Texas Hold’em has come a long way in the past 20 years. Millions of people have started playing “The Cadillac of Poker,” and many of those people have become very good at it. You can still get your foot in the Hold’em door by learning some basic poker strategies and figuring out when to use them. We’re going to look at five fundamental plays you should have in your poker arsenal, starting with a play that used to get you thrown out of certain establishments.
The check-raise is common enough today – and it still puts opponents on tilt, especially newcomers to the game of poker. The mechanics behind the move are simple enough: You check when it’s your turn, and if your opponent bets, you raise. This play can be done for value (when you have a good hand), as a bluff (when you have garbage), or as a semi-bluff (when you’re somewhere in between). Here’s how to use the check-raise in each of these three cases.
Check-Raising for Value
Generally speaking, when you’re out of position post-flop, it’s a good idea to check rather than open the betting – especially if you called from the blinds. Your opponent will often throw out a continuation bet if you check, then you can go over the top with a juicy raise. If you lead out first with a good hand, you’re giving him an opportunity to fold instead. Don’t let this happen to you.
Check-Raising as a Bluff
There are definitely times when you want your opponent to fold. If you’ve got a bad hand out of position and your opponent is prone to c-betting too often, a timely check-raise will encourage her to fold a hand that’s weak, but still better than yours. This move can and should be used quite often on the flop, less so on the turn, and even more rarely on the river.
Check-Raising as a Semi-Bluff
In the first example, you wanted to get more money in the pot. In the second, you wanted your opponent to fold. These are the only two reasons you should ever make a bet in poker. Sometimes, you’re in a spot where your bet does a little of both; you might have a hand that’s behind right now, but has lots of potential (like a nut-flush draw), or you might have a marginal made hand that’s ahead right now, but doesn’t want to get outdrawn (like Top Pair on a low board). While check-raising these in-between hands on the flop is risky, if you do it in the appropriate spots, the reward will be worth it.