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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Use the Check-Raise to Improve Your Poker Play

13 June 2008

Let's say you're playing $10/$20 Limit Texas Hold'em and you've got pocket Aces. So you raise it up and everybody folds except the big blind, who calls. The flop brings three harmless-looking cards such as:

2h-7c-Jd

The big blind checks, you bet the $10 and the big blind calls. The turn card (fourth card) is the 6 of hearts, putting two hearts and a possible open-end straight draw on the board. Again, the big blind checks. Feeling safe and comfy so far, you bet the $20, hoping to gain another call from your opponent -- but alas! After checking, he raises to $40.

This is one of the most unsettling developments in poker -– being check-raised late in the hand. What the heck did he raise you with?

Did he set a trap for you by flopping a "set" (three-of-a-kind)? Does he merely have a Jack with a big kicker and assumes he has you beat? Or might you have him "strangled" because he has a pair of buried Queens or Kings in the pocket? Since he's got no way of knowing you have the almighty "Pocket Rockets", you call, wondering if you may now be the hunted rather than the hunter.

The end comes swiftly. The last card is a black 4 making the final board:

2h-7c-Jd-6h-4s

There's no possible flush and a straight would be very unlikely. This time the big blind bets the $20 right into you and you just call. He turns over pocket 7s for a "set" of 7s. As you can see, the check-raise is a deadly tool that can earn a player extra bets with his winning hands.

There are two good times to check-raise in poker. One is when you want to trap people into the pot, and the other is when you need to drive them out.

For Extra Profit: When check-raising as a "trap" play, you need to have a very powerful hand. If you do, it's best to wait until late in the hand when your opponent already seems committed to going all the way. In Hold'em, this would be right after he's made a bet on the turn (fourth card). By then, your foe has put so much money into the pot and has become so attached to the idea of winning it, that he probably won't be able to reverse directions and give up his hand.

Protecting Your Hand: The second case where a check-raise comes in handy is when you can't afford to let too many players chase you down. Say, for example, you're one of the blinds when a couple of players call and then a late position player raises. When this happens, everybody who was in for the first bet will usually call the raise, as you do with, say, 10/J. The flop comes

4/9/10

of three different suits. Typically, everybody will check to the raiser, and the raiser will bet, hoping to win the pot. Now, you've got "top pair" with a reasonable kicker and might actually have the best hand.

Since you're first to act, but are in lethal danger of being beaten if any higher cards come later, you should check. Often, the other players will check and the original raiser will bet, as practically expected. That's when you check-raise, making it two cold bets to the rest of the field. Lots of checkers would've called one bet, but most won't call a bet and a raise. That move will usually leave the pot to you and the original pre-flop raiser to fight over.

If you're afraid the original raiser might have you beaten, then after check-raising, just check and call the rest of the way. At least you'll know that all those other players who might've had a Queen, King or Ace can no longer outdraw you if one comes later.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey