Poker Check-raising – revisited
Check-raising in Poker has become an increasingly sophisticated beast, both as the raiser and the recipient. The Flop check-raise semi-bluff is the most common you will have used and encountered, but adjusting to your opponent and disguising your draws is no longer a simple task. We also have value raising, air-raising, and information-raising to apply and contend with. They all have their place in the right situations, so let’s delve into the pros and cons in a few common scenarios and our likely responses.
Key: I’ll refer to a ‘check-raise’ as ‘CR’ from this point on – it’s shorter to write and read : )
CR with no made hand/draw as the Preflop caller
We were taught back in the day to always CR our draws on the Flop and while I check-raise a lot I don’t ‘auto’ CR my draws like many do. I like a CR when I figure to have good Fold Equity either outright or later.
To have ‘outright’ Fold Equity you need your opponent to fold roughly 55%*. To gain Fold equity later requires your opponent to fold on a later street if you miss your draw (which you mostly will) and will depend heavily on your reads. So it pays to plan ahead.
Ex: its 6max, you called in the BB with 9♥8♥ vs a 30/26 LAG who opened the Button to 2.5x. The pot is 5bb. You CR his 3.3bb cbet to 10bb on a T♥5♥2♣ board. You are risking 10 to win the 8.3bb pot and need it to work more than half the time (*x/x+y or 10/10+8.3) = 54.6%. The % you need it to work decreases with a smaller raise size though the Fold equity is often reduced too as your opponent has to be right less often to call.
Should you CR here? In my experience you don’t find many LAGs who are willing to fold vs a flop raise > 50%, that’s not part of their whole gig. Will he fold later though? Well if he calls our Flop raise and the Turn is a 6♣, I have rarely found that they fold to further aggression either and they’ll often call you down here with a hand like 77. LAGs like to make you ‘have it’ and when you CR a Flush-Draw board they like to put you on well… a draw!
So what normally happens is this:
a) You check-raise, he calls, you hit and he folds (probably on the river)
b) You check-raise, he calls, you miss and he calls your Turn jam
You have to take your opponents tendencies into account. A check-call > donk line may be a better and cheaper alternative (or not playing 98s at all OOP preferably). Or if they are a big barreler I like a delayed check-raise if we were to check-call and miss on the Turn, as raises there are often given a lot more credit. Plus we’re under-represented if our Turn raise is called and we hit on the river and have a good chance of getting paid off by a confused LAG. The point I’m trying to make here is: you don’t HAVE to auto check-raise draws on the flop!
However if you figure to have good fold equity TO GO WITH your pot equity, a check-raise is the way to go. On occasions though, you’ll just have a +EV spot regardless of your holding. Here are some stats to look out for that may help determine the strength of your Fold Equity:
80%+ cbet (In position) – Some players auto cbet everything in position and are ripe for a check-raise. If you have no ‘fold vs a raise’ information on your opponents it’s an especially useful clue (especially vs multi-tablers).
Fold vs raise > 55% – The wider your opponents range (i.e. Button open) the more this will work.
Fold turn after calling flop raise – A lovely little stat (that can go in a pop-up). Some guys will liberally call a raise and fold 70%+ on the turn.
Fold River after calling Flop raise and Turn bet – Another good pop-up stat, though seldom used, you will still find guys that read 5/5 for 100% here. This is because a lot of the time if they had a hand like 2 pair or a set on a Flush-Draw board they would have got it all in before the River to protect their precious hand. Therefore on many boards when they just call they are capped to one pair type hands by the River and can’t call a triple barrel.
Low Turn Cbet <40% – Some guys are so ‘1 and done’ and you simply have no need to put in an expensive check- raise. These guys often tell you whether they have a hand or not, can be OOP floated and bluffed quite often on later streets.
High Delayed cbet – Some sophisticated opponent’s don’t cbet much but bet most turns instead. You could put this stat in your pop-up and raise your draws here vs the 60%+ delayed cbet guys.
Went to showdown <22% – Guys this low just aren’t calling down light enough and are prone to being abused. If your flop CR is called and the Turn checks through I would definitely consider an overbet bluff on the River vs these player types.
Check-raising with no made hand/draw as the Preflop raiser
When I am the PFR OOP and looking to CR I like to look for a few things:
Guys often float one or two streets in position and stab with air way too much and are open to being CR’d.
Ex: We open A♦J♦ UTG and the tricky 25/16 BTN calls. He has a fold to Flop cbet IP of 40%, fcbet Turn 30% and likes to stab vs checks (perceiving it as weakness). So when we bet the Flop on a T♦8♣5♥ with our overs and back-door draws we can often CR the Turn on a K♦ as opposed to always betting it. You just have to figure out where your opponent likes to float-stab and you can CR those streets when you hit or miss even on the River.
Check-raising with a made hand for Value
With made hands, I like to CR vs non-believers and LAGs (as in the first example above) for value. So when I’ve called with A♦T♠ OOP on a T♥5♥2♣ and I’ll CR it all day long. The same goes vs Fish and guys I have an aggro dynamic with. ‘Aw man I thought you had a flush draw!’ they exclaim in the chat box.
Another spot I like a value CR is when I’m playing a 44/22 type player and I’ve opened OOP. I’ll open a hand like 99 often to 4x, cbet a 8♣6♣4♠ board to full-pot, then CR a blank Turn card like a Q♠ quite big, sometimes all-in. The Q♠ never helped him and they often get pot stuck with a hand like A♣6♣ or 8♦7♦ since they picked up a draw to go with their pair and we get it all in with me as a monster favourite.
Playing Vs a CR
When considering what to do about being CR’d it would have been wise to think about if you should have cbet in the first place. A CR > 12% is certainly active and you should consider checking back a weak top pair or 2nd pair when in position if your opponent has this tendency. You don’t want to be going broke with 1 pair hands for the most part in single raised pots. Unless you KNOW your opponent raises top pair hands and goes with them vs other regs like QT on a T67 and you have AT.
Another line I’m sure you’re aware of is the ‘information’ raise (i.e. to see where they stand in the hand). These mostly arise when an opponent is in position, but it comes in the form of a CR too. It is likely ok to cbet vs these types as they often give up on the next street letting you know where you stand. Again these guessing situations can be avoided be checking back every so often.
One of the times I will cbet vs the big CR’s is when I want to be raised. If I have 88 on a Q♠7♠8♣ and I expect a CR, I’ll cbet for sure and let him blow off his draw or air.
As always it pays to pay attention – when you see a showdown get a note! How someone constructs their CR range both as raiser and receiver, plays a key role in how you should construct your own.
Up next… The damned Donk-bet