Texas Hold'em Check Raising

Check raising is a powerful play in Texas Hold'em that can be made when you have early position relative to your opponents. A check raise occurs when Player A in early position checks to Player B who then bets. When the action comes back around, Player A then raises the bet instead of just calling or folding. The check raise is a great way to neutralize your positional disadvantage and catch your opponents off guard. Most players do not check raise as often as they should because of irrational fear.

Why Check Raise

Check raising allows you to trap other players who attempt to take advantage of their position. When the action is checked all the way around, you will frequently see the player in last position throw down a bet as a semi-bluff. All other players have already checked, signaling that they have weak hands. The bettor in the last position hopes to be able to steal the pot since the flop seems to have missed everyone. By check raising your strong hand, you may force the bettor to put one or two bets into a pot that he otherwise would have folded into had you bet outright.

In addition to trapping players, check raising on the flop helps you build a pot when you have a strong hand that will be difficult for others to beat. Often times players have drawing hands on the flop and will be willing to pay a single bet to see another card. Let someone else make that bet for you. After the other players call, you can check raise, forcing the other players to either pay another bet or fold with their single bet already in the pot.

Classic Check Raise Situation - The Big Blind Special

You're big blind and you get dealt 83 offsuit, a real stinker of a hand. Fortunately nobody raises pre-flop and the flop comes 83x. You just made two pair on one of the worst hands in the game and you can hardly believe it. This is also known as the "big blind special", when a terrible big blind hand sees the flop for free and then makes a big hand.

You now have a good hand and you want to get some money into the pot. The smart play in this situation is almost always to check and count on the players behind you to make a bet. Sure enough, the player just to the left of you makes a bet. Two other players call, and when the action gets back to you the trap is sprung. You check raise and trap the other players in the hand, some of whom may only be drawing with high cards.

Check Raising as a Semi-Bluff

If you have a drawing hand on the flop, check raising may give you a second way to win the pot. A check raise on the flop usually signals to other players that you have a very strong hand and most will respect your action, tightening up considerably on the turn. Often times you can get players to fold hands that have you beat. Even if you get called, you can still hit your outs with your draw.

The danger here is you may get re-raised on the flop right after your check raise. Or worse, you may get called on the flop and raised on the turn after you bet out. If this happens you need to slow down and evaluate the situation from a pot odds perspective. Your check raise failed because you're likely up against a very strong hand, do you have the correct odds to make a call?

Check Raise for the Win

Some players consider check raising to be rude or unsportsmanlike. In reality check raising is part of the game of poker and if people can't deal with it then they shouldn't be playing. A hold'em game without check raises would be dominated by those in late position bluffing at will without fear of traps. That wouldn't be real poker, and it sure isn't a game I'd want to play. So don't be afraid to check raise.

Here are some posts from Usenet that discuss check raising:

Check Raise in No Limit

Check Raising Your Draws

Check Raising Big Blind Pre-Flop