they will want to extract maximum value after “hitting their hand.” They will then almost never fold to the shove. Even if they do happen to have a marginal hand, they may believe they are “priced in” and feel obligated to call. Whereas, if you had double barreled, they might have gotten away.

But the player type that this line works best against is aggressive regulars. Their overall range will typically be weaker, and so they will not be able to call a barrel often. This move allows them to put

some more money in the pot with their bluffing range before they fold. It also balances your game and has the potential to slow them down on future floats. Furthermore, if your opponent checks back the turn and does not fall for the trap, you still have an opportunity to bet and get value on the river. At this point, the pot will be small, and your opponent may be willing to look you up a bit lighter since you showed weakness on the turn by not barreling.

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