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ArticlesPostflop StrategyIntermediate strategy: Check-raising as a bluff
Intermediate strategy: Check-raising as a bluff
Written by: Hoodlincs · Date Added: 1 Apr, 2011 · Number of views: 5092
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Obviously you will be aware that when your opponent raises pre-flop and gets a caller, he is frequently going to continuation bet the flop if it is checked to him. This means that very often your opponent is going to have nothing because unpaired hole cards miss the flop 2/3rds of the time, and will generally have to fold to a check-raise. Therefore you can start to check-raise a lot of hands, specifically from the blinds when you call his late position because this is when his range will be the widest and contain the most amount of air.

Check-raising as a bluff can be great based on the fact your opponent has to fold so often, but also because if you just check-raise for value with sets/2pair or huge draws, you become very easy to read especially when your opponent checks your hud stats and sees a check-raise% of something like 5-9%. although I definitely wouldn't say balance is the most important factor, you need to recognise that if you are showing up as a total nit to your opponents, he isn't going to give you action. Check-raising as a bluff on occasion is fine if its costing you 10-12bb to make the bluff, but earning you 100bb every time he calls the flop and then continues to call you down.

Who are you looking to check-raise as a bluff?

The ideal player would be someone who has a high steal%, high cbet% and low W$WSF, or low check-raise% himself. Generally players tend to think that their opponents play in a similar way to themselves, and therefore someone with a low check-raise is likely to give you more credit because he knows he himself wouldn't be check-raising as a bluff hardly ever.

Of course, its unlikely that you will find many opponents who fit all of these categories, so the main stats to look out for are high cbet% and a low check-raise% of the person who you are trying to bluff. The reason being that if you read onto the maths, you will see they don't have to be stealing much at all to be exploitable to a check-raise.

Why are you looking to check-raise as a bluff?

A lot of people suggest floating the flop to see how your opponent reacts on the turn, and then steal it from him on the river. There's a few problems with this though:

1)Your opponent may pick up equity on the turn and decide to barrel as a semi-bluff which makes you fold the best hand.

2)Your opponent may pot control marginal showdown value on the turn with the intention to call a river bet by you (especially if any draws miss)

3)You cap your range by check-calling – on certain boards you would always check-raise with your sets or big draws (e.g. T78 2tone) so by check-calling you represent weak hands which cant stand any real pressure on a lot of turns.

The maths behind a check-raise bluff:

Consider a situation where the button raises to 3bb, the small blind folds and we call in the big blind. The pot is 6bb. The flop comes QQ4r and we check. Our opponent bets 4bb. We check raise to 11bb. We assume that he will always call a bet with 88-AA, 44 and Qx (assume Q7s+ and Q9o+). We assume he will fold anything else.

When called we assume we have no equity and will give up. The fold equity we require on a bluff is 11/ (11+10) = 0.52 or 52% because we risk 11bb (which we lose if he calls and is expressed as the first half of the sum), and we win 21bb when he folds (the 10bb in the pot after his continuation bet + our 11bb check-raise).

The hands that he continues with amount to: (using pokerstove for this analysis)

6 combos of each pocket pair, and we think he continues 7 pairs (exc qq), so 42 combos.
2 combos of each Qx suited hand, which amounts to 7 Qx suited for 14 combos.
6 combos of each Qx offsuit hand, which amounts to 5 Qx offsuit for 30 combos.
1 combo of QQ and 3 combos of 44.

He continues with a total of 130 combos of hands, which does sound a lot. However, the starting hands in NL equate to 1326 combos (52*51/2), so its only 10% of starting hands that can continue with after you check-raise the flop.

If we assume he is opening 40% from the button, and continuation betting 75% on this flop, he will have: 1326*0.4*0.75 = 397 combos, and therefore will be continuing only 130/397 = 32% hence folding 78% and allowing us to the print money.

If you increase or decrease the amount he is opening or continuation betting then you can easily see how it affects the amount of hands which can continue to a check-raise here. You can also change the board texture and change the amount of hands which you think continue vs a check-raise before re-calculating his range and see how that affects you.

What boards are good to check-raise as a bluff?

Paired boards like the one listed above are good, particularly paired board which are rainbow and have no straight draws, along with one high card. This is because in the above situation you can actually have a decent value range – AQ, KQ, QJ, and QT are all well within your range and fit with how you would probably want to play them.

Of course, not many flops will come QQ4r, so other flops you should look to check-raise on are rainbow flops with one high card such as J63. You want one high card because a lot of people will automatically cbet those type of boards, but may check back a lot more on 863 for example thinking that they don't represent much by betting.

Furthermore, you ideally don't want there to be a flush draw as it increases the chance that 1) your opponent has a draw himself and can call, and 2) your opponent puts you on a draw and is more likely to hero call down.

Basically when check-raising as a bluff you want to be doing it on boards whereby if you have the value hand that you are representing and your opponent doesn't, then your opponent has almost no equity. So on QQ4 if you have a queen and your opponent doesn't its really hard for him to improve. Similarly on J63r if you have a set or Jx and your opponent doesn't, its really hard for him to improve.
Therefore it becomes a lot more about 'do I think he is bluffing or not' as opposed to 'he can have a lot of draws and I have enough equity to call to see whether he misses'.

Does it matter what you have?

Not really. If you check-raise a super dry board and your opponent calls, its generally going to be because he has quite a huge hand. A lot of people would tell you to check-raise with outs, so for example with 2 overcards where you can hit one of them on the turn. However consider a board like TT5. If you check-raise and your opponent calls, a decent part of his range will be Tx, 55, or overpairs. So check-raising say QJ and hitting the J on the turn is not actually good for you because now it will be difficult to get away from the hand even though vs your opponents range you aren't doing very well.

We saw in the maths section that check-raising any 2 is profitable vs most people, so for the most part it will just come down to whether he gives you credit for having it and therefore you should be more focused on picking spots based on gameflow. e.g. “I have been quiet for a while he should give me some respect here” rather than “I have hand X I should go ahead and check-raise”.
Comments (2)
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Jack this article is great and I love you in a manly way for it. (that sounded bad) I think this goes along with the fact that far too many players flat OOP with no postflop plan. I mean just putting on pressure through check raises, donk bets, etc is better than "I hope I hit something otherwise I fold!" If you play the latter way, you're burning, not printing, money.
Joe G 27 Jun, 2011
Free Member
pretty awesome. this is the part that i like the most:

"Basically when check-raising as a bluff you want to be doing it on boards whereby if you have the value hand that you are representing and your opponent doesn't, then your opponent has almost no equity. So on QQ4 if you have a queen and your opponent doesn't its really hard for him to improve. Similarly on J63r if you have a set or Jx and your opponent doesn't, its really hard for him to improve."

really well put. So do you have a sense of what would be a good ratio of bluffs to value? I'm currently sitting around a 13% c/r and i'm thinking it isn't high enough (and i don't typically c/r top pair). so i'm bluffing a little under 50% of the time now, but maybe i should push my c/r stat up into the high teens?
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