Strategy for the popular bluff Check Raise

Strategy for the popular bluff Check Raise

April 25, 2017 3:00 AM


In my last column, we discussed various aspects of bluffing, largely based on Epstein’s book, “The Art of Bluffing;” see ad). Bluffing is a powerful form of deception. I promised to discuss another popular deceptive strategy often used at the poker table: the Check-Raise.

As the name implies, first you check, and then, after an opponent has bet, you make a raise. Usually, you would use this strategy to build the size of the pot you expect to win. You have a monster hand – perhaps even the nuts. As we have said before, the goal for smart players is not just to win lots of hands, but to win as many chips as possible. Build the pot as best you can when you are virtually assured of a win.

Let’s say you are playing $4-$8 limit Texas hold’em, and catch top full-house – the nuts – on the turn. Optimistic, you feel certain this pot is yours. You are in an early position. Based on your knowledge of your opponents’ playing traits, if you came out betting, most – if not all – would fold their hands.

The opponent to your left – a rather tight-aggressive player – had raised on the flop. You put him on two-pair or a set. So you check to him; he makes the bet and two others call. Now is the time to make your raise. It’s a check-raise! Most likely, all three of your opponents who had just invested a bet to see the river, will call your raise.

You might even be surprised when an opponent re-raises – making it a three-bet. Apparently, he has a big hand; he thinks it’s the best. Little does he know you hold the nuts. At that point, you might decide to reraise again – a four-bet. Do it quickly while leaning back in your chair (a reverse tell); that might encourage him to call your last raise – or, perhaps, even re-raise again. (If the others muck their hole cards, leaving just the two of you still in the pot, there is no limit on the number of raises allowed.) Wow, what a great pot this already is!

But, even with your full-house, it is conceivable you do not have the nuts. In that case, consider the possibility that this opponent could hold a better hand than yours. If there is a big pair on the board, higher in value than your full-house, he could hold a bigger full-house than you. For all you know, he may even have quads. (It does happen.)

Consider what type of player he is, and how he has been playing this hand. Yes, it is conceivable he has the best hand. You certainly want to call for one more bet – all the more so if he is somewhat deceptive. The pot odds are gigantic!

The Check-Raise is an excellent way to build a big pot when you hold what is most likely the winning hand. There are also other ways.

Everyone will catch a set now and then. Starting with a pair in the hole, the odds are about 8-to-1 against flopping a set – three of a kind. On the average, in the long run, when you are dealt a pocket pair, you can expect to make a set a bit over 10 percent of the time.

The fact that your opponents will not suspect the strength of your hand is a big advantage. That will make it much easier for you to build the pot. Now then, if you were to raise on the flop, some of your opponents would likely fold their hands. In that case, there would be fewer to build the pot for you. Slow-play is the answer. On the flop, just check along or call a bet with your set; do not raise. Wait for the turn when the bets are much bigger to check-raise.