The check-raise is an act of deception meant to fool opponents into thinking your hand is weaker than it really is. Simply put, you check with the expectation that an opponent will bet so you can raise. You do this to either get more money into a pot you expect to win or to shut out players who might have called with a drawing hand for one bet but will fold for two.
It is viewed by some, especially in home games, as unfair. As such, some people ban it outright. They argue that it has no place in a “friendly” game – calling it “sandbagging” or even “backstabbing”.
Most experienced players, especially casino players, strenuously disagree with this characterization, as do I. True, it surely is an act of deception. But in that regard it is no different from bluffing. The only difference is that instead of deceptively trying to fool your opponents into thinking your hand is stronger than it really is, by check-raising you are trying to fool your opponents into thinking your hand is weaker than it really is. If you are opposed to check-raising then, logically, you should be opposed to bluffing.
That being said, there are some reasons for not arguing with people about the matter. In fact, with few exceptions, I recommend that you heartily agree to this rule in any home game you’re in.
The amount you gain in a friendly home game by check-raising is usually minuscule. The players tend to be bad. (After all, they are bad enough to think that there is something unethical about check-raising). Against bad players you want to, generally, play straightforwardly. Put more directly, they are usually not good enough to worry about fancy plays. Since they don’t really have a good understanding of hand values and Togel strategy, they are unpredictable. You can’t rely on them to either bet their hand or understand that your check means something. So you will find yourself checking, with the intention of raising, only to have the hand checked around. These occurrences will happen frequently enough in a bad, soft game to make up for, or at least almost make up for, the extra money you will extract from well-timed check-raises.
There’s another reason to agree to ban check-raising. If other players want it banned, but you do convince them to allow it, you can be certain that they won’t like it when you do it. In short, it will piss them off. And you don’t want to do that. Angry players are often better players – either because they tighten up or because they become more aggressive. Similarly, happy players are usually better for the game. They’ll toss in chips more readily, which is generally what you want in these games.
Why anger players, who might leave the game earlier, for something of only marginal value. In my book, it’s not worth it.
This being said, however, you will find many games in casinos and elsewhere where check-raising is allowed. This is the norm in every public poker room where I’ve played. Let me give you a few pointers on when and how to use it to your advantage.
First, a reminder about check raising bad players. It usually doesn’t make sense. This move depends on your opponent betting. Without their bet, there can be no successful check-raise. If your opponents are calling stations – which are the type of players you want to play against – then they can’t be relied upon to bet when you check. Hence, your check-raise will end up being a check-check, which is usually worse in these situations than a bet-call.
So when you’re against calling stations, bet your hand outright rather than planning a check-raise.
Here’s the exception to that general strategy. There is a situation, against bad, loose players, when a check-raise can usually be relied on to show a profit.
Imagine that you are leading with a Premium Pair from Third Street. You are playing against a bad player who often plays straight and flush draws.
Let’s imagine that he called on Third Street with a 3-Flush, and continued to call down your hand even as it progressed to Two-Pair.
On Sixth Street he receives his third open Flush card and you get a second pair with a visible pair on Board.
You are high on Sixth Street and bet. He raises. You call.
On the River you catch your Full House and are high on board. You should absolutely check with the intention of completing a check-raise.
Even if he is the worst of all calling stations, he will bet that Flush. As a bad player, he is playing only his hand. So when you check, he will surely bet and you can raise him. He will call your raise, earning you an extra Big Bet.
Check-raising can also make sense when you have a very good but not a great hand early on and want to limit the field so fewer players are drawing against you. This strategy generally is limited to games with at least halfway decent (and thereby predictable) opponents.
Let’s say it’s Fifth Street. A player to your right has been leading the betting for the first two rounds with a King. You called the bet each round with a pair of 10s and an Ace kicker (in the hole). You now pair your Aces for Aces Up. There are three other players in the hand, two of whom have 2-Flushes.
You have the option of betting out or checking with the intention of raising.
Go for the check-raise. Here’s why. You can expect the King to open the betting because he’s been betting aggressively and is still high on board (after you with your Ace). And you want to knock out the drawing hands if you can. If you just open the betting, they may all call for only one bet. But if you check and the King bets, you can double the bet by raising, with the likely result that the drawing hands, not wanting to risk a raising battle, will fold for the double bet.
Again, you have to be pretty certain that the King will bet. But if you are sure, then the check-raise is the superior strategy.
You can check-raise bluff against good solid players. This works especially well if you think that they may be bluffing and you don’t have a hand that could beat a bluff.
Imagine that you are going for a Flush. You suspect your opponent is trying to represent that he has at least two pair. But you think he might just be overplaying a bad hand. You are high on board and check. He bets. You can sometimes succeed with a check-raise here if he didn’t have the Two-pair. He will give up his weak hand because your check-raise will indicate strength. Remember, this move only works against a good solid player or a weak tight player who is capable of laying down a hand on the River.
There are many other situations that might arise in games when check-raising makes sense. Against aggressive opponents it can be used to extract an extra bet. Players who over bet their hand, will often call your check-raise, giving you an extra bet from them.
But make sure that you think about what you want to accomplish. Remember that if you’re check-raise is seeking to limit the field, you need to have the opening bet to your right, so your raise can make it a double bet for the remaining players. If the person opening the betting is to your left, then your raise will probably not succeed in thinning the field. Once they have called your opponent’s raise they are less likely to fold for your raise.
- Don’t argue with home game organizers about any rule to ban check-raising. It’s more profitable in the long run to smile and go along with it.
- In very loose, passive games, check-raising is usually not a good idea, with the exception of check-raising a powerhouse on the River against a strong second-best hand.
- In all other games, it sometimes makes sense to check-raise if you’re sure your opponent will bet to either get more money in the pot, limit the field, or against good solid players, win the hand on a check-raise bluff.