If you don’t check-raise, expert players and online poker sharks will have an easy time beating you. Why? When they bet, you will either fold (which means they win) or you will call and end up taking a turn card out of position.
The end result here is that you fold your equity away – or you allow the opponent to bring in all of his. You don’t get much from either of those results. Once your poker opponent realizes that you never check-raise, then you can expect an avalanche of bluffs and value bets, especially at the real cash poker tables.
However, if you can figure out when the best times are for check-raising after the flop, then you get a lot tougher to beat. If opponents have to figure out what your tendencies are going to be, they might not open light when it’s your big blind.
An important part of this strategy involves considering the ranges at the table. How does each range interact with the flop cards? You don’t want to check-raise when the flop skews in favor of the range of your opponent, but you do want to get on the attack when the boards look good for your own range. One example to consider is the ways in which ranges look different in hands when the Big Blind flats an open-raise that comes from UTG.
A UTG aggressor before the flop has a lot stronger hands within range than the Big Blind, so UTG has a huge advantage in terms of range heading into the flop. Usually, though, a typical defend range for the Big Bind has hands such as 43s or 97s, the sort of hand a UTG opener would not play.
Because these hands fall within the Big Blind’s range, there is an advantage there depending on the board texture – but in most cases, the boards smile on the aggressor when he is in position ahead of the flop. So you wouldn’t check-raise flops with face cards, because they favor the aggressor who is in position. However, if you’re at the Big Blind and the flop comes down with medium or low cards, then you might think about a check-raise.
Another factor for your check-raise choices comes from the size and frequency of your opponent’s c-betting. If your opponent does not c-bet very often, then check-raise just as conservatively. However, if your opponent places c-bets more often, or bets at a small size, check-raise with a bigger range than you would normally use. Small c-bet sizes mean that the range is fairly wide – and so you can check-raise more frequently. The larger the bet size, the smaller the range, so you should either fold or call, depending on what you have.
Overall, it is important to maintain a check-raising strategy that shows balance, which means the right ratio of bluffs to value bets so that the tougher competitors have a hard time exploiting your tendencies. Balancing your range for check-raises with bluffs and value bets will keep your opponents from figuring out what you have in mind – and from beating you easily.
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