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Know how to check raise

Why is it important to check-raise? Because check raising is a powerful move in poker.

In fixed limit Texas holdem, a check raise typically means either (1) a way to get an extra bet with a strong hand or (2) a way to drive out opponents between you and the original bettor by giving them incorrect odds to draw to their hand, because those opponents are faced with calling 2 bets cold. This is true whether you are playing with your friends or if you're sitting online playing at an internet casino. So you don't have to worry about changing your strategy when playing online.

In no-limit holdem, as bets are not fixed, these two reasons do not exist, but others do. Here are a few examples.

1. You are in the BB with A-rag and the flop comes ace and two rags and a flush draw. If you bet out with this weak ace from the blind and get called, you are probably behind. Then you have to check the turn and fold to a bet. A better idea is to check and see what happens. If someone makes a weak bet, there is a good chance they have a flush draw or have a weak ace themselves. Try check-raising in this spot, especially if the guy who bets is last to act, which is suspicious that he doesn't have an ace.

2. Lets say you call a modest raise with a pair of fives and the flop comes T72 rainbow. You would normally check here since you didn't hit your set that you were hoping for, but then the preflop raiser makes a smaller than normal bet. You might check raise him if you think he has AK. You could just lead into him if you think he has AK because after all, you do have him beat, but a lot of players will raise your flop bet with AK and then you are stuck. You don't know if he has AK or a big pair, so if you let them bet and then you check raise them, there's a much better chance that they have you beat if they call (or reraise you). In other words, you have a better idea where you are in the hand. It costs more now, but it will cost less later if you had to call more bets on later streets still not knowing if they have AK or not.

3. You call a modest raise with 98s. This is a speculative play, and if the flop comes with a draw and you check raise the preflop raiser, you put a lot of pressure on him. If he missed the flop, he has to fold, even though you missed also. If he calls, you have outs to hit your hand and the times you do hit your hand, the payoff will be sweet because he'll never see it coming. A play like this will also slow down even a big hand, possibly going to showdown for free after the flop. If the preflop raiser then sees your cards and even though he may have won this hand, he has to be worried to be in a big hand again with you because he doesn't know what you'll do.

4. This example is called "protecting your checks" and is quite advanced. There are times in higher stakes NL games that you raise in EP with a good holding and the flop is not what you were looking for. In this spot, you may want to check and see the next card for free. But, in a tough game you will never get to see this card if you often raise then check/fold. Your "good" opponents need to know that when you check in EP, it doesn't mean the pot is up for grabs. If you check raise them once or twice with a big hand, they will be much less likely to try to steal the pot when you check your unimproved AK. Decent players remember this for quite a while.

For example, you are in EP with a pair of jacks and raise the $10 BB to $40. Two solid LP players call. The flop comes Q93 rainbow. The pot is $135. Anything less than a pot bet here is weak and they'll smell blood. If you check, normally one of them will bet pot and take it away even if the flop missed them. But, if the last time this happened you check raised LP1 for $400 more with a set of 9's, your opponents remember that. Now both of them may check behind you if the flop missed them also. You'll be surprised how well this works. It's only a situational play used against observant opponents.

Also, it sets up the same check raise bluff when you hold something like AKs or AQs and two of your suit hit the flop. You win a nice pot if they fold to your check raise, you protect your checks, and even if they call here you have many outs depending on what they hold. Being willing to risk the extra money that a check raise costs, is what makes it more believable.

Remember that these are plays to use on rare occasions, but they are very powerful weapons that you must use to play at a high level.


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