Check Raising the Flop (Ultimate Guide 2020)

Check Raising the Flop
This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Ryan Lewis.

The flop check raise is a powerful move in no limit hold em. It is designed to take the initiative away from the initial raiser and symbolises to them that you have a stronger hand than theirs.

A general fundamental weakness in microstakes players is being too passive and instead of betting and raising, they are checking, calling and folding.

When we are in the blinds and face a continuation bet on the flop, we should look to play a small portion of our range aggressively and incorporate a check raise.

This article will attempt to outline why and when you should check raise from the big blind in a single raised pot, followed by beginner and advanced examples.


Why you should check raise the flop


You give yourself the chance to win the hand immediately.

If we opt to check call 100% of the time we do not give ourselves a chance to win the pot immediately. By always calling we become more reliant on our hand to win at showdown.

There is no guarantee we will win at showdown if we flop a pair as villain can bet us out of the pot or have a superior hand themselves.

When we check raise we give ourselves a greater opportunity to win the hand on the flop or on later streets.


You give yourself the opportunity to build a bigger pot with your strong hands


When we play from out of position in the big blind we are at an information disadvantage throughout the entire hand.

The player in position always has the final say on if they want to grow a bigger pot or not. This makes it more difficult to play a large pot with our strong hands.

If we always check call with our strong holdings we are basically relying on our opponent to build the pot for us.

This will not always be the case so we must take responsibility to ensure we grow the pot ourselves when we have a strong hand. Check raising accomplishes this.

It is also harder to get paid with draws out of position. If a scary card comes on the turn or river, the player in position has the luxury of checking behind to keep the pot small.

If we instead opt to check raise our strong draws it not only generates fold equity, but it will create a larger pot if our draw completes.

This is something that Phil Ivey actually discusses specifically in his latest Masterclass poker training.


You give yourself the chance to win with hands that cannot win at showdown


The majority of the time it will be hard to reach showdown with middling to low suit connector type hands, such as 65 and 97.

Most of the time you will flop a marginal one pair that is forced to fold by the river, or lose to a stronger hand at showdown.

We can instead opt to check raise these types of hands when we flop a strong draw (or combo type draw). This helps us gain the best chance of turning a profit with these hands over the long term.


You become unpredictable


One of the easiest opponents to play against in no limit hold em is a predictable one. When you become a predictable one trick pony your opponent can easily adjust to your moves and play accordingly.

By incorporating a check raise into our arsenal we become less predictable and force our opponents into tougher situations with their continuation betting range.

Becoming unpredictable is a key part of an overall winning poker strategy that BlackRain79 has discussed many times before.


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When to check raise the flop


Having said all of the tips above, we cannot just go HAM and start a check raise frenzy. All this will do is bloat pots with too many of our marginal holdings and force our win rate to take a substantial hit.

Instead we should look to carefully choose suitable hands on suitable flops and then execute from there. A good check raise number to work with on the flop is between 10-15%.

Anything lower than this (especially below 7%) means you are check raising primarily for value. Higher than 15% suggests you have too many bluffs in your range.

Flop texture will be the main factor when considering a check raise. According to solvers, when the pre flop raiser does not have a nut advantage, you should be check raising in excess of 15%!


This means on low boards where the top card is no higher than an 8 such as:

8 5 2

7 5 4

6 6 3

The big blind should look to check raise a lot on these boards.


In contrast on boards that favour the pre flop raiser we should in theory be doing very little check raising, approximately 5%, such as:

A K 9

A Q 6

K J T

Applying these principles in real world poker can be challenging, as most of the population pool is not check raising higher than 15% at the microstakes.

My advice to you is not to try and strive for these numbers and achieve perfection, but rather gain an understanding on the types of boards that the big blind should attack.

I have outlined 2 examples below which include a beginner friendly check raise strategy, and also one which is more aggressive and ‘solver’ approved.

Other factors to take into account when planning a check raise are HUD stats, player position, and number of players seeing the flop.

HUD stats to look out for when planning a check raise are continuation bet frequency and VPIP. What you want to look for are players playing higher than 25% VPIP and cbetting higher than 60%.

Position is also important - when the pre flop raiser is in the cut off or button then your check raise will have more chance of succeeding because ranges are wider from these positions.

Finally, the number of players seeing the flop will play a part in our check raise strategy. Remember the more people seeing a flop, the more likely someone will have caught a piece of the board.

In theory we should check raise bluff less often when the hand is multiway.


Beginner check raising the flop example


Here is a check raise example which is quite basic and will serve you well at the micros. Lets assume we call a 3BB raise in the big blind versus a cutoff open. For simplicity sake, lets assume we are calling with a rather conservative linear range below.

Check Raising the Flop


Flop comes:

8 6 3

Villain bets ⅔ pot following our check.

Check Raising the Flop

Our value range to check raise is straight forward - all sets and two pairs. For our bluffs we choose the straight draws with flush potential (both front door and back door), and some nut flush draws with back door straight potential.

This gives us a balanced ratio of value to bluffs and is around the 10% mark of your range. You can stick to these types of holdings on a variety of different boards and is enough to keep the pre flop raiser in check at least.


Advanced check raising the flop example (solver approved!)


Now let's look at an advanced strategy on the same flop which is similar but more aggressive.

Check Raising the Flop

Notice in this example there are a lot more combo draws, plus a few more bluffs (we are check raising with all the combos of T9, 97, and 54).

Here you will be check raising approximately 15% of your range. It would not be incorrect to go further with your bluffs and include more flush draws such as A2, J9, and J7.

You do not have to incorporate an advanced poker strategy like this to win at the micros. It is simply an illustration of how a solver would approach a flop that favours the big blind.

However if you want to progress up the poker ladder you will have to become more familiar with what types of hands you should be including in your check raise range.


Final thoughts


Check raising should form a significant part of a cash game player's arsenal. This is also a key feature of any advanced poker strategy training.

Not only will it build the pot with our stronger hands, but it also generates a significant amount of fold equity, giving us more ways to win a hand.

In the big blind we should look to attack flops where the pre flop raiser no longer has a nut advantage, whilst also being more conservative on boards that we are at a disadvantage.

At microstakes levels you should attempt to develop your own check raising strategy that you feel comfortable with.

Try starting off with roughly the same number of value to bluffs, and once you get more comfortable you can incorporate more bluffs and combo type hands into your range.

Remember aggressive poker is winning poker!

Make sure you let me know your thoughts on check raising the flop in the comments below. When do you do it and why?

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This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Ryan Lewis. Ryan specializes in 6max cash small stakes online poker. He focuses on playing a fundamentally strong tight and aggressive strategy. He particularly enjoys the statistics and game theory side of the game. You can follow him on Twitter right here.

Check Raising the Flop

4 comments:

  1. Thanks, Nathan! I already felt and understtod this thing intuitevely, but you helped me widen my already LAG-vision.
    Should I suppose that the general strategy remains (and even becomes a lot more maniac) when playing without HUD?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LAG-vision haha love it! Glad I could help you :)

      There are two ways of thinking about it when you are playing on a site that doesn't allow HUDs.

      1) They don't know much about you, so you can get away with more.
      2) You don't know much about them, so it is harder to pick the right players to bluff.

      So there are good parts to it and bad parts.

      Overall though, you can use LAG strategies versus most players at the micro stakes. Just don't run a ton of big bluffs versus the rec players, because they will of course just call you down.

      Delete
  2. Very interesting article. I usually just donk bet my value hands to build the pot but I guess against certain player types it's more optimal to check raise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think check raising will win you more money in the long run, but if the board favours you and your opponent doesn't cbet a lot then donking is an option - Thx Ryan

      Delete