Check-Raising the Turn
Several years ago, a play called “stack-a-donk” was very popular. This is where you raise pre-flop, bets the flop, check the turn to induce a bet, and then raise all in (usually with an overpair). It was extremely effective back then because players kept betting with their top- and mid-pair when checked to on the turn. They also couldn’t fold them to a check- raise. Once pot control became the new mantra, it became less effective because players started checking behind more often with marginal holdings.
In micro- and small-stakes games where your opponents aren’t as observant, you can have an unbalanced turn check-raise range with only the nuts and monster draws and get away with it. However, as you move up in stakes, you will realize that constructing a balanced turn check-raising range is very difficult. It makes it very difficult to two-barrel effectively if your opponents know that you have a tendency to check-raise the turn with the nuts. Even if you don’t check-raise the nuts often, your opponent may misread your frequency and call your two barrel lighter. Of course, the way you adjust is to stop betting the turn with air. However, I want to make my life easier by having a simpler overall game plan. I would bet the majority of my nut hands to balance the times I’m betting with air. For borderline situations where my hands are marginal, I can bet, check-call or check-fold, depending on my opponents.
If my opponent floats a lot, I will check-call the turn more often than folding. I will also check-call the turn with the nuts instead of check-raising, and will check-call or check-raise the river, depending on whether I still have a strong hand by the river.
If my opponent has a tendency to pot-control, I will check-call the turn as well because that means his betting turn range is polarized to floats, draws, and nut hands. If I check-call and don’t improve on the river, unless I have a specific read, I will check-fold to a river bet.
Having said that, there are spots where a turn check-raise is applicable as you move up. They usually involve deep stacks.
Opponents rarely float on such a flop. If they will call your turn bet, they will bet if checked to with the majority of made hands such as two pair, sets, straights, and sometimes overpairs. Of course, there are times when opponents will check back with hands such as 88-TT and 87, and you can get value from those hands with a river bet.
Usually, if you check the turn with a strong hand and it gets checked through, you should check the river as well. Betting the river after checking the turn seems like an obvious value-bet. However, this flop hits a decent part of Villain’s range, so he almost always have a hand that will call a river bet but would check behind a lot.
Check-Raising the River After a Missed Turn Check-Raise (For Value)
So you missed the turn check-raise because he checked behind. What should your line be on a “scary” river? Go for the check-raise again.
Let’s go over the following example.
Check. Look at your line from his perspective. After your check-call the flop, your range is mostly Jx, 8x, straight draws and flush draws. You are probably check-raising the flop with AJ+ and strong combo draws to get more money in. The river is the perfect card for him to try to take down the pot against your range. Betting the river prevents him from bluffing with his air and missed draws. You are going to get value from AK/KQ by betting or checking. For these reasons, checking is infinitely better than betting. One argument for betting is that it protects the time you show up on the river with a missed draw and want to bluff at the pot. While this is true, considering that Villain didn’t bet on the turn, he likely has ace-high and will fold to a river bet. As exploitable as that sounds, that’s how players play.
Important note: We intentionally left out river check-raise bluffs because it’s an advanced play that will likely get you in trouble. Once you improve and play 200nl+, then you can add that play to your game.