Check Raise

The check raise is considered the most aggressive play in poker. It can be an extremely effective tool for both bluffing and extracting maximum value from your monster hands.

Check raise

Check raising involves checking when it is your turn to act and then raising, if your opponent bets, both with and without a made hand.

Having an aggressive and unpredictable table image gives enormous advantage in poker. The check raise can give you such an image. Your opponents will be more wary about bluffing when you are in the pot. They will also have to make guesses more often in reading you. It will lead them to making more mistakes and losing more money to you.

If you want to be unpredictable, you cannot check raise only as a bluff or only with a strong hand, though. You will have to use this move both as a bluff and for value. Achieving a good balance is crucial if you want to get the most out of check raising. Ideally, the ratio between bluff and value check raises should be 50-50.

Check raise for value

When you hit a very strong hand (e.g. a set), your goal is to win the your opponent’s whole stack. If your stack are deep (100 big blinds and more), it is not always easy to get all your chips in the pot before the showdown. Flop, turn, and river give just 3 occasions for betting and often you will not be able to go all-in without overbetting, when you are out of position.

Check raising solves this problem. Each check raise adds at least one more betting spot for every street. For example, your opponents bets on the flop, you check raise and get called, then you bet on the turn and river – 4 betting spots. But your opponent may even decide to re-raise you on the flop and you can easily put the rest of your stack by making another raise.

With the check raise, there is always a risk that your opponent will not bet after you check. This move works best against aggressive opponents that bet whenever it is checked to them. If you are up against a passive player, you will be better off betting yourself.

The check raise is more effective in multi-way pots. With many players involved in the hand, the probability that somebody decides to bet increases. However, there is no guarantee. If you check and they also check, you give a free card to you opponents and one of them may complete their draw and beat you. I recommend that you avoid check raising on wet flops, i.e. ones containing possible draws, for example T95.

Check raise as a bluff

When you check raise as a bluff, it is advised that you still have a hand with some potential. A pure bluff with a hand that has no chance to win if called is usually a losing proposition unless you have a very strong read on your opponent. It is advised that you check raise as a semi-bluff.

Flush and straight draws are perfect for this move. You have much less to worry about than in case of value check raising. If you check raise, and your opponent calls, you still have a chance to complete your draw. But if you check, and your opponent checks behind, you get a free card to make your hand. It is a win-win situation.

You should only make bluff check raises against a single opponent. With more opponents, it is much more likely that somebody has a made hand that will not fold to your raise. Even if you have a draw, the main goal of semi-bluffing is still to make others fold, not to pump up the pot as an underdog.

Check raising tends to work better when the pot is small. In big pots, it is more probable that your opponent has a good hand. They usually would not have put so many chips in otherwise.

The pot size on the flop is usually small and this is where you can see the most check raises. By making this move on the flop, you will usually get a free card on the turn, since your opponent will usually check, being afraid of getting check raised again.

Optimal check raise size

Your raise size should be big enough to give your opponent the wrong pot odds to call with a drawing hand. Ideally, you should raise to 3 times the original bet size. For example, when your opponent bets $6, you should raise to $18. You should raise to the same amount regardless of your hand strength so that you do not give away any extra information to your opponent.

Conclusion on check raise

The check raise is a very effective play that you should definitely incorporate in your game. As with every poker play, just do not overuse it and keep it well balanced. Do not bluff in multi-way pots or against passive opponents. Start practicing check raising today. When you have mastered it, it will bring a substantial boost to your win rate.

More articles on specific poker plays:

 Continuation bet
 Double barreling
 Squeeze play
 Stealing blinds

Go back to the Online Poker Strategy.