Checking With A Chip In Poker Cash Games
An Underutilized Play
I’d like to focus today on a play that I consider to be underutilized. It’s one of my favorites, and I call it “checking with a chip.” This play doesn’t come up very often. But when it does, it can be a great way to get to a showdown or gain a wealth of information on the cheap.
The idea is pretty straightforward. In no-limit when the pot is medium or relatively big, you’re out of position, and checking would normally be the play, sometimes it’s advantageous to bet a small amount (usually the minimum bet) rather than the obvious check. As long as the pot is reasonably large relative to the size of the bet, the additional risk is minimal. Even still, you’ll benefit in a few ways:
Your opponent could decide to fold to the minimum bet. If, say, you have a busted draw, but your opponent has a slightly bigger busted draw, getting him to fold for a minimum bet is a huge win.
Your opponent could decide to flat call with a hand he would have bet for value if you had checked. In this case, your minimum bet acts as a blocking bet.
Your opponent could decide your minimum bet shows weakness and bluff-raise. Against some players a tiny bet will elicit a bluff more often than a check will. If you want your opponent to bluff, then a minimum bet might be your ticket.
Here’s an example of “checking with a chip:”
Let’s say we’re playing a $5-$10 NL table and you are dealt A J in the big blind. Your opponent raises from the button to $40. Everyone else folds and you call in the big blind.
The pot is $85 and you go to the flop heads up, each with 100 big blind stacks. The flop comes down 6 J Q. You decide to lead out for $60 and your opponent calls. With the pot at $205 the turn brings a 2 and you again decide to bet the turn. You bet $150 on the turn and your opponent calls.
The river brings a 3 and now you are in a very tricky spot on the river. Your opponent can have any number of hands, and all of your standard options don’t sound very good. If you make a standard two-thirds pot bet on the river, you may very well just be value betting yourself, as it’s a distinct possibility your opponent has a better hand than you.
If you check the river and your opponent bets, you have no idea whether he has a busted draw like K-T, T-9, or a flush draw. He might also be value betting a top-pair type of hand that narrowly beats your second-pair top kicker. You may end up making the right decision by either calling or folding, but it certainly won’t be made with any great deal of confidence.
But what if you simply bet one chip ($10) on the river? If you are called by a hand like K-Q, then you only lost one big blind. If he calls with a worse made hand, he likely would’ve checked the river if checked to, or folded to a two-thirds pot bet on the river. You end up $10 richer in those cases.
Given the action in the hand so far, it is very unlikely that your opponent is slow playing a very strong hand. Very rarely do players slow play in spots when the board is so draw heavy. So the top end of his range of hands that he can have is almost certainly a hand like K-Q or Q-T. These two hands are very unlikely to raise the river for value, so you can be nearly certain that if you bet one chip on the river and get raised, it is because he has one of his busted draws. In that case you should beat him into the pot and call his river raise no matter what size he makes it,even if it’s an all-in wager.
The following counter-argument could be made: Some very good players at the higher-stakes games will look to value raise a hand like K-Q against your one-chip river bet. But it is very likely that, had you checked the river, he would’ve bet a hand like K-Q for value anyway. Given the large number of busted draws he could be bluffing the river with, it would be very difficult to find a fold anyway. Furthermore, I still am not convinced there are too many people who will value raise a hand like K-Q in this spot. If you do come across players who are capable of that, then you can always start leading with sets and two-pair type of hands and wait for them to value raise lightly.
Using a single chip as a means of extracting value and/or gaining information is one of my favorite plays. Because it’s a river play, it’s so much more valuable than many of the other plays where the pot is smaller. The pot is medium to large by the time the action is complete. There just aren’t any downsides to speak of with this play, unless you are facing some of the better players in the world.
You will virtually never pay off a big river bet with the worst hand. You also have the chance to win a very large pot, because most opponents will simply never be able to help themselves when they see you bet one measly chip on the river. It will look like red meat to a lion, and they will raise (sometimes all in) with most of their range, with the exception of the hands you beat. That is the real beauty of this play: the pot only grows large when you want it to. ♠
Dusty Schmidt is the author of the new book Don’t Listen To Phil Hellmuth: Correcting The 50 Worst Pieces of Poker Advice You’ve Ever Heard, as well as Treat Your Poker Like A Business. In his five-year online-poker career, Schmidt has played nearly 9 million hands and won close to $4 million, without ever having a losing month. He blogs several times a week at www.dustyschmidt.net, and is an instructor at PokerStrategy.com.
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