Check Raise Bluffing in Hold’em

The Flop Check-Raise Bluff Out of Position

Here is a common situation in no limit Texas Hold’em cash games. You are in the big blind and encounter a frequent button raiser who is attacking your blind on virtually every round. Pulling off an occasional check-raise bluff on the flop can gain back a lot of those lost bets and calls, and keep your opponent honest.

Check Raise Bluff - Poker Position

How the Check Raise Bluff works

A common sight at the poker tables is the player who knows how to take advantage of position. She open-raises the pot virtually every time it is folded to her pre-flop and she is in late position. Because of decent implied pot odds, you venture a call with a marginal hand. If you miss, you can fold quietly to her flop bet, but if you hit, her aggression is likely to gain you at least a few bets, and if you hit big (and she gets a decent second-best hand), you can get her whole stack.

Usually what happens here is that you call her raise and check the flop. She bets and you fold. If she is raising to three times the big blind preflop, your big blind hand is costing you three big blinds on every round, rather than just one. She is counting on the fact that the flop is likely to miss you and you will fold to her continuation bet. This is a costly hit to your winrate. Sticking in an occasional check-raise on the flop as a bluff can stop this bleeding.

How to Check Raise Bluff

Here are the conditions required to make this check raise bluff happen. She open-raises from the same late position almost every time the pot is folded to her preflop. You have called and then check-folded the flop a few times. The flop comes down with a high card like a queen, but not an ace or king (she could be raising any-ace or any-king hands or better, common from late position from aggressive players).

The next time she does this, if the table conditions feel right, make a call from the big blind with almost any two cards. The flop comes down, you check, she bets, and you raise. You are representing that you made at least top pair, perhaps two pair or better. It doesn’t matter if you actually did, yet.

If she raises to three big blinds preflop in a 5/10 no limit game, the pot will be 65 after you call. Her standard continuation bet of 35-50 (one-half to three-quarters of the pot) should be countered with a raise to about three times her bet (usually about 100-120). If your raise nets the pot at least two-thirds of the time (which it will as she will miss the flop that often), it will be a breakeven move, and could eventually have a positive expected value if she respects your blinds a little bit more in the long run.

One thing is very important: if she continues in the hand, either calling or re-raising your check-raise, you are done with the hand unless you actually have something. Chances are better here that she actually has a hand. One exception would be if there is a draw on the board and she simply calls your check-raise. If the draw comes in on the turn (like the third flush card or the bottom card of the straight), you can represent the made hand by either betting the turn directly, perhaps half the pot (this works if your table image is of a straightforward player), or checking the turn, and betting half the pot on the river if she checks behind on the turn (if you have an image as a tricky player).