In this episode, I discuss why a check-raise gives you extra value and is effective at bluffing your opponent off their hand.
In episode 222, I discussed the why's and the how's of double-barrel cbetting more frequently.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: Play with a check-raise mindset over your next 5 sessions. You will be looking and acting upon every seemingly +EV check-raise opportunity. Pay attention to every post-flop out of position hand you play, because that’s when you have the opportunity to check-raise.
Maybe you’re not comfortable with check-raising yet… so this is your time to shine and get comfortable by practicing the check-raise.
Before you get to the flop, look at your opponent’s Bet Flop or Cbet Flop statistic to gauge how likely they are to bet when you check. Test out your value check-raises and bluff check-raises on different boards and with different sizings.
Choose 2p+ hands for your value check-raises. Choose drawing hands and back-door draws for your semi-bluff check-raises.
Tag every hand where you check-raise and every hand where you considered the check-raise but didn't pull the trigger. You will study all these tagged hands in your next study session.
Now it’s your turn to pull the trigger and do something positive for your poker game.
The Check-raise Must Be in Your Arsenal (4:30)
There are a few reasons to check-raise:
1. Check-raises nullify positional advantage
I've told you a million times that position is the number one advantage you can have at the tables. But I may have never discussed this: check-raising is a way to nullify your opponent’s positional advantage.
They've seen you check already so you appear to not like the flop. This can lull your in-position opponent into a false sense of security, which leads to them bluffing a good amount of the time. If they are bluffing, most of those bluffing hands are can fold to a check-raise.
2. Check-raises make the high frequency cbettors fold
The more frequently a player cbets, the more junk they do it with. 70%+ is full of non-value hands that they’re just betting to bluff you off the pot. They can’t stand up to a check-raise profitably, so the best play with their worst cbetting hands is to fold, earning you a nice profit.
3. Check-raises look scary
Due to this, they help to convince your opponent to fold. A lot of people check-raise with their 2p or better hands, so when you check-raise them, they’ll see monsters under the bed and fold to your show of strength.
4. Check-raises earn lots of value from strong hands
If your opponent can’t fold a TP hand nor a draw, and you check-raise with strong made hands, then you’re getting great value.
Also, if your opponents have seen you check-raise bluff in the past, they can give you loads of value when you’re doing it with the nuts down the road.
The Check-raise Statistic (6:30)
Open your poker tracking database and see how frequently you have check-raised over the past 20,000 hands or more.
Also, pull up the stats from an aggressive regular at your stakes. I'm sure you know some of them by name.
Value only: 0 – 7%
Occasional bluffs: 7% – 15%
Full of bluffs: 15%+
Flopzilla has also shown me that these percentages are accurate. Let's look at a common 16% calling range. You can see a screenshot of this in the show notes.
This range hits 2p or greater only 6.3% of the time. Most people check-raise for value with 2p+, so this is why a Check-raise stat at below 7% indicates a value-check-raiser.
Now, if we add some common bluff-check-raising hands…
Now, if we add in oesd's and fd’s, they’re check-raising 14.8% of the time. So, at a 15% check-raising percentage, more than half of their check-raising range is made up of drawing hand bluffs.
You want your check-raise stat at roughly 12%. This will make it so your knowledgeable opponents won’t have an automatic decision when you check-raise. If it’s at 6%, they have an easy fold with their cbet bluffs. If it’s at 18%, it’s an easy call or re-raise because you bluff so often.
Profitable check-raising (11:50)
The Value Check-raise
In general, you’re value check-raising with 2p or better hands. You can throw in the occasional TP hand if you feel they can call with worse TP or underpair hands. But this is an aggressive play that builds the pot, so you want to be reasonably sure you’re ahead of your opponent here.
Before you check-raise for value, ask yourself:
“What are they betting that will call or re-raise to give me value?”
If you can name hands like overpairs, TP or draws, then make the value check-raise. If you can’t, just check-call instead to keep them in so you can get more value on a later street.
Choose a sizing that will get them to call with worse hands. It’s terrible when you check-raise for 30bb’s with top set and they fold. You’re better off going for somewhere between a min-check-raise and a 3x check-raise for value. You don’t want to give them too good of a price for any draws, but you don’t want to make it easy for them to fold their weaker hands.
