Texas Hold ‘Em: Check-Raising and Bluffing

Let’s look at a very common situation in cash No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em games. You’re in the big blind and there’s a guy who always raises on the button and attacking your blind on each and every round, like clockwork. It’s craven, it’s draining your bankroll and most of all, it’s annoying the heck out of you and you want to knock him down a peg or two. Pulling off an occasional check-raise bluff on the flop can gain back a lot of those lost bets and calls, and keep your opponent honest.

Let’s look at how the check-raise bluff works. The player that open-raises the pot in late position has a couple of things going for them. First of all, they’ve got the lay of the land before they even bet. Secondly, they know they can cut off re-raises by being aggressive right off the bat. This allows them to steal pots and keep playing. While implied pot odds are on your side, you can make a call with a marginal hand and hope to hit, but if there are continuation bets and more action, you can end up sticking a lot of your chipstack into a losing venture.

So, instead of falling for this, once you identify the player, you can employ the check-raise bluff. They’ve seen you call or check-fold the flop a few times and know that you’re not a loose-aggressive player. The flop comes down with a high card like a queen, but not an ace or king and they consistently raise. What you’ll want to do when the time is right is to make a call from the big blind with almost any two cards. The flop comes down, you check, they bet (as they’ve been doing,) and you raise. With this move, you’re representing that you made at least top pair, perhaps two pair or better. It doesn’t matter if you actually did, yet.

You want to make it impossible for her for the other player to put you on a hand and thus push them out of the proceedings. This gives you their proceeds into the pot and adds some uncertainty to the game. However, you have to be careful. If they continue in the hand and call or re-raise your check raise, you must have something worth playing to continue because it’s likely that they’ve made a good hand.

One exception would be if there is a draw on the board and she simply calls your check-raise. If the draw comes in on the turn (like the third flush card or the bottom card of the straight), you can represent the made hand by either betting the turn directly, perhaps half the pot (this works if your table image is of a straightforward player), or checking the turn, and betting half the pot on the river if she checks behind on the turn. Moves like this help your image as a tricky player and allow you to get more pots later on from different players after they’ve seen you do this with someone who’s been aggressive.