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by Bart Hanson |  Published: Dec 07, 2016


August 15 — A Check Raise For Value On The River Is A Tricky Play — Use It Wisely

Before I get into an interesting hand that I played at the Commerce in a $5-$10 no-limit $500-$1,500 buy-in game, I want all of you low-stakes players to understand this concept. Betting your very strong hands for value from out of position, when you have had the betting lead for the entire hand, is usually the right play.

The players that you are typically up against check back far too much to get tricky with a strong value hand and it becomes a disaster if they do not bet in position when they would have called a large bet. However, for you mid- to high-stakes players, and even sometimes at the low-stakes there are certain times when we can implement this technique of checking to go for a check-raise.

About two weeks ago, I played such a hand. We were seven handed and I raised AClub Suit 6Club Suit from UTG +1. A player who usually plays lower stakes called me from the button, about $3,000 effective. He had moved up to playing $5-$10 this day because he was losing heavily at the $5-$5 game and was slightly tilted. He is a moody player and has played both overly aggressive and weak tight in the past. He was up about $1,500 in the $5-$10 game since he had sat down.

The flop came out ASpade Suit 7Diamond Suit 6Heart Suit, giving me top and bottom pair. I bet $45 into a pot of about $75, trying to encourage him to call with weaker holdings. He obliged rather quickly and we moved to the turn, which was the 4Spade Suit. At this point I thought that he was not going to continue floating me with air, but if he had peeled off with a seven or a six, that he very well may have picked up a straight draw to go along with it. I also thought that he was never going to fold an ace on this street so I decided to go larger now, and bet $130. He took a bit of time with it and called again.

Now the pot was $425 and the AHeart Suit fell on the river, giving me aces full of sixes. My initial impulse was to come out and bet large but I took a step back and analyzed the situation. No-limit hold’em is all about playing off of your opponent’s range, it is less about playing off your own cards. I thought back to all of the streets and realized that he would arrive at the river with three types of hands.

The first would be a weaker ace. One that I thought he would surely value bet at the end. You see, most other players would never make trips and check to their opponent so if he had a hand like A-10 or A-9 he would not be scared and would bet with a high frequency. He was also a typical lower-stakes player that was unable to fold hands that he thought were strong. So I seriously doubted that he would release if I check-raised. So checking and having him bet say $250, only for me to raise to $750 would get me a lot more value than coming out and even betting as large as the size of the pot.

The second category of hand that he could arrive at the river with was a bluff. A hand that was a straight draw on the flop that may have turned a flush draw or if he continued to be stubborn with an open-ended, eight-out draw from the flop. For the same reasons why I think that most of his opponents would bet an ace on the river, I think that he would now bluff a busted draw because he would so rarely see someone check a strong hand at the end.

And the third hand that he may show up with on the river was a middling pair hand that picked up more outs on the turn. I was not really targeting this hand, as I knew this type of holding would not call a bet on the river.

So to me, I thought that the obvious play was to check. I would get more value from an ace, in the best case scenario a slow-played hand like a turned straight or set that now boated up for a full house or I could induce a bluff.

Again, I want to stress to you lower-stakes players to use this play very sparingly. I have actually seen players check back weak, trip aces at the end versus a preflop raiser scared that they would be out kicked. These types of players are subconsciously patching their “leak” of not being able to bet and then fold so they check back strong hands so that they can get to showdown.

This type of river play is actually more powerful when a card like a ten, jack or queen pair as top pair at the end and we check trips with an ace kicker or a bottom’s full type of hand. Our opponents are way more likely to bet trips all of the time as they think that they may get looked up by A-A through Q-Q.

Unfortunately for me, in this particular scenario my opponent checked back rather quickly, and made it quite obvious that he did not have an ace. I am still happy with my fifth street play, however, as I think that I made the right decision.

September 24 — Sometimes A Bluffing Hand Becomes A Bluff Catcher Given The Action

I was in a very wild $5-10 no-limit hold’em game at the Commerce Casino. Stacks were very deep, where the average was about $5,000 and this was rare since the buy-in is capped at $1,500.

I had a pretty good image and was up about $3,500 for the session and sat with $5,000. The game was filled with a lot of recreational players coming into almost every hand. There were a few of pros in the game but they were generally losing and on tilt. The villain in this hand was one of those pros. He sat with $4,000 to start the hand but had to be down at least as much in the session. He was a younger, European kid that could not have been more than 25 years old. In the past I knew that he was a bit “three-bet happy” preflop but thought that he played rather straightforward post flop.

In this particular hand I was on the button and looked down at AHeart Suit QSpade Suit. One recreational player with a $6,000 stack limped in and a very tight reg raised to $35 in the cutoff. I decided to just flat as I wanted to keep the rec player in and thought that I dominated the preflop raiser. Low and behold, the villain in the small blind took a peak at his cards and three bet to $200. The limper called as did the reg. At this point I seriously considered back raising to pick up the dead money but with this stack depth, my position and the control I thought that I had over the table I decided to call and play post-flop.

The flop came out KHeart Suit 6Heart Suit 6Club Suit totally whiffing me. The villain came out and quickly bet $400 into the $800 pot. Both players in front of me folded and after a few seconds of thought I decided to call. I thought that there was a very good chance that I could still have the best hand if the small blind was three-betting preflop with Ax plus I had the AHeart Suit in my hand giving some credibility to represent hearts if they came in and I thought that I needed to bluff.

The turn brought the 3Diamond Suit and my opponent quickly checked. I checked back thinking that I was either ahead of him with my good ace high or that he was not going to fold out a better hand. The river came the 10Heart Suit completing the front-door flush and without much though the villain checked again. At this point I was a bit torn.

I knew that I could have the best hand a lot of the time but did not want to showdown ace high just in case my opponent had some stupid holding like A-3, 6-6, a ten, etc. I thought that this card was such a good river for my call-flop, check-turn, bet-river range that I could get almost everything from the villain to fold. So I decided to bet half pot, $800, giving myself a good price on my bluff.

My opponent looked visibly pained and after about a minute or two looked seriously like he was going to fold. But then he took another minute… then another. I could see things working through his head. After about another three minutes of deliberation he quietly told the dealer all-in which was another $2,600 on top.

This was something that I was never expecting. It seemed so odd to me that my opponent would ever have what he was representing. Remember, I had the AHeart Suit in my hand so this guy was trying to tell me the story that he had K-K, 10-10 or 6-6. None of these hands made sense to me based about the betting patterns of the hand and more importantly his pacing. If he had pocket tens he would have had to make a continuation bet into three other people on a king high board and then check without much thought on the river. Even if he was the best poker actor in the world I found it hard to believe that he would do so with such pacing when he rivered what would be perceived as a nut hand. The same thing could be said for K-K or quad sixes.

The problem was, for me however, the strength of my hand, which now turned from a bluff to a bluff catcher. If this guy was doing some kamikaze play with a pair, say 7-7 or a ten or even a king that he thought was not good – I lose. And of course there was an outside chance he actually did have a strong hand, even though I thought it was unlikely.

So as much as I thought that he was bluffing I concluded that my hand was not strong enough to bluff catch and finally folded. My opponent then triumphantly tabled A-10 offsuit for a pair of tens, apparently thinking that he was using his blocker as a fullhouse bluff. Little did he know that he had the best hand and that if I was considering calling him with A-Q high that there was no way in the world that I was ever folding a flush or even a hand like K-10 suited. ♠

Follow Bart for daily strategy tips on Twitter @CrushLivePoker and @BartHanson. Check out his poker training site exclusively made for live cash game play at where he produces weekly podcasts and live training videos.