Learning how to check-raise is one of the best tools to have in your poker arsenal, but also one of the most difficult to execute properly. Read on as UNFELTED.com guest contributor and former Australian #1 ranked poker player Kelvin “AcesUp” Beattie of PokerNerve.com shares some of the check-raising strategies that helped him to earn over 4 million dollars on the virtual felt.
How To Check-Raise In 2018
Two of the greatest benefits of check-raising are that it provides more maneuverability out of position, and it’s an incredible effective weapon to combat the often overused continuation-bet (or cbet).
Executing the check-raise successfully can be difficult, especially on paired boards; so this article outlines key steps to efficient check-raising, backed-up by solver work and examples. This will help you make the most of this potent play the next time you hit the felt.
At the table, we frequently contest the pot from the big blind (sometimes we defend the big blind too often as described in PokerNerve’s Tournament Tips), given the pot odds offered in a single raised pot. Barring the first in raise coming from the small blind, we’re always left with the challenge of playing hands out of position post-flop.
It’s vital in this situation to bring into play a check-raising strategy.
Used properly it can ease the difficulty of being out of position, make us tougher to play against, and overall significantly increase a players win-rate from the big blind position.
When it comes to paired boards, they allow for a great opportunity to attack with a check-raise.
Steps to check-raising success:
- Identity nut advantage
- Evaluate opponent tendencies
- ‘Range chunking’
- Check-raising range
How To Check-Raise: Identity Nut Advantage
Every time you see a flop, you should have mapped out a range for your opponent. And ask yourself the question;
How does this range interact with the flop?
In the case of paired flops, the original raiser will usually have an equity advantage verse the big blind. Because the big blind will typically be trying to build the pot and re-raising with their strong hands preflop, like big pairs for example.
But the original raiser will often lack combinations of the paired card. This is especially true on mid to low boards. And so this is where the secret in the attack lies – When the big blind has a substantial amount of the paired card in their range and is facing a cbet, they can counter-attack and check-raise.
Here’s a video taken straight out of the premium poker tournament course Road To Success analyzing flop play on a 556 board after the big blind has called versus middle position.
How To Check-raise: Evaluate Opponent Tendencies
As the later part of the above video started to delve into, if the in-position player has the common population tendency to over cbet, this will serve to make the flop check-raise even more formidable.
Specifically against around a 25% type of range as shown in the image below on the left, we can see there’s an absence of mid to low card combinations. This could be a loose early position players opening range, a common middle position opening range, or perhaps a tight late position open raising range.
In contrast, the big blinds range on the right is loaded with potential trip combinations on a 556 flop. So those mid to low flop textures can present a great opportunity to get aggressive.
In Texas Holdem, we want to build big pots with strong hands. So we’ll often want to be raising with trips rather than just calling. To provide a level of balance so we aren’t predictable, we can therefore also raise with a lot of semi-bluffs. Which when check-raised can turn the tables and put the in-position player in a precarious spot.
When deciding whether to check-raise, consider your opponents opening range, then estimate their continuing range post check-raise. Tight or solid regular players often give up right there on the flop with the majority of their hands so we can check-raise aggressively.
Loose fish, however, can be sticky on paired boards and continue with a holding as weak as high cards. This shouldn’t prevent a check-raise, as turn and river bets will likely be profitable betting opportunities.
Just make sure you are playing a good portion of really strong hands fast. Always slow playing trips would be a disaster as flop check-raises quickly become too bluff heavy.
What if my opponent 3 bets the flop a lot?
Flop 3 betting, like sticky fish, shouldn’t be much of a concern providing we are check-raising the right combinations. Remember we will often have the paired card which is, of course, the whole point of nut advantage – but do exercise judgment.
If an opponent is crazy we can make our check-raises more value heavy. On the other hand, we can incorporate more bluffs against players over cbetting on boards that are a good fit for our range. Particularly if we suspect they usually only get to showdown with the goods.
How To Check-Raise: Range Chunking
Range chunking can help when contemplating a flop check-raise. Simply break your opponents range into ‘chunk types’ as follows;
- Weak hands
- Ace high or small pairs
- Strong hands (mostly over pairs)
- Trips plus.
Weak hands and trips plus will usually be straightforward.
Weak hands will fold to a check raise and super strong hands will typically get to showdown. Raising can obviously be effective when a players range includes a lot of weak hands.
However what happens with the in between hands is very interesting as it can vary considerably. Some regs and careful players will even be folding overpairs at some point in the hand whilst a fish might get to showdown with just ace high on some board run outs.
So the more information you have on an opponent the better your read of the situation should be.
Range chunking can help with quick decision making. Providing for speedy adjustments to be made based on an opponent. So when you do have a range advantage, you can proceed more confidently ultimately increasing your win-rate, allowing for more profit at the tables.
Let’s take a look at how effective check-raising can be by weighing up the key points outlined. The following video is a hand review of check-raising opportunities on paired boards from my last online poker session.
The above video demonstrates just how effective a flop check-raise on a paired board can be. 4 out of 4 pots won. A small sample, but hopefully it reinforced the points outlined. You would have noticed some patterns.
Firstly, a GTO solution typically checks a lot. Around half the time on paired boards when the paired card fits well with the OOP players range. Yet even at this low frequency, as the big blind player, the response was to check-raise aggressively.
When the IP player cbets too much of their range, they’re vulnerable to a counter-attack. Currently, in both live and online poker games the current trend is to cbet the flop too often. This population tendency can be taken advantage of by applying a solid check-raising strategy.
How To Check-Raise: Select A Check-Raising Range
Imagine your opponent’s vulnerability like a crack in a jar of water. A small crack results in a slight leak. That is if the hands were the water a few would leak out.
Since there are only a few hands to use, you’d prefer to be using the best ones. The one’s with some equity to fall back on if the pot is contested and you find yourself getting to the turn or river.
For example, was a good fit on the flop. It could turn a flush or a straight draw possibility, potentially outdrawing quite strong hands like overpairs.
The type of hands that have good equity against even the better parts of villains range, but little showdown value unimproved, are generally good candidates to check-raise.
As your opponents leak gets larger, to the point where the jar of water has a gaping hole in it, that’s when you can attack even wider. For example, an ideal situation would be an opponent cbetting 100% on a flop that gives the OOP player tons of super strong holdings.
Furthermore, if the cbettor tends to back down when met with resistance, the prospect of check-raising becomes so great that even just low cards with a gut-shot, or possibly even just a couple of random high cards that can turn an over pair might be enough to get aggressive.
- Paired flops can be really profitable situations for a big blind player.
- As you learn how to check-raise, identify if you have a nut advantage and then evaluate how effective a check-raise will be against the opponent you’re up against. Range chunk if need be, to determine if a considerable portion of your opponents range is going to have difficulty withstanding a check-raise. And when check-raising ideally we’d like to have the types of hands that can gain a lot of equity on favorable turns and rivers. As we saw with the .
- Games have developed in a way where players have a tendency to over cbet. Moreover, when facing a check-raise, players frequently aren’t defending wide enough leaving themselves vulnerable to attack. Exploit these tendencies by constantly check-raising. This helps to compensate for positional disadvantage and will make you a tougher adversary, instantly boosting your win-rate at the tables!
Good luck everyone,
Kelvin “AcesUp” Beattie
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