Flop check raises have multiple benefits and uses. The exact situation that you are in will determine whether your play is likely to be profitable, but more importantly, most profitable. There are plenty of spots where a check raise will be enough to take down a pot, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best way to play the hand. There is a distinct difference between getting value and getting maximum value. Being able to spot good vs. great check raise flops is what largely separates the losers from the winners.
As a general overview, there are two primary ways to use a flop check raise: as a bluff or for value. As odd as it might seem, a bluff check raise will actually be just as beneficial as a check raise for value. When someone check raises you, the tendency is to give them some credit for a hand. As a result of this, you are likely to get a fair amount of folds. This, coincidentally, is the exact reason that flop check raises for value are not usually the best course of action. If your play as a bluff is able to garner a lot of folds, why would you expect a different result when you have an actual hand? With all of this said, there are exceptions to almost every rule, and that is what this article will discuss.
Flop Check Raises as Bluffs
Everyone knows what a flop check raise as a bluff is. This play means that you have nothing but that you feel like an over representation of your hand will be enough to scare your opponents away. There are a number of reasons why a flop check raise bluff is a good play. First, a lot of amateur players think that a flop check raise is the go to move when they land a big hand. This is the reason why many people will fold to your raise. Any thinking opponent will be able to realize that your check raise is usually indicative of a truly strong hand. Now, things will get more complicated if you are a known regular playing against another regular. For this reason, bluff check raises are best utilized against someone who you have not played with a whole lot. Anyone who doesn’t recognize you or know how you play should give you credit for a hand. This isn’t always the case, but it is the easiest way to play the odds.
If you are facing an opponent who you feel is more than capable of folding their hand to your aggression, the next step is deciding whether it is logical. A flop check raise needs to follow a clear line of thought. If you are check raising after you had just limped into the pot, this is going to be much harder for your opponent to believe. If, however, you are playing a raised pot out of position, your opponent will have reason to believe that you actually are slow playing your hand. The context of the flop will play a significant role in relation to the pre-flop action.
Let’s say that you open raised pre-flop, got one call, and then check raise a flop that you completely missed. While this is hardly an advisable play (c-betting is usually better here), your opponent should definitely feel like you are trying to suck them into the pot with a slow play. This exact play is a double sided coin, though. If you are a known regular, this play won’t make much sense at all. This, again, is a spot where your reputation means everything. Raising pre-flop and then check raising the flop will have the best chance of success when you are playing a total unknown. The reason for this is because this exact play is very common among any winning micro and small stakes player (check raise bricked flops after opening the action).
The best time to check raise bluff the flop is when you are in a raised pot, but made a call vs. the raise itself. When you check the flop to your opponent, they will fire out at the flop in an attempt to take it down on the spot. This will open the door for you to take it away from them. This type of hand is perhaps the most likely time for any original raiser to be betting with nothing. Let them make their c-bet, but punish them with a surprise check raise. You might be surprised to see just how easily many players give up when their c-bets face resistance.
Flop Check Raises for Value
Flop check raises for value should not be a very regular part of your repertoire. The problem with value check raises is that they will inevitably force a ton of folds. You saw how many types of flops and hands are ideal for check raise bluffs and how easy it is to get your opponents to lay down their hands. Following this same train of thought, your plays for value are also more likely to force folds than calls or raises. You will need to pick the hands where you make value check raises very selectively.
The most optimal times to check raise the flop for value are in pots where the pre-flop action was full of raises and re-raises. When you play 3-bet pots, it means that you will have the ability to suck in opponents solely due to the amount of money they have already invested. A smart player will recognize this and be able to find folds, but most of your opponents are not this advanced. Take a look at the following example to get a feel for which types of hands are best for value check raises.
You are two on the button with JJ. The open raiser makes it $10 in your $1/$2 game, where there had already been one limper into the pot. You elect to see where you stand by making a 3-bet to $30. The limper folds (bad move to open limp!), and the button makes it $67. The original raiser calls and you do as well. Everyone was playing with $400ish stacks, which makes this a profitable situation to set mine. The flop falls J37. The out of position player checks to you, and you check as well. The player on the button now fires out $110.
This is a good hand to check raise for value for a handful of reasons…
1.) You know the button either has a big hand or is making a play. No matter which of these is true, they are all but certainly going to bet this flop.
2.) Checking allows the button to bet and the out of position player to raise or call. The more money in this hand, the better. You have the nuts and want to lock in some profits with the best hand possible.
3.) If the button does check back, there are virtually zero cards that really hurt you.
4.) If you bet out, you are most likely to get calls or folds. Even if the button player has a big hand, there is a legitimate chance they will flat call and play it safe, especially with stacks this deep.
As you can see, the good far outweighs the bad in this particular hand. As a general rule of thumb, the more action that there is pre-flop, the more likely that a flop check raise for value is going to be successful.