The Check-Raise


Sorry guys, we have had our first person fail to deliver a scheduled CotW thread, so I am filling in on no notice.

To be perfectly candid, check raises are a weak part of my game, so I am pretty much the worst person to be doing this topic. I need it to be clear to everybody that this is the first OP in the CotW series that is not intended as an authoritative treatment of the subject it presents. Rather, it is my intention to just get the discussion started.

I’ll structure the discussion using my stats, my hands and my play. Feel free to comment or add your own hands or stats to illustrate points.

Using Check Raises

At higher stakes, one of the main reasons for check/raising is to protect your checks when you don’t have a hand and you need a free card to improve. You need peple to be wary of your checks and to be more inclined to check behind you rather than make a play on the pot, so you check/raise enough so that they have it in their head that you may very well be setting them up to lose a bet when you check.

In theory, this could work at the micros, but I just don’t think people are paying enough attention to you to warrant balancing your actions in this way. It IS increasingly true that the games are getting more aggressive, and that if you check your villain will bet at you a high percentage of the time. This is a good argument for value check/raising maybe more than we have been. But in my opinion, it remains unnecessary to protect our checks, because villains will not step betting at your checks when they have seen you check/raise. Thus, I usually valuebet rather than check/raising.

So here are some situations where I will check/raise:

1. I have a big hand on a drawy flop and villain is likely to have and bet nothing.

In this hand from last night I was actually making a play on the big blind, who 3 bet 16% of his opportunities from the big blind. I flatted the steal in the hopes that the BB would squeeze. No luck.

Cut off is a 39/9/2

UTG+2: $59.20
MP1: $92.95
MP2: $256.25
CO: $101.55
BTN: $48.15
Hero (SB): $119.30 BB: $50.00

UTG: $57.65 UTG+1: $58.00

So my thinking was basically what I outlined above. It looks like a pretty drawy board, but it missed, or did not hit very hard, most of the villain’s stealing range. I think the cut off’s hands are weighted toward the trashy end of his stealing range because he made a big, non-standard raise. I go ahead and check to him with a high degree of confidence that he will c-bet his steal, because this is what people do–they c-bet their steals.

The part of the hand I was uncertain about was the raise, rather than the check. It just seemed to me that there were a lot of cards that would be bad either for my hand or my action. It also seemed that he probably didn’t have anything anyway, and that I was likely not getting any further action, so the check/raise wasn’t costing me future action often enough to outweigh the following considerations:

a. I look aggressive, and maybe what I said above was wrong and it will slow some people down against me; and,

b. the flop is so low he has to look at it as having missed me, so maybe he thinks my c/r is just a play trying to push him off the pot and he plays back with a little something.

I really don’t know whether this was a good use of a c/r or not, but that was the thinking.

2. Using a Short Stacker’s Aggression Against Him.

I could come up with dozens of these hands, because I do this as a matter of routine.

The villain in this hand plays 29/15/8 and 3 bets 10%. I usually turbo-muck AQ against a 3 bet OOP, but against someone this loose and aggressive, I felt pretty good about calling. I can also see shoving here, but, realistically, most of his call-a-shove- range is flipping me from slightly ahead or is way ahead, so I preferred calling and seeing the flop.

Hero (UTG+1): $121.20

MP: $10.00 CO: $19.25 BTN: $9.25 SB: $50.25 BB: $52.90 UTG: $19.25

Three points here:

a. Shorties abuse fold equity.
b. CRAI here looks a little “bluffy.”
c. A and B combine to make it very likely that shorty will look me up here thinking I am muscling him with air.

I think this is a standard play post-flop (non-standard preflop, obviously), but it is one of the main uses of a flop c/r.

3. When Your Trash is Probably the Best Hand But You Need to Win Now.

I’m not sure about this one, but I do it all the time. Villain is a pretty weak player–14/6/1.5. He could have a better pocket pair, but I can probably muscle him off that. Otherwise, I have the best hand and he is weakly stabbing with air, but I am going to hate pretty much every card in the deck, so I really can’t check/call.

UTG+2: $100.00 MP1: $74.20
MP2: $59.70
Hero (CO): $141.75 BTN: $45.00

SB: $46.25
BB: $111.15 UTG: $50.40 UTG+1: $68.35

Final Pot: $6.75

Hero wins $6.45 (Rake: $0.30)

This sort of situation comes up a lot on paired boards because you feel so much better about your small pocket pair because of the combinatorics of a paired board, but the rest of the deck still sucks for you.

Normally I fold or 3 bet 77 in the BB against a button steal, but I sometimes just call; I called this time because this was my first hand at the table, and I never raise light in my first couple of orbits.

