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The Check-Raise in NL Holdem

September 13th, 2010

The Check-Raise in NL Holdem

The check-raise is a relatively simple yet profitable concept to execute.  From my experiences there are plenty of low stakes players who check-raise boards when the time is right.  The biggest problem however, is that they don’t always apply it to their game relevantly or against the right sorts of opponents.  Often in 6-max cash games I will implement the check-raise against loose aggressive opponents who I know are cbetting virtually every flop I check to.  In order to exploit these opponents and extract maximum value from a big hand like trips on the flop, I will check-raise them out of position.

The best boards to check-raise opponents are one’s that are either likely your opponent has missed and is cbetting blank, or one where you know your opponent has a good chance of catching up with you and will happily call a re-raise.  If he has a flush draw or outside straight draw, then he might be calling for implied odds.

In terms of who to check-raise, the best types of players to pull off this move against are LAGs who overplay their hands post-flop.  The majority of LAGs will be cbetting flops with thin air.  They also tend to attack pots with limited action and take advantage of weaknesses at the table.  This means that next time to have a superb hand like AQ on a A-Q-5 board, against a LAG, you should be happy to check-raise in position.  You can also do this against TAGs too, but given their lack of aggression in post-flop play on missed boards, a lot of the time you’ll only be getting called by hands that beat you and folding hands that are behind.  In either case, the foundations of a successful check-raise is that you’re confident that your opponent will fire into the pot as soon as you exhibit weakness..  The last thing that you want to do in this situation is give your opponent a free card and limit how much value you get from a strong hand on the flop.

The size of a typical check-raise should be no less than 3x the opening raise, and sometimes even 3.5x.  This is a scalable amount, because if you bet less than this than you’ll be giving good pot odds to your opponent.

On a final note, a really important message that I want to render across is that you should actively be check-raising with a variety of hands.  This is known in the mid-stakes world as balancing your range, and when you look for poker sites you should always be looking for the fishiest sites where this move is most profitable.  The reason it’s important to vary the sorts of hands you check-raise with is because you want to keep your opponent guessing and keep extracting maximum value down the line.  If you only check-raise with monster hands then you’re opponent will learn to stop calling these value bets.  But, if you start check-raising with a loose range of hands and include the bluff-raise into your arsenal, then you can end up stealing more pots and getting better calling equity for your premium hands.

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