What is a Check Raise in Poker? A Check Raise in Texas hold’em poker is a misleading poker strategy used by advanced poker players. The player checks their poker hand (usually a strong hand) as to appear weak or not that interested in playing. They are hoping one of their opponent(s) falls for the trap by betting. When another player opens the betting, the player who checked will then precede to raise when the betting action comes back around. The deceptive nature of the Check Raise Strategy is effective because it changes how other players feel about your hand (weak to strong). This puts the player who Check Raised into a more profitable position.
The check raise is really not one of those poker strategies that you need to over think. In fact, when you break it down, it’s the simplest move you’ll make in poker. It’s something that every new player does by instinct, even when they have a poker hand that suggests that they might want to be a little more aggressive.
The basic idea behind of how to check raise is if you are in an early position and you already have a great hand, you check to hide just how strong you think your hand really is so that you can raise and get more money later. Once your opponents thinks you are weak or on a marginal/drawing hand and starts to get a little more brazen, he bets you raise – a check and a raise, in other terms.
This is one of those lovely little strategies that prey on the weakness of your opponents in Texas Hold’em poker. You let your opponent make the first move. Gauging his strength and allowing you to pull in more money than you’d be able to pull in if you were honest about your strength. This is a key move for winning poker tournaments and for learning how to control the pace of your games.
So, when do you really see check raises? Well, you’ll see beginners do it if they’ve got something really good in their pocket – a pair turned into three off of the flop, or maybe a really good straight. That’s check raise 101, and it takes many players an awful lot farther than any basic skill ought to allow.
There’s a reason that even newbies love this particular skill. First and foremost, it looks incredibly cool when you’re able to properly sucker another player in. Second, it feels amazing to set things up and see such a quick payoff. It’s your best chance to really show off with a simple move, and it’s pretty close to being irresistible.
There’s something about the check raise that makes you feel like a rock star. It’s a power move that shows off just how well you’ve played your opponent and how strong your actual hand is all in one go. It’s cool, it’s fun, and it’s a skill that you have to turn to again and again. Your job, though, is to know when it’s actually appropriate to use.
Knowing When It’s Time to Check Raise
As with every other poker strategy, the check raise is really only useful in some situations. It’s not without its drawbacks, after all, and since it’s so simple almost everyone knows to be on the lookout for your move. The great thing about the check raise is that anyone can do it. The worst thing about the check raise is that anyone can do it.
Let’s start with the obvious here – you really don’t need to check raise every time you have a great hand in front of you. If you do it all the time, you’re going to risk leaving money on the table that you could have much more easily taken. Remember, the check raise requires your opponent to actually end up betting, and there are times when that is not going to happen. If you want to make money, you’re going to have to be a little less crafty from time to time.
When Should You Actually Check Raise?
Look at your position. The first thing you’ll want to consider will typically be your poker position. Strictly speaking, it’s better to check raise when you are earlier on in the playing order. After all, later players are at a much greater risk of just checking around than those who are in the game early. You’ve got to put yourself in a position to make others bet, so you can’t be the last person in.
Ideally, you’re going to check raise when you are in one of the earliest positions. The only hard and fast rule is that you shouldn’t check raise when you are in the last betting position – that’s just a check, after all, and it’s tantamount to letting everyone else see the next card for free. Check raise in those situations that give you a better chance to see others bet.
The Two Part Check Raise Rule
Once you get past positioning issues, you are going to look at two basic check raising poker rules. The first is that you should only take this action if you think that you’ve actually got a really good hand. This isn’t having a hand that will pan out later or having a hand that’s going to do well on the river, but rather a hand that’s going to beat everyone else nine times out of ten if you get called.
The second part of the rule is that you must understand that you’ll be wrong about the first rule from time to time. There are situations in which your great hand isn’t quite as good as the opponent’s great hand, and they will be able to meet you chip for chip. In these cases, you need to be fairly sure that you can win at a call – or bully the other player out.