Example Value Check-raise:
You flopped a set of 8’s on the T84 board versus a CO open-raiser. They have a strong preflop raising range that will bet/call quite often versus your check-raise.
Make sure you go for maximum value when you flop your strongest hands.
Value check raising is actually quite easy to do. Things get a little bit dicey when you’re considering bluff check-raises.
The Bluff Check-raise
As a “standard” bluff check raise, you will want to do so with your drawing hands. Flush draws and straight draws are great for this because if you do get called, you still have the opportunity to hit something strong on the turn to allow you to now go for value.
The most important thing about bluff check-raising is that YOU WANT THEM TO FOLD. Regardless of the strength of your hand, you are check-raising as a bluff. The first thing you need to do is look for signs that they will fold to your check raise.
In my Cbet Pop-up in my Smart HUD, I include the stat Fold Cbet to a Raise. If this percentage is high, like 60% or more, then that means my check-raise bluff has a high likelihood of working. If they also have a cbet stat at around 70%, that’s a good sign as well. People who cbet a lot and fold a lot to raises are the best ones to bluff check raise against.
There are different types of bluffing hands:
Total Bluff Check-raises
These hands have very little showdown equity and very little drawing equity. It’s like having 33 on the J92r board, or T8 on the Q54. You are betting on these hard to hit boards with the sole intention of getting your opponent to fold.
These hands are absolutely not worthy of check-calling, so your options are to check-fold or check-raise bluff. If you think they can fold, then you should attempt the check-raise bluff.
Before you choose your bluff check-raise sizing, ask yourself:
“What sizing would I use with a strong hand, and what will they fold to?”
Figure out what that bet sizing is and bet at or near that amount.
If they cbet ½ pot, and you just min-raise, they’re getting great odds to call with draws and marginal showdown value hands. You want them to fold, so it might require making 2.5x-3x check-raises. This is going to require some testing on your part.
If you notice somebody folding frequently versus smaller check-raises, take note of this to save yourself money when check-raise bluffing them in the future.
These are when you have some sort of immediate draw that can hit on the turn. It’s like betting the AdTd on the Jh9d6d board. You can hit your diamond for a flush, and you’ve got the Ace as an out for TP and an 8 or 7 will give you a straight draw.
Another example is holding the 98 on the T74 board. Your opponent doesn’t have a lot of Tens in their open-raising range, so they may just cbet/fold to your check-raise. You can also hit a J or 6 on the turn for a straight, and even a 9 or 8 will give you a second pair hand which you might be able to get to showdown with.
Back-door Bluff Check-raises
Back-door draws are great for check-raising when you think they can find a fold. You must also be willing to double-barrel bluff on favorable turn cards.
Back-door draws mean that you have to go runner-runner to make a hand.
This is like holding the Ad9d on the single diamond 783 board. On the turn, you can gain equity by hitting any diamond for a flush draw, a T or a 6 gives you an oesd, and a J or 5 gives you a gs draw. Also, any Ace gives you TP. That’s 6 different cards that add equity to your hand in case they call your flop check-raise. I call these 6 different cards “equity outs”.
Now, it’s important to remember that you’re check-raising because you think they can fold. But, when you check-raise with a back-door draw like this, you must also be willing to double-barrel when you hit one of your equity outs. Make sure to follow through when one of your cards come.
If they don’t come and the turn doesn’t help you, it’s okay to give up at this point.
Support the Show
Robbie Franks purchased PokerTracker 4 through my affiliate link. As a thank you, I sent him the Smart HUD for PT4 to help exploit his opponents.
Ben Mohr and Orlando purchased the Smart HUD for PokerTracker 4. The HUD comes with 16 stats and 6 custom popups along with specialized color coding for the most useful stats. It's perfect for getting the most from PokerTracker 4 and your online play.
Rolan Muller picked up January's webinar: Poker's Bread & Butter Webinar. This webinar is teaching him how to get into the most profitable poker situations more frequently, and his win rate (and more importantly profits) will be going up for it.
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