Check raising your opponents at the poker table is a very aggressive and often times profitable move when employed correctly and in the right situations. First representing hand weakness by checking, followed by raising after allowing an opponent to bet, you are ultimately showing tremendous hand strength. The check raise is a crucial part of the game of successful poker players, but should be used sparingly in order to maximize its effectiveness.
The check raise is basically employed in two situations – to bluff your opponents out of pots and to entice them to throw more money in pots when you’re holding a premium hand. It also adds a bit of unpredictablity to your game, which tends to throw other players off their own games and usually makes them re-think situations when confronted with betting options against you.
When using a check raise to bluff, it is imperative that only one other player is against you in the hand. The move loses its effectiveness when more than one opponent is still involved in the hand. Obviously, you must be the first player to act in the hand in order for your opponent to follow your check with a wager. By check raising, you will often put your later position opponent in a situation that requires him to fold if he is holding a marginal or mediocre hand. However, prior to your check raise, four criteria should be followed that will allow your strategic betting to be successful.
First of all, you should have reasonable certainty that your table rival is holding a mediocre hand. If he happens to have a strong hand, your check raise won’t entice a fold. If you have observed him wagering in the late position with low or mid-level pairs or marginal hands following checks by players acting in front of him, your check raise has a greater likelihood of being successful.
Second, the size of your raise must be at least double the bet of your opponent and perhaps more. A small or minimum raise will not be effective because the pot odds will be in his favor if the amount required to call your raise is small in comparison to the size of the pot. A bigger or good-sized raise should make your table rival seriously consider how much needs to be tossed into the pot in order to see another card.
The third of the four criteria is that your check raise will work best if the pot is somewhat small. Your opponent will have incorrect or poor pot odds in calling your raise because the required amount to make the call will be large in comparison to the pot size. Your check raise has the most effectiveness after the flop for this reason. Should no one bet after the flop, the check raise maneuver will also be effective and profitable after the turn card due to the small pot size.
Last, if your opponent does happen to call your raise, it would be beneficial to be holding a drawing hand. If your check raise is a pure bluff attempt, you may be forced to check after the turn and may lose your raise amount if your opponent calls your raise and is not inclined to fold. By at least having outs or the possibility of hitting on a draw, you can still win the pot.
When not bluffing, a check raise is used to entice your opponents to play along and increase the size of the pot by calling your raise. This is normally done when your hand is a monster. You are not trying to make the other players fold with your check raise, but to build up the pot. There are three criteria to look for prior to attempting to succeed with a check raise.
In the non-bluff check raise, you want more than one opponent in the hand. If you are heads-up, your table rival may be inclined to fold, which would not maximize your gains with your monster hand. The more players involved in the hand, the higher the likelihood that someone will play along and call your raise.
Secondly, your position in the hand should be early so your opponents behind you following your check can bet, affording you a chance at raising. Also, you should have reasonable certainty that at least one player will bet. If everyone happened to check to see a free card, you would lose the opportunity to make a value bet on your nearly certain winning hand.
Third, your raise should be the on the small side, as you don’t want to scare the other players away because the goal is to build the pot. Opposite from check raising in a bluff situation, you hope to give players correct pot odds to call and see the next card. In that regard, your hand should be virtually unbeatable and not susceptible to being outdrawn while allowing others to play along in the hand.
Check raising can be effective with a weak hand or holding a strong hand when used correctly. Constant check raising will lose effectiveness and credibility, so use it only in the most opportune situations. You should also be familiar with your opponents’ playing styles in order to successfully predict how they may react to your strategic check raises. Successful poker players are able to incorporate effective check raising into their game, thereby increasing profits.