Poker is a game full of different strategies. As a new player, you will try to learn this, while also trying to spot them as others use their knowledge against you. One of the most popular strategies you will come across is the check-raise strategy, but is this a good idea in poker?
There are two ways in which you can use this strategy, do they still work, can they help you, or is this type of play becoming all too common so that it doesn’t have too much of an impact on the table anymore?
What is a Check-Raise?
First of all, let’s look over the check-raise strategy, what it is and why you would use it. The great news for new players is that the method is really simple to execute on the tables, so you can use it from the moment you start playing.
This strategy has two moves to it, the first is a check, and the second is a raise, which is where the name comes from. The idea is that when the betting comes around to you on the table, you check, which passes the betting onto another player. Then, when they bet, which they are happy to do because no one has shown any indications of a strong hand, you will raise their bet to increase the pot.
In poker play terms here, what you are doing is first showing weakness to the table, by not having the confidence to bet. Then, after your opponent has seen this and decided to bet on the back of it, you are showing your strength by raising the pot and hopefully catching them out with your strategy.
With just two moves on the same betting round, this is an easy strategy to spot, so don’t expect to get away with it too many times, and you should also be able to easily spot if someone else is doing it to you.
There are two reasons why you would perform a check-raise during a game. The first is if you have a strong hand, in this instance it can be used as a pot building strategy. Many players feel that if they bet straight away, they will scare away the opposition into folding. By checking first, you aren’t scaring them away but then come back strong to build the pot with your raise.
The second reason is to bluff the other players. Here, you are hoping to get players to bet on an average hand because they think you don’t have a good hand. After all, you have checked. Then when you come over the top with your raise, you hope that they panic and decide to fold, even though they have already bet into the pot, leaving the pot for you to take.
Check Raising with a Strong Hand
There are two elements to winning at poker. The first is being lucky with the cards you are dealt and the second is building a pot effectively so that when you win, you are going to win a big amount. One of the toughest aspects of pot building is scaring players away when you bet.
This strategy eliminates that, which is why it is so popular with players. The reason for this is because you are not immediately showing your strength, instead, you are checking in the first instance, to try and put other players at ease around the table.
To get the best from this, you need to make sure you try this when there are many players still to go behind you. If you leave it while late, with just a few players to come, these may not decide to follow you, which will mean the end of your chance.
You should also have caution when you go in for the raise, again you are not looking to do anything that will scare people here. A small, minimum raise, can be enough, given that this is the second round of betting on the street so some people will have put in the pot twice.
Like the other strategies for pot building, if you are going to use the check-raise strategy to do this then your biggest focus needs to be on not scaring people while trying to extract as much money from your opponents as possible.
The Check-Raise Bluff
The second way to use the check-raise is to use it when you are bluffing, in the hope of scaring people away from the pot after they have placed a bet in it. This strategy works better when you are up against a low number of players, as you need to ensure they all have a relatively low ranking hand.
First up, you need to be first in the round so that you can check. Hopefully, even though they only have a marginal hand, they see that you check and they decide to place a bet into the pot. Then you come back with a big raise, and it needs to be big here, at least twice the amount of the bet your opponent placed.
The hope is that because they have a marginal hand, you are able to scare them into backing down and they will fold. This leaves you to pick up the bet they have placed into the pot for an easy win.
There is one danger here and that is if you read the game wrong, and your opponent has a strong hand. In this case, they may risk re-raising you and if you don’t have a good hand, this will put you in trouble. If you can try and do this as a bluff when you have a hand that could win, even if it’s only a marginal hand, then at least you have a chance to still win the pot, if your opponent comes back at you.
Should You Use the Check-Raise Strategy?
The check-raise strategy is a fairly simple one to know and understand, so if you are a new player then this will appeal to you for that reason. However, due to this, it is one of the most commonly used strategies in the game, and on top of this, it is also very easy to spot for other players.
With this in mind, it is probably fair to say that the check-raise strategy has lost some of its appeal with players over the past few years. Yes, it can still work, and yes, there are still two ways in which you can use it in a game. However, it is easy for others to spot and work against, and you won’t be able to use it too often because of this.
Perhaps the best way to implement the check-raise into your game is to know about it and have it up your sleeve if you want to use it. However, at the same time, you probably shouldn’t rely on it to use very often or to turn to when you are looking to win big.
There are other alternatives for players to use on the table, but in the right situation against the right players, the check-raise is a tactic that can still be a winner.