Why You Should Check Call Top Pair in a 3Bet Pot

check call top pair
This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Ryan Lewis.

In this article I will go through some recent hands I played that illustrate some of the finer aspects of no limit Texas Hold'em poker.

More specifically, they include what line of action would yield the highest amount of profit. You would be surprised how checking instead of betting, and vice versa, can have a significant impact on your win rate.

The types of hands include both 2bet and 3bet pots, played as both the caller and raiser. Stakes played range from NL5 up to NL50 online.

I will start with a hand which illustrates why sometimes check calling with top pair in a 3bet pot is the most profitable line to take.

Let's dive into the action!

Poker Hand #1: Check Call Top Pair in a 3bet Pot on All 3 Streets

I get dealt A♥ 4 in the small blind. The button opens to 3BB (big blinds).
I 3bet to 10BB, the button calls.

Flop comes:

A 6 3

Pot is 22BB.

I flop top pair and decide to check. Button bets 7BB. I call.

My reason here for check calling is that I have plenty of better aces in my range that I can bet. Hands like AK, AQ, AJ.

You should always look to protect your checking range by incorporating some top pair hands as well. This allows you to defend when up against aggressive players who like to bet whenever you check to them. A4 suited fits into this category nicely.

Because we hold an Ace we also don't need to protect from overcards coming on the turn and river. With that in mind I already know there is very little chance of me folding this hand by the river.


A 6 3 Q

Pot is 36BB
I check, button bets 25BB, I call.
Same scenario here again. Donking makes no sense so the only option is to check call again.


A 6 3 Q 3

Pot is 69BB.
I check, button shoves 50BB. I call.

So when the button fires the third barrel on the river then there is a good chance I'm up against a stronger hand. We are most likely chopping with another ace as well, provided the button does not hold AK, AQ, A6, or A3.

However we should not be basing our decisions on a call down on only the nut hands that villain can beat us with.

Yes, villain can show up with a better hand, but they can also show up with a range of hands such as busted straight and flush draws.

I make the call and villain shows the busted straight draw, KJ offsuit.

This shows the importance on having some strong top pair hands in your checking range so you can defend against aggressive villains.

For more on how to play against regs like this check out the BlackRain79 guide to crushing aggressive poker players.

Also, if you want more on this check call with top pair strategy at the micro stakes, check out BlackRain79's recent video below as well.

Poker Hand #2: Bluffing as the Preflop Caller in a 3bet Pot

This hand is similar to the one above, however now I am on the button and play the hand as the 3bet caller instead.

I get dealt 9♣ 8, I open raise to 3BB, the BB 3bets to 11BB. I call.

Flop comes:

A 6 5

Pot is 23BB, villain bets 6BB. I call.

So we flop a gutshot straight draw and face a small bet of roughly 25% of the pot. When facing small bets you should not be folding your front door draws.

Raising is also an option, however I decide not to because a lot of villain's 3-betting range consists of Ax hands, so my fold equity here in this situation is not great.


A 6 5 4

Pot is 35BB, villain checks, I bet 17BB. Villain calls.

Villain now opts for a check which is interesting. Most strong aces would continue betting.

There is now a good chance villain has missed the flop with a broadway type hand or a pocket pair ranging from TT-KK. Flush draws should also continue betting this turn card.

I opt to stab at the pot for a couple of reasons:

I still can river a straight, and also there is almost zero chance of me winning at showdown with 9 high.


A 6 5 4 A

Pot is 68BB, villain checks, I bet 34BB. Villain folds.

So the A on the river is actually not a bad card. Mainly because the flush completes and also makes it less likely villain has an A. It is unlikely villain would play a flush this way.

When deciding on a river bluff you should ask yourself these following questions:
  • Can I win at showdown?
  • Am I telling a believable story?
  • Can I fold out a better hand?

My 9 high is not going to win at showdown, and my story here is very believable. I can take this line with a lot of flushes in my range, plus I would play sets, straights, two pair and certain top pair hands the same way.

My goal here is not to fold an ace, but to target villain's broadway range and also his pocket pair holdings of TT-KK which could play the hand the same way.

You must realize though that sometimes your bluff will be picked off. However we should base our decisions on villain's entire range, and not just their nut hand combinations.

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check call top pair
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Hand #3: Checking a Full House on the River

Here is another 3-bet pot where I opt to check my full house on the river instead of betting.

I get dealt J♣ J in the BB. HJ opens to 3BB, I 3bet to 11BB. HJ calls.

