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Check-Raising Part 1
Once you learn to play poker, check-raising is typically the first move you add to your game. As with any move, it's important to use it only when profitable.
New players trying desperately to step up their game tend to overuse the check-raise to the point of costing themselves profit. In this article I explore the most common instances in which players try to check-raise.
Check-Raising the Best Hand
In a No-Limit game, check-raising the best hand is rarely the most profitable line you can take. A check-raise tells your opponent that you have a very strong hand. The move is intended to put as much money into the pot as possible, a tactic typically wielded by a player with the most equity.
When you truly have the best hand, you don't want the other player to be scared of you. You want them to have a false sense of security in the hand.
There are three situations you can run into while check-raising the best hand. In all three of these scenarios we'll use the same flop, with you flopping the nuts first to act heads-up:
Situation 1: versus
Your opponent is drawing dead. This opponent has no way to win this pot other than by bluffing; therefore, you have no way to make any money in this pot unless you can convince your opponent to bluff. If you check and your opponent does choose to bluff here, check-raising will win you, with almost 100% certainty, no more than one bet.
Check-calling will rarely win you any more here, but will at least give your opponent the option to fire another barrel on the turn. If the other player puts you on a draw or one pair, they might think they can blow you off the hand with another bet.
Situation 1: Check-raising loses you money.
Situation 2: versus
Your opponent has an open-ended draw with one pair. The chance of your opponent winning this pot is just over 7%, with less than a 1% chance of chopping the pot. You have them absolutely crushed, but they might believe they have a strong hand. When you check, there is a good chance they will be there.
Check-raising gives them a chance to lay down their hand here. If they call your check-raise, they're going to check down the hand or just call unless they hit. The best thing you can do for this player is to let them bluff at you, or hit their lower straight.
By not check-raising you are allowing them to play at you, throwing away a few bets on a bluff or even more if they hit something. Check-raising will shut down their betting on a bluff, and can even slow down bets from a made hand. Often when they do hit, players will still try to keep the pot as cheap as they can after your display of strength.
Situation 2: Check-raising loses you money.
Situation 3: versus
Your opponent has a big hand here. They have top set and are 35% to win the hand. You, with close to double the equity, want to get as much money into this pot as possible. Your opponent here will be more worried about losing to a draw than to flopped nuts.
Chances are no matter how you play the hand here, you're going to get into a nosebleed six-max stakes), check-raising shouldn't be your first choice. In fact, when you have the absolute nuts, as a beginner check-raising should be the last option you choose.
In the second half of this article I'm going to go over check-raising as a bluff or semi-bluff, check-raising in Limit Hold'em and the impact of check-raising on your table image.
For now, stop check-raising the nuts, unless you never want to win more than one bet.
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