Mastering the Check-Raise
The check-raise is another move that every good poker player needs to have in their arsenal. As the name implies, check-raising involves checking out of position while hoping that the an opponent bets so that we can then raise them.
A check-raise is a form of delayed aggression. No matter whether we’re executing this play for value, as a bluff, or even with a semi-bluff, it’s always a power play. Check-raising sends a message.
The risk, of course, is that our opponent checks behind after we check to them. This lets a round of betting pass without putting any more chips into the pot, and so we need to be okay with this outcome before deciding to go for a check-raise.
Now let’s talk about the best spots to make the play.
The Value Check-Raise
Let’s say we flopped a good made hand on a fairly dry board. We’re not too worried about any draws coming in on the turn, and we think that our hand is beating most of our opponent’s range.
We’ve also observed our opponents’ frequencies to determine their psychological player profile. We figured out that they’re an aggressive player who loves to bluff, but they are also willing to lay down their cards.
This is a perfect spot for a value check-raise because we can safely assume that our opponent will often try to bluff us off the pot. This gives them another opportunity to put more chips into the put before we scoop it up.
That’s why the value check-raise is so good at extracting extra chips. That same player may not have called our bet if we led into them, but by giving them a false sense of security, we give them the opportunity to bluff and donate more chips to our stack.
The Bluff Check-Raise
The other side of the coin is check-raising as a bluff. This can work well on wet boards with plenty of draws or other combos that dominate hands that our opponent might have like Ax or KQ.
By bluffing with a check-raise, we’re giving off the impression that we’re much stronger than we actually are. Of course, raising always costs more than betting, so this move is much riskier than just leading out as a bluff. For the same reasons, it’s also harder to call a check-raise than a single bet.
If we suspect that our opponent is semi-bluffing or betting for thin value, then we can really put them to the test by check-raising them.