SB: $38.90

Hero (BB): $50.00

UTG: $41.90 UTG+1: $75.95 UTG+2: $10.25 MP1: $46.25 MP2: $10.20 CO: $59.35 BTN: $56.35

Final Pot: $8.25 Hero wins $7.85 (Rake: $0.40)

Again, I have the best hand almost certainly, but I am going to hate most turn cards, and I am oop, so I don’t mind winning right now. I don’t know–standard or boneheaded?

4. I Check/Raise Big Combo Draws

CO: $23.65
BTN: $50.95
Hero (SB): $50.00 BB: $20.00
UTG: $40.25

UTG+1: $52.90 UTG+2: $10.00 MP1: $100.25 MP2: $55.55

Final Pot: $8.00 Hero wins $7.60 (Rake: $0.40)

Flops with flush draws aren’t the greatest ones to c-bet with air, so villains expect to see check/folds in spots like this more often than usual. So they are more inclined to bet if you check and fold if you bet. I bet big combo draws a lot, too, but I like check/raising them on occasion.

5. Bluff Check/raising

I look for a high aggression factor, which means that the villain bets and folds or bets and raises, but doesn’t bet/call very much. A situation where the villain can’t have much of a hand most of the time is nice. here there are lots of hands the villain (AF 4.2) can bet but few he can call a check raise with.

UTG+1: $65.75 UTG+2: $103.45 MP1: $25.00
MP2: $39.85
CO: $51.20
BTN: $50.00
Hero (SB): $136.00 BB: $62.80

UTG: $103.40

Final Pot: $10.50 Hero wins $10.00 (Rake: $0.50)

Some Stats on My Check/Raises:

I check raise 6% of flops I see.

40% of all my check raises are from the big blind.

30% of all my check raises are from the small blind, which means

70% of all my check raises are from the blinds.

I’ll withhold the precise percentages, but this is a list of what I have when I am check raising the flop from most common to least common:

Top pair overpair trips
a set

combo draw
two pair
a vulnerable overpair

Check/Raising the Turn

I can cover this very briefly: Often, but not always, these are check/raises all in, and I usually do it with the best hand or a combo draw that I bet the flop with and then bricked on the turn.

I play a lot of deep tables, so I check raise a lot on the turn to build the pot after I have established on the flop that the vilain is going to go with his hand.

Below is a pretty classic case:

BTN: $50.00
SB: $55.55
BB: $50.00
UTG: $94.90
Hero (UTG+1): $145.45 MP1: $101.40

MP2: $62.40 CO: $78.60

So the small flop bet was just designed to see if he had an ace, which is the only way I am going to make money on the hand. He minraises, which is awesome, because it gives me an excuse to check to him on the turn.

Actually, in reviewing my DB just now, I saw that my turn check/raises were check/shoves only about 35% of the time, and much lower if you ignore hands against people playing less than 100bb.

Some Stats on My Turn Check raises. This is more randomly distributed among the early positionsthan flop check/raises, because, by and large, I am only doing it with hands I want to get all in with or on a rare semi-bluff. So:

I check/raise 6.3% of turns.

20-ish% of which are from SB, BB and both early positions, the remaining 20% coming from mid pos and the CO.

I usually have a set, but can also have trips, two pair, an overpair, a combo-draw or air. But i shove combo-draws on the turn far less than I ought to; I only saw two this year. I actually bluff-check/raised the turn far more often than I did with combo draws. Al of those were on boards where I had called on the flop and the turn paired the board (and none of them worked )

Check/Raising the River

Well, these are usually hands I think are the nuts or a bluff, so I don’t really see the need to illustrate with hand histories. I am rarely check/raising the river. I need the villain to have a good hand or a good spot to bluff and I need my hand to be effectively the nuts. So I only check/raise 2.6% of rivers.

There’s probably a lot more that can be said here, but this is already really long.

Reacting to Check/Raises: FOLD

In all seriousness, you should usually be folding. On occasion a villain will check/raise you when you have a powerful hand you can continue with, but, for the most part, you should fold. Basically, you need to have a hand or a read to continue.

This is a HEM screenshot of all $50 hands I played this year
in which I was check/raised. As you can see, I am getting pounded in LP with my steal c-bets being check/raised, but making a profit in the earlier positions where I have, on average, stronger hands that play well against check/raises. So have a hand or have a read to continue, otherwise, just fold.

What is a hand you can continue with? Well, my win rate with an overpair where I have been check raised is 1717bb/100 (8.5ptbb/hand). My win rate with top pair top kicker or top pair good kicker is 1558bb/100 (7.75ptbb/hand). So these are good enough if you are paying attention.


As I said at the outset, please do not consider this authoritative. I posted the hands and the ways I use check/ raises more as a starting off point for the discussion than as a “how-to.”

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