very strong hands your options are to try a check-raise
or to come out betting. The key factors in deciding
whether to check-raise are:
1. The chances your opponent will bet if you check.
2. The chances your opponent will call your raise.
factor is just as important as the first, because
if there were no chance your opponent would call your
raise, it would usually be wrong to check since you'd
risk not winning even a single bet when your opponent
checks behind you. However, all but very tough players
will generally call your raise after you have checked
and they have put in an initial bet. They might grumble
as they do it, but they'll do it.
In limit games the decision to check-raise or come
out betting can be determined by a precise formula.
To simplify, we'll assume you know for sure you have
the best hand. First, determine what percentage of
times your opponent will call if you bet. That's one
side of the equation. Next determine what percentage
of times your opponent will bet if you check but then
fold when you raise. Finally, determine what percentage
of times your opponent will bet if you check and then
call your raise. Now double this last percentage.
If the sum of the last two percentages is greater
than the first, it is correct to try a check-raise.
may sound overly complicated, but it really is not.
Let's say you think there is a 70 percent chance your
opponent will call if you bet. But you also think
there is a 40 percent chance he will bet if you check
and call your raise, thus rewarding you with a double
bet; and perhaps there's another 10 percent chance
he'll bet if you check but fold when you raise. Because
you'll win two bets 40 percent of the times that you
check, you double that figure to 80 and add the remaining
10 percent chance your opponent will bet and fold
when you raise. That adds up to 90, and since 90 is
greater than the 70 percent chance that your opponent
will call your bet, it is right to check raise.
Another way of looking at the problem is in terms
of expectation. Let's say you bet 100 times, and you
check with the intention of raising 100 times. In
the former case, you'll win 70 bets; in the latter
you'll win 80 bets when your opponent bets and calls
your raise and 10 more when he bets and folds, for
a total of 90 bets. You win 20 bets more by check-raising,
and so check raising has greater expectation than
Most players do not check-raise enough on the end.
They'd rather go for the single bet in the hopes of
getting called. However, it is worth taking a little
chance of losing one bet if there is a good chance
of gaining two bets. Since most players will automatically
call a raise when you check-raise, you can simplify
the above formula. In general, you should check with
the intention of raising if you believe the chances
of your opponent's betting when you check are at least
half as good as the chances of his calling when you
bet. Nor should you get discouraged if you occasionally
check and your opponent checks behind you. Check raising
is a long-run gamble like everything else in poker.
If you know you should win two bets in a particular
situation more than half as often as you would win
one bet, then you made the right play by checking
even if it didn't happen to work. Sometimes you also
gain an added benefit when a check-raise doesn't work.
Since your opponents noticed you checked a good hand
once, they may become a little timid about betting
behind you on future hands, thus saving you some bets
on second-best hands with which you were planning
to call if they bet.
Check-raising on the end works best against average-to-good
players. You should try it less often against weak
players and tough players. Weak players tend to call
so much on the end when you bet that you have to be
pretty certain they will bet for a check-raise to
be profitable. If, for example, you are sure your
opponent will call if you come out betting, you have
to be over 50 percent sure he will bet if you check
before you consider check raising. Even 50 percent
isn't good enough unless you are also sure your opponent
will call when you raise (which, of course, a weak
player will most likely do).
Against tough players you would check-raise less often
because tough players tend not to bet as many hands
on the end as they call you with, and they frequently
throw away their hands when you raise. Thus, the chances
of winning a double bet with a check-raise decrease.
There is one major time to deviate from the general
check-raise formula, and that is when you think you
can win three bets by betting, getting raised, and
then reraising. A classic example of such a situation
against an average player in seven-card stud occurs
when you look like a straight on board but have a
hidden full house, and your opponent may have a flush.
You bet your apparent straight, your opponent raises
with his flush, and you lift him out of his seat by
Jack was raising while looking at three overcards
to his Jack. There was a real good chance he had me
beat. Making trip 8s was unlikely with the 8 gone.
And even if I made Queens up, it was likely that I
would be beat by either Kings up or Aces up. There
was just too much competition and I had too little
of a chance, even though I was getting good money
odds on a call.
But in a different situation a small pair can be a
strong hand. Another recent hand involved me starting
with a pair of 7s. This one I played, even though
some of the characteristics of the hand weren't as
strong. The hand itself wasn't as strong, but the
situation was more advantageous, making the relative
I was dealt (7? 3?) 7?. Note that not only is a pair
of 7s smaller than a pair of 8s, this time I had a
split pair, a very small kicker, and no two-card flush
draw. This wasn't really very strong.
But the upcards I was looking at were three 2s, a
4, an 8, and two Aces. My cards were completely live,
and most of the other players' cards weren't. Only
one player had a higher live upcard than me. Looking
at two opponents with an Ace up is a much better situation
than looking at only one opponent with an Ace. When
that 8 folded to the bring-in, I had an easy raise.
Even if all I won was the $1 bring-in, a raise in
this situation didn't carry much risk with it. It
was unlikely anyone had a better hand, and if they
did, it was okay because my cards were live.