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Checking For Value

by Casey Jarzabek |  Published: Jul 01, '14


The game of poker is ever evolving. Pretty much all of us know this and have seen it change if we have been playing for a any length of time.

We all wish we could time warp back to the early 80s when the game was so fishy it was like taking candy from a baby. However, the bottom line is that people are smart and smart people will always try to figure out a way to buck the trend if it’s profitable. From when the 3 bet trend started to the min-raise that I credit to Jon Turner (pearljammer) to the unexploitable shoves that I credit to Dan Kelly (djk123). The game keeps changing. I have noticed a new trend that in today’s game seems to be working well.

I recently spent a few weeks in Las Vegas dabbling in some WSOP tournaments. No real results, but I did notice the “checking for value” trend. Everyone knows that today’s poker game is hyper aggressive. People try to capitalize on weakness and in general people don’t want to give up on hands. Turning hands with moderate showdown value into bluffs. This has given the checking for value concept room to grow and be a nice way to pick up a lot of chips. Usually this move is done on the river. And because it’s done on the last street of betting it is generally the biggest bet of the pot just because the pot has had the chance to grow on all the previous streets.

Let me give you an example of a spot or two where you should consider checking, where in previous years you may have chosen to bet.

Let’s say you 3 bet with JJ and the flop comes J102 and 2 of those are hearts. You obviously c-bet because you want to build a pot with the best possible hand at this point. The villian calls. A lot of times he’s floating because floating is all the rage in today’s poker world. So the turn then comes the 3 of diamonds. You still have a monster and the best possible hand. You decide to 2 barrel and bet about 55 percent of the pot and your opponent calls. The river comes the 7 of clubs. Now a lot of action on this final street is pretty read dependent. For example if you know for a fact that your opponent is always going to raise a flush draw on this flop then you can reasonably figure he has some sort of showdown value and the reason for the 2 calls on flop and river. However if it’s very deep he’s less likely to raise trying to get heaps in with a draw even if it’s a nut flush draw or a possible combo draw of some sort. So try putting your opponent on a hand. Obviously if you have your villain on a draw your going to want to check here most times because he’s just going to fold to any value bet. So unless he’s a complete spew and you think he may bluff raise you on the river checking here when you have your opponent on a draw is the best way to get value. Is there a chance he checks back? Of course there is, but you have nothing to gain by betting if he’s taking the check fold line anyway.

Now let’s say this board is exactly the same until the river. The river now comes the ace of clubs. Obviously anyone holding KQ which is clearly possible just made broadway and the nuts. Again there are different dynamics and game flow considerations on every hand so this article obviously can’t apply to this spot every time. But that’s what makes poker just so FREAKING amazing. Every hand is different every hand can get your heart pumping every hand can be the highest of hi’s or the lowest of lows. The ace of clubs could be a river of complete pain when your top set just got cracked or it could be one of the only cards that’s going to get him to bluff the river and get you max value from your hand. Let’s say villian has 86 of hearts obviously the only way he can win this hand now is by bluffing. And the ace of clubs is just the card for him to represent. Now a check here from you on this river has multiple purposes. You could actually be beat here with river ace so you’re also checking for pot control. It would suck to lead this river and get raised but for the same reasons your checking for value you would probably have to call because he can definitely raise representing the KQ.

Here’s a key to a lot of hands and spots that some novice poker players don’t consider often enough. I’m known in the poker world as hyper aggressive (spewy, punter) insert whatever  you like there you get the idea. So I need to always have in the back of my mind that my villain thinks I’m crazy. So a check by me is almost always seen as weakness. The days of Johnny Chan checking two streets with broadway and the nuts against Sidel are gone. I’m building pots with the nuts and most of my villains know it.

Like anything in poker it has to fit your game. But checking for value especially if you have a aggressive image has become an important part of the game and something that has to be given a lot more thought regarding when to use it. I know that I’m now implementing it into certain lines that I definitely wouldn’t have taken in the past. As always thanks for taking the time to read some of my thoughts. Hope to see you on the virtual or real life felts soon. Best of luck to each and every one of you.

Casey “bigdogpckt5s” Jarzabek is widely considered to be one of the best online players in the world. The Canadian pro got his start after an accident on the baseball field left him laid up in bed. With nothing else to do, Jarzabek deposited some money online and hasn’t looked back.

In the years since, Jarzabek has racked up over $2.5 million in tournament earnings and spent both 2009 and 2010 as a contender for Card Player Online Player of the Year honors. Jarzabek is also the lead pro at, which features poker training from some of the best minds in the game.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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