Have you ever tried to get creative on the flop with a check-raise bluff, only to immediately regret it? In our latest article aimed at improving your poker game, we’ll look at what to do in these specific circumstances.
Why Check-Raise Bluff at All?
There are many valid reasons why you might want to try check-raise bluffing on a flop. In fact, we’d actively encourage it. After all, if you raise pre-flop from an early position and find a caller, you’re at a post-flop disadvantage. You’ll be out of position for the rest of the hand.
In truth, most players just don’t check often enough in this spot. It’s almost a reflex action to just automatically fire the continuation bet. The opponent expects it, and you probably feel like you should just make the bet anyway.
But what hands are in your opponent’s calling range? It’s likely to look pretty similar to your own range, only you’re out of position. As such, this can be a prime spot to just try and control the pot. But the check-raise can also be a very powerful weapon here. Use it to regain control of the hand and put a lot of average holdings under pressure to fold.
Playing the Turn After Check-Raising the Flop
If you’ve opted to mix in a check-raise on the flop with nothing, you’re obviously hoping for a fold. But what happens if you find a call? It can be tricky to know how to play the turn. Here are some factors to think about.
Think about your own range on the flop. Why? Because you need to sell your opponent a believable story. What hands could you realistically have here where you’ve opted to check-raise for value?
Whatever went down before and on the flop will naturally shape this. Regardless of your perceived range looks, this will help you decide what to do on the turn. Any action you take on the turn that is inconsistent with your story will activate alarm bells with your opponent.
Similarly, you really need to think about your bet sizing. If you have a strong value betting range and a sizable wager is appropriate, bluffing big will obviously be consistent with your story. So, as scary as it might be, you’ll just need to go with it.
Don’t just default to a standard bet size of two-thirds the pot though. Consider mixing things up based on the board’s texture. If the turn card completes a draw, it doesn’t make sense to over-bet the pot as this doesn’t feel believable. But a brick on the turn, which makes no difference to your opponent’s range, could be a nice situation to overbet.
Consider Slowing Down
A common mistake is to keep on bluffing once the game is up. However, just because you made a bold play on the flop doesn’t mean that you need to take a kamikaze approach for the remainder of the hand. If it feels right to slow down, then do so.
A handy tip to keep in mind concerns equity. If the turn card brings something which improves your chances of winning at showdown, then it’s worth considering. But if that same card does nothing to improve your hand, or even makes it less likely to win, dump it.
For instance, let’s say that you raised pre-flop with K-J of Clubs. The flop was A(Club)-9(Heart)-3(Diamond) and you opted to fire a check-raise bluff. The turn brought the 6 of Clubs. You had air on the flop, but now you found yourself drawing to the nut flush on the turn.
Now that you have some actual equity, you can feel a lot better about firing again in that spot. But if it were the 6 of Spades, for instance, you should probably ease up.
How to Handle Being Check-Raised on the Flop
What about when the shoe is on the other foot? What is the right thing to do when you are facing the check-raise on the flop? As is often the case in poker, it depends. Let’s run through some examples.
Hand Example – Pocket Queens
Imagine you were holding Q(Spade)-Q(Club) and you 3-bet a player in mid-position pre-flop. They made the call and the flop brought a fairly unthreatening T(Heart)-5(Diamond)-2(Spade). Your opponent checked to you. Naturally, you bet out, only to find yourself raised.
In this situation, it seems clear cut. What can possibly be in their range? Aces would most likely have 4-bet pre-flop, so the only real danger is a flopped set. That’s a very real threat, but it’s not especially likely. Call the bet and see what your opponent does on the turn.
If they check, you can feel confident about your hand and bet. But if they bet, look to control the pot as it’s going to be difficult to give up.
Let’s take the same hand and identical pre-flop betting. However, this time, the flop was A(Heart)-8(Heart)-7(Diamond). Your opponent checked. At this point, it seems correct to bet for value and to figure out where we are in the hand. But what if your opponent elected to check-raise. What should we do here?
Once again, the answer is to call. Your opponent’s range here is quite polarised. It’s made up of semi-bluffs (drawing to the straight or flush) or big hands. We don’t want the pot to get out of control in case it’s the latter. However, we still have a good hand of our own, so we shouldn’t be going anywhere just yet.
To wrap up, there are lots of reasons why you might want to bluff the flop with a check-raise. And while it never feels nice to find a call when you have rags, there’s no need to panic. Keep in mind that while you do not have to bluff the next two streets, you can if it suits your story. Think about your range and size your bets accordingly. Good luck!
And if you are ready to check-raise bluff your way to victory, why not sign up for a free account with Natural8 and start playing?
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