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Real Poker With Roy Cooke: Check-Raising their Butt

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Jan 04, 2017


Check-raising is much more common in limit than no-limit. It’s partly a function of that in no-limit, out of position; you generally don’t want to bloat the pot. That said, check-raising can still be a powerful play in no-limit. You just have to be more selective in how you utilize your check-raises.

In the big blind in a $2-$5 no-limit hold’em game, an overly aggressive player in the cutoff about $700 deep, open-raised to $20, folding the button and small blind. Around $500 deep, I peered down at the 8Spade Suit 6Spade Suit. Not the hand I was aspiring to see, but against this wide-ranging and aggressive late position raiser, I chose to defend.

I contemplated three-betting, but Mr. Cutoff-Raiser, being aggressive and knowing I’m aggressive, knows I would frequently three-bet wide in this situation. Therefore, he would call wide with position. Additionally, since I knew he would continuation bet virtually 100 percent of the time, and he tended to make large wagers, I would be getting a good implied price on my holding should I flop a mitt. Likewise, his wide continuation bet range offered me a lot of opportunities to make plays that would fold the weaker portion of his range. Both of those possibilities weakened the three-betting option and strengthened the value of a call. I tossed in the extra $15, and we took the flop of heads-up, around $40 in the pot.

The dealer flopped the KSpade Suit 5Heart Suit 4Diamond Suit, giving me a gutshot, two overcards to second pair, and a backdoor flush draw on a board that would miss much of Mr. Cutoff-Raiser’s range. I thought that my opponent’s wide range and the board’s texture created significant fold equity should I play aggressively. Plus my hand had additional equity should he hold a hand and call. I could make my gutter, pick up a flush draw, etc.

That said, since Mr. Cutoff-Raiser knew I played aggressive and was also capable of making creative plays. I felt a lead would be read as a weak hand or a draw, and he would play accordingly. Since my hand was weak and I wanted to show strength, and I felt he would read a check-raise as a much stronger range, I knuckled and Mr. Cutoff-Raiser fired $30. Then, I check-raised to $100, and he insta-folded.

I understand that by checkraising, I gave myself shorter odds on the semibluff than if I had led. However, the odds of success were much greater, compensating for the price change. With lots of sets and two pairs and no available flush draws in my check-raising range, Mr. Cutoff-Raiser would have to have a strong hand, likely top pair or better to call my check-raise, and with that board there weren’t many strong hands in his wide preflop cutoff raising range.

The hand speaks to adjusting your play based on the tendencies of your opponent(s) and designing counter-plays to exploit those tendencies. No-limit provides many opportunities to create positive EV (expected value) plays for both you and your opponents. To perform well, you need to expand your creative play opportunities and counter the ones you observe in your opponents.

My preflop call and check-raise bluff were non-standard plays that were based on exploiting my opponent’s tendencies to raise too wide in late position and virtually always continuation bet a large amount. Those facts translated into Mr. Cutoff-Raiser betting weak hands very frequently on the flop.

That being the case, the fold equity on a bluff or semibluff is high, further adding value to my preflop call. If an opponent has a much lower continuation betting frequency, the fold equity of a semibluff or bluff would be much lower because his betting range would be much stronger. In designing this hand’s play, I took into account what my opponent knew and thought, two important concerns when designing creative plays.

Creating these types of plays requires observation, awareness and a conceptually correct thought process from which to base your creative play designs. Words of warning; it’s important not to get too full of yourself and start trying to design creative plays when standard plays will provide you greater edge.

Think about how your opponent thinks. What’s his strategy to exploit you? What exploitable weaknesses does it create in his game? What’s the correct counter-strategy?
Then, pull the trigger and execute the plays. ♠

Roy CookeRoy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is His website is Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke. Please see ad below!



1 year ago

Check-raising the flop on a dry board is very bluffy.

You stated that you had "lots of sets and two pairs in your check raising range
* Really only 8 combos [54s, 55, and 44] (2 + 3 + 3 combos).

On dry boards heads-up
*Opponents will sometimes/often go for value on the turn or river and check-call against a wide range to keep the bluffs in or let Villain catch up. So I'd discount the 8 combos even more.

If viewed as a creative,aggressive player as you stated.
*You are repping mostly air.
*Maybe KQ/KJ/ or 67s sometimes in this spot.
*But again, you are sometimes check calling OP for value/pot control.

This is a great board for Villain to float the check raise or 3bet bluff. Almost your entire range hates getting raised/called.