Flop comes:

8♥ 7♠ 5

Pot is 22BB, I bet 10BB, HJ calls.

This flop is not ideal for our hand. Whilst we don't have a nut advantage on this board, we still have the range advantage.

So I opt to bet small with the intention of calling a raise. I also don't want to check and potentially give a free overcard to villain.


8 7 5 J

Pot is 47BB, I bet 21BB, HJ calls.

We hit our set so now we can comfortably bet for value. We don't want to check our set here and potentially lose value.

It is simply too high in our distribution to justify slow playing. Plus there are still plenty of draws in villains range that may call again.


8 7 5 J 5

Pot is 68BB, I check, HJ shoves for 68BB, I call.

I opt to check here on the river to induce a bluff from villain. What makes playing out of position tricky is deciding how to play these spots to ensure that we profit the most.

If we decide to bet ourselves, we essentially force villain to call with premium holdings that are at the top of their range. This only represents a narrow portion of their range, so I think checking here is the best play.

Yes, you give the chance for 66, 88 and TT to check behind, however those hands are probably not going to call if I bet the river anyway.

When deciding if you should value bet or not, always ask yourself what worse hands are going to call?

If you are struggling to come up with hands, then often the best play is to check and try to induce a bluff. On this occasion villain showed 99.

The idea of checking the river to induce by the way is something that Daniel Negreanu discusses at length in his Masterclass poker training.

Hand #4: Checking AA on a Scary Flop

In this final hand I get dealt A♦ A in the HJ. I open raise to 3BB and only get called by the big blind.

Flop comes:

6 5 4

Pot is 6.5BB, villain checks, I check.

If there was ever a flop to check with AA, then this would be it. Because this board heavily favours the big blind, we can expect to get check raised a lot.

There are also so many bad turn and river cards that can change the board texture. In this particular scenario checking is by far the best play and it also keeps the pot small.

Usually the overpairs you want to be checking are the ones that are less vulnerable to overcards coming on the turn and river.

AA-KK fit this description nicely. Hands like 99-QQ are better candidates for betting as they need more protection. We also have a great bluff catcher if villain decides to bet turn and river.


6 5 4 K

Pot is 6.5BB, villain bets 4.5BB, I call.

When villain bets on the turn we have an easy call. AA is still only a 1 pair hand and on this board we are playing it as a bluff catcher.


6 5 4 K 5

Pot is 15.5BB, villain bets 15.5BB, I call.

Villain bets again on the river, this time a pot size bet and again we have an easy call. There is no merit in raising our AA here as we aren't repping too much when we decide to check back the flop.

A key skill for progressing through the micro stakes is knowing when your overpair is no longer the best hand.

I make the call and villain shows a full house with 66.

We end up escaping from this hand by losing the minimum, thanks to our position and the fact that I decided against a continuation bet.

If instead I opted for a cbet, then there would be a high chance I would have faced a check raise, and lost even more.

Learning how to lose the minimum in poker is also another key skill that you need to learn as you move up the stakes. There is much more on that in The Micro Stakes Playbook.

Final Thoughts

These 4 hands illustrate some of the finer nuances in no limit Texas Hold'em poker and show that having strong fundamentals can have a substantial impact on your win rate.

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You need to understand that every line you take on every street can have a large effect on your profit as well. I hope you can implement some of the strategies shown above the next time you sit down at the tables.

Make sure you let me know your thoughts on these 4 poker hands in the comments below. Do you check/call with top pair sometimes for example in a 3bet pot?

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy that Nathan "BlackRain79" Williams uses to crush the micro stakes for some of the highest winrates in online poker history, make sure you pick up a copy of his free poker cheat sheet.


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.

Why You Should Check/Call Top Pair in a 3Bet Pot


  1. Thanks for this interesting article Ryan. Would you recommend using these tactics against good regs only?

    Atm I'm still learning the game at NL2 and I don't think these tactics will be EV+ against the bad regs and fish. F.e. When I hit the set on the turn with JJ I would be betting close to full pot since they would call with middle pair all day long.

    1. These tactics work on all players!
      It's really opponent specific on whether players will call larger bets. When you bet smaller on the turn you keep his weaker hands in, but if you pot it then you might only get called by strong combo draws.
      Remember bad regs and fish love to barrel when you check!

    2. I didn't write this article so I don't want to speak for Ryan but I agree with his strategies and I would use them mostly against regs, not fish.

  2. That's true. Fish love to bet the river when I check back the turn. I'll try to implement this in my game. Thanks for the response.