Slow-play on dry boards; play fast on wet boards.
Check-raising is a profitable move that should be in every good player’s arsenal. However, we don’t want to blindly check-raise the flop and hope it works. There are a few factors we should consider before check-raising.
- The strength of your hand
- Board texture
- Villain’s perception of your range and check-raising tendencies
- Villain’s c-betting frequency
- The range of hands that Villain will go broke with
Using the guidelines from before:
- Your hand is very strong.
- The board is so dry that you don’t have to worry about getting outdrawn.
- You are capable of check-raising this flop with KQ and 67. However, he likely doesn’t know that. So when you check-raise, he will think you have sets or AJ.
- On this flop texture, Villain is probably c-betting with a high frequency.
5. Villain will probably go broke with AJ+.
Based on the above analysis, calling is the most optimal play here. The main reason is because he doesn’t know you are capable of check-raising light on this flop. Thus, it is unlikely that he’s calling your check-raise with a weak holding or playing back with air. If you have been caught check-raising this flop with hands such as KQ, 67, or A2s, then check-raising with a strong hand such as 55 is a better line because he is less likely to believe you.
Check-calling Villain’s c-bet is also profitable because Villain will continue bluffing on a broadway turn and will continue value-betting with Jx or better. In both situations you are getting one more street of value.
Let’s look at some less obvious examples.
Raise. He’s going put you on a bluff a large percentage of the time because your value range is very narrow. AA, 33, and A3s wouldn’t check-raise the flop. 3x suited (besides A3s) is unlikely as well because you would have folded those hands to a pre-flop praise. He could put you exactly on AK or AQ, but that’s being optimistic since people rarely call pre-flop raises with AK from the blinds. More often than not, Villain will put you on a bluff and call you down light or bluff-raise you. You also want to build the pot in case he has Ax or a stubborn TT-KK hand.
On to the next hand:
With your history, he will have a hard time folding and may even go broke with mid- pocket pairs. The check-raise looks very bluffy (although you know better than to check- raise bluff on these types of boards against stubborn opponents). There are not many hands that you can check-raise for value with.
If he calls, then bet the turn. If he 3-bets the flop, then raise and get it in. You don’t want a scare card to come on the turn and have him fold a hand like TT. An argument can be made that by 4-betting the flop, we are giving Villain a chance to fold and thus, play correctly. However, the times that he will stack off light on this flop with a pair far outweigh instances when he has air and folds to our 4-bet.
One last hand:
While you currently have only Q-high and a gutshot, you also have a backdoor flush draw, backdoor straight draw and overcards. Many turn cards will improve your equity or give you the winning hand. You can continue your aggression with any diamond. I will likely follow through on a turn ace as well since Villain is likely to have a straight draw or a small pair that will fold on the turn. If the turn is a ten, jack, queen, or king I will continue betting.
An argument can be made for check-calling when the turn is a ten, jack, queen, or king and that is if our opponent floats the flop a lot. In such a situation we want to give our opponent a chance to bluff on the turn so that we can extract more value from our hand. We aren’t afraid of getting outdrawn that often because if Villain has a straight draw, his outs will likely improve our hand as well.
In this example you will often need to fire the second barrel to win. That’s fine. You will fold out a lot of 8x hands and some 9x hands on the turn, taking down the dead money along the way. Being able to check-raise on the flop with a wide range helps you to gain more value on your strong hands and makes you tougher to play against.
Important Note: Don’t go crazy and start check-raising all dry boards when you have some equity. Target the right opponents. Players who c-bet more than 75 percent of the time are good targets to start with. Players who call too loosely are not. Similar to 3- betting pre-flop, you’ll want to keep putting the pressure on a player until he gives you a reason not to. If he keeps folding to your check-raises, then don’t stop. When he does fight back (by 3-betting your check-raise or calling you down lighter), simply decrease your check-raising frequency and have more strong hands in your range. Poker is about making adjustments, and it’s easier to adjust when you are the original aggressor.