Checking is one of the most undervalued (and underutilized) moves that a player can make during a poker game, and that’s why it’s one of the most important actions you can take. In the era of online poker, which is conducive to aggressive play, almost every player will automatically dismiss another’s checks. This is an area of their game that can be exploited. Let’s look at the three reasons why a player checks, as well as what that can mean for the player, their opponents and your poker strategy.
The Player Has Nothing
The majority of checking is for this reason exactly. Get a marginal hand and you’re way out of position? Check. Have a plain stinker like 83 unsuited? Check. Checking is most powerful when used in combination with a preceding or subsequent bet (check-raising, for example.) If you check every time you have nothing, then you are going to lose out on being able to use checking to your advantage.
It’s estimated that about 70 or 80 percent of hands are going to get folded, either before or after the flop. If you simply fold the majority of those hands, then the act of checking will actually create uncertainty, especially when you mix this up with check-raises and check-calls. In other words, don’t do this and instead look at the next two reasons that can help you use checking to your advantage.
The Player Wants to Gather Information
This usually occurs after the flop when there are more than two people still in on the action. When other players check, it’s likely that their hand failed to make anything on the flop and they want to see the next card for free. You’ll see this quite often during online poker games.
I recommend that you use this tendency against your opponents. Check with a playable hand and when the turn drops, come out firing, even if the turn card creates a situation where there might be a straight or flush draw. This will let your opponents know that you don’t just check weak hands and contradicts the primary reason that most players check.
The Player Wants To Create a Trap
This ties directly into the first two reasons and is connected more to the texture of an individual table than the game as a whole. If you’re in early position and playing with very tight or aggressive opponents, then the occasional check can be quite beneficial. Checking in a situation like this can help to let you know if there’s an opportunity to bluff or play that monster hand you’ve just had dropped into your lap.
Let’s say you bet big right off the bat; you’re likely to either get folded to or just plain called. If you instead check and let your opponents play their normal hand, you’ll be able to call when it hits your turn again. Better yet, raise and create a situation where you can take out some of your opponents, making it easier for you to win a showdown with your AA or KK.
Checking isn’t just something you do because you want to see some action at the poker table. It’s something that can be used to make your table image more unreadable.