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The Check-Raise: Getting Free Cards for your Checks

One of the great advantages of the check-raise is that people tend to remember being check-raised. If you establish the check-raise on the flop as one of your moves, some of your opponents will start to become hesitant to bet into you once you’ve checked for fear of being check-raised. This means that with the check-raise established, you can get free cards with a hand that otherwise couldn't call a bet.

In other words, your checks will start to appear as check-raises, the specter of which will get you free cards when you’ve got drawing hands. Someone who might bet out when they are ahead on the flop could think twice and opt to check, or someone else who might be inclined to steal the pot will opt not to take a stab at it because of your penchant for check-raising. This can be a tremendous advantage.

Let’s take a look at an example where your past use of the check-raise gets you a free card in a situation where you hold a hand that you would not have been able to call with. In this particular case, you will end up catching the card you were looking for.
You are in middle position with 6♦-7♦.  You call 150, as does the button and the blinds. The flop comes A♥-8♦-2♣.  The blinds check and so do you to the player on the button.

Notice that if he bets, you have no business calling because you caught no part of that flop. But in this case, he is extremely suspicious of your check, remembering vividly that you check-raised him twice during this session. He looks you up and down and smiles at you as if to say, “I’m not going to let you do it to me again this time.” He checks his A♦-10♣, and the turn comes 5♦.

Now you have picked up an open-end straight-flush draw! The blinds check to you, you check again and this time the button bets 250. Your pot odds now justify this call as any diamond, nine or four should seal up the win for you (15 outs).

Admittedly, this was a pretty amazing card to hit. But the point is that use of the check-raise has the added benefit of getting you free cards for your checks when your opponents start to feel the burn of being check-raised. Once again, reputation in this repeated game setting is a valuable asset. Finally, once you see that your opponents have “wised up” and start giving you free cards, bells should also be ringing in your head that it’s time to vary your play and in situations where you had previously been using the check-raise, try a different move such as a conventional continuation bet on the flop.

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