Working to Bluff
The obvious addendum to the two rules above is that you can try check raising if you think that you can bully out an opponent who clearly has a better hand that your own. This requires a little more skill than just applying the above rules because it’s going to require you to have a basic knowledge of how to read the opponent’s cards. When it works, though, it feels like magic.
You’re going to have to read the texture of the cards out in front of you to figure out where the opponent is, and then look to see how he is betting. If your opponent is betting like he’s close to – but not quite at – the hand he wants, your choice to check raise may well be what it takes to push him out. This is actually one of the best strategies for dealing with a good but conservative player.
Look at How Your Opponent Will Bet
You know your positions, you know the basics, and you know whether you’ve got something great or you’re just trying to bluff. Now you need to figure out the important part – if you’re going to be able to secure that second part of the check raise. This means figuring out if the player behind you is actually going to bet some real money.
Simply put, it sucks to try for a check raise and to have your opponent play it safe. You can literally see the money that’s left on the table when this happens, so you’re going to try to figure out if your best move was really to check or if you should have come out swinging.
The easy way to deal with this is to break down your move into two potential outcomes. The first comes back to that golden rule of the process – if you get called, will you win? The second comes back to where you are now – if you check, will your opponent bet? If you can answer yes to both, you should check raise. If you can’t, the best you can hope for is to walk away with less money than if you had bet.
Flush and Straight Issues
If you were to look at raw numbers, you’d see that most people check raise when they are sitting on (or are likely to sit on) a straight or a flush. The question you need to ask yourself, though, is what you need to do – after all, you’re trying to hang with the sharks and not messing around with the strategies of the minnows.
Most smart players would rather check raise when they’re going for a straight than a flush. After all, straights are sneaky while flush draws are pretty obvious to everyone else at the table. If it even looks like you might be on a flush draw, there’s a good chance that the other players might start to get more conservative.
There’s a way around this, though. You can start bluffing away some of your flush draws. Make it look like you’ve got something better in your hand. It’s risky and maybe a little dumb sometimes, but it’s a solid move for throwing other players off your scent. This gets tough when you’re looking at three suited cards on the table or if your opponent has something really good, but you can engage in a little trickery to fool an opponent.
If you’re not confident enough to pull this off, stick to check raising your straights. Practice with your flushes in low-stakes environments. You’re going to have to master this skill sooner or later. Try to learn how to do so when it’s not the outcome of a tournament on the line. You have what it takes to do this. Even though you’re going to have to learn how to be a little bit trickier to pull it off more often than not.
Other Benefits of Check Raising
There are actually some other fun benefits to learning how to check raise properly. You can learn how to free up a little bit of space on the board for your dream hands to get to see some cards that might otherwise be out of your price range. It will give you an excellent chance to get better at bluffing and playing the other players. It will even help to elevate you to the point where other players might get a little fearful of your prowess.
The big problem with this whole strategy is that it assumes you’re playing against reasonably good players. These are the people who are working on reading your hand and looking at the board as a whole. If you’re playing against newbies or awful poker players, this entire strategy falls apart.
In fact, check raising can teach you an awful lot about the dangers of playing with bad poker players. Strategies are great. They all fail in the face of someone who absolutely does not know what he or she is doing. You’re going to beat players like this in the long run. This doesn’t mean that they’re not going to take some hands – and even some games- from you during that process.
The good news is that you don’t need big poker strategies to deal with those crazy players. You can concentrate on taking their money one chip at a time. Then take it all when they are making bigger mistakes. Check when you need to and raise when it’s appropriate. Feel safe in the knowledge that you’ll beat those players just by having the better hand.
See you in Las Vegas at the WSOP!
Check Raise – FAQs
A: A check raise is when you check a strong hand in order to look weak, your opponent falls for the trap by betting, and you raise. However, you can also check-raise-bluff.
A: A check is when you’re opting not to bet. You can either tap your finger on the table or say, “check.” A call is when another player bets and you put the same amount of chips out to match that bet.
A: You can raise as much as you want, but only when it’s your turn to act.
A: Yes. You can raise from the small blind. You will be out of position post-flop. Therefore, if there have been many limpers, you want to raise more than usual in order to reduce the playing field.
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