When to Check Raise in NL Holdem
This article discusses the strategy of when to check raise and the pros and cons of this play. We focus mostly on no limit hold'em, ring games or tournaments, but the principles can be applied to other forms of poker. Of course, when playing NL holdem, you can check raise your entire stack at any time, so it's a much more powerful move in this variation.
Pro and cons of check raising
First of all, for those who don't know, check raising is as the term suggests when you check a hand initially hoping someone will bet so that when it comes back around to you, you can put in a raise. There are many examples of when you might do this.
A pre-flop example of when you might check raise in NL holdem is when you are dealt pocket aces in early position. Open raising from early position looks like such a strong play, that you might decide to initially limp, hoping that someone behind you will raise allowing you to re-raise them.
Having said that, check raising in NL holdem is more commonplace when playing post flop, since limp-raising can be a dangerous play with the potential that everyone will see the flop cheap and outflop you when you have a premium hand.
Post flop check raise
On the flop, you might check raise when you are heads up in a pot with a preflop raiser and you were in one of the blinds. You obviously have to act first on the flop. If you have hit the flop and you are pretty sure your opponent has not, it is a potent move to check in this spot.
If he is an aggressive player he will more than likely than not bet at the flop and thus give you a perfect chance to check raise him and he normally can't call with nothing. So you win his continuation bet plus the preflop pot in this scenario.
Check raising is a weaker move then slow playing if you want to try to get your opponent to go all in. This is because you are unlikely to get all of your opponent's chips by check raising. You are more likely to win the pot as your opponent will fold as check raising shows a lot of hand strength represented.
That said, you can check raise an opponent with a much smaller hand then you can afford to slow play. For example you are unlikely to slow play top pair but you can quite easily check raise with it. Therefore expect to use check raising a lot more then you do slow playing. You should slow play when you have the nuts or near the nuts, and check raise when you want to take the pot now with a strong hand.
The check raise in NL holdem can also be used to bluff at the pot. This is known as a raise steal and is a very dangerous move. You are in effect risking a lot of your own chips to win the pot by hoping your opponent will fold his hand. In some situations, however, it may be the only way to get your opponent to fold a decent hand.
As well as check raising on a complete bluff, you can check raise when you are on some kind of a draw. You can check the flop and if it gets checked around you to get a free card. If however someone bets and you sense weakness in him, you can check raise this player who may just be trying to steal the pot, and hope to win such pot there knowing that if he calls you still have ways to win by hitting your draw.
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