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OTB #016: These 4 powerful check raise strategies are guaranteed to make you a better poker player

Updated: Mar 25

If a new student asks me which postflop spot(s) they should work on first, I always recommend BTN vs BB single raised pots.

Most of the recreational players I work with are not c-betting the flop enough in position, so drilling BTN vs BB really helps. As would LJ vs BB or UTG vs BB so you can see the strategic differences.

I wouldn't recommend drilling CO vs BB after BTN vs BB because the strategies will be too similar and you won't learn enough.

In tournaments there are a ton of spots you could look at from single raised pots to 3-bet pots, from IP to OOP and then all the different stack sizes.

When it comes to your tournament poker training, it's important to stay focused and specific. It's also a good idea to know what leak you're trying to fix.

Another leak I see from a lot of recreational players is when they face a flop c-bet. They either fold too much or don't check raise enough.

And sometimes they do both.

Here's a breakdown of check raise frequencies from the BB against the different positions facing a small c-bet:

And here's a breakdown of check raise frequencies from the BB against the different positions facing a big c-bet:

So your check raise frequency should be somewhere between 10.4% and 18.5%. Given you generally face flop c-bets on the smaller side in MTTs, your check raise frequency should be closer to the top end.

Having said that, given you also spend the majority of your time in MTTs at sub 40bb, your check raise frequency could actually be higher.

Today I want to show you 4 powerful check raise strategies that will make you a much better poker player.

Let's dive in...

1. Raise more frequently the smaller your opponent bets

Facing a small flop c-bet you should raise more frequently than when you face a big flop c-bet. You should also continue more frequently.

Here's a comparison at 30bb BB vs BTN flop c-bets:

While no range is truly polarised until the river, big flop c-bets are more polarised and so it doesn't make logical sense to want to raise a lot against a range of value hands that will continue and bluffs that will often fold.

Facing a small c-bet you want to punish the weaker parts of your opponent's range, especially if they've range bet. There are just too many weak hands in that range that won't be able to continue.

When your opponent c-bets small, you are also the one that has to force money in with your best hands. You don't want to let your in position opponent bet too small on the flop and then check back turn.

2. Use aggregate reports to identify the highest frequency check raise boards and start there

So you've identified the leak that you're not check raising enough... now what?

How do you fix that leak?

As I wrote about in OTB #005: How to quickly identify the heuristics using aggregate reports, aggregate reports are a great way to quickly identify heuristics.

In today's example you can use an aggregate report to show you the highest frequency check raise boards:

Paired boards are a great place to start as they have such a high frequency of check raises. You can leverage the fact that you have a lot of really strong hands by check raising both value hands and bluffs.

On the 883fd board, for example, 37% of your range is not strong hands - you need to find a ton of bluffs to hit that frequency.

If you filter out paired boards, you can see the next category of hands that have a high check raise frequency:

Low unconnected boards and high cards with two rags really stand out here. Notice how it's also boards with no straights possible. 632r and 652fd have high frequency raises, but small c-bets don't happen very often, if at all, on those boards (see the global % column).

3. Raise worse than top pair for value

You've now discovered that paired boards, low unconnected boards and high cards with two low cards boards are the ones you can attack, so you can begin studying what to do.

Top pair will frequently be the go-to check raise for value. It's a strong hand, but it's often vulnerable to overcards, especially on the lower boards.

Let's explore 883fd, 732r and K82r.

On the 883fd board, you can raise both trips and 3x for value (and protection):

It's a board that the BTN can c-bet a lot and a board you should check raise a lot, which means the BTN has to continue a lot facing a check raise.

The 732r board is exactly the same, but this time you can raise most top pair and then some 2nd pair and 3rd pair as well:

The BTN is forced to call a lot of two overs with a backdoor flush draw type hands on this board.

There are a lot of mixes (i.e. you can either call or raise) with a lot of the weaker hands so the easy solution could be to just call, but that won't make you tough to play against.

That won't create problems for your opponents who don't know whether you're raising a value hand, a bluff, or something in the middle.

Think about it this way: would you want to play against someone who is very straightforward and check raises some value hands and some bluffs, or someone who understands the boards they can attack and check raises some weaker hands for value too?

The K82r board is exactly the same as the 732r board in that you can raise wider than top pair for value:

8c7c is a pure raise, for example. When was the last time you raised middle pair with a lousy kicker?

Facing a check raise, the BTN has to call with a lot of back door draws again including hands as weak as 7d6d or Th9h.

Maybe the players you play against won't defend that wide, so you'll absolutely print.

4. 3 to a straight and 3 to a flush are the go-to bluff raises

So you now know you can raise wider than top pair for value on the boards where you get to check raise a lot in the first place. But that's still not enough to hit those high check raise frequencies.

Next up, you need to discover the bluffs.

Everyone loves bluffs, right?

And yet many recreational players either don't find enough of them or they don't find the right ones.

Whenever you study using solvers, you should look to identify the heuristics - the big takeaways or lightbulb moments - rather than try to zone in on exact frequencies and/or try to memorise them.

The most obvious bluff raises on the 883fd board are flush draws.

After that, though, you need to be a bit more creative.

Here are some ideas:

  • Weak offsuit Ax hands with the As

  • Weak offsuit Kx hands with Ks

  • Weak offsuit Qx hands with the Qs

  • Three to a straight, three to a flush type hands like 9d7d or T9o with a spade (wrapped around the 8)

With all of these hands you can get better hands to fold, while giving yourself a better opportunity to win the hand on the turn or the river because you'll either turn more equity (i.e. a flush draw, a straight draw, or a pair even) or be able to make your opponent fold better hands on the turn or the river because you block a lot of your opponent's best hands.

If you filter for just the raising range on the 883fd board, the biggest chunk of it is 'nothing' type hands, then 2nd pair then trips.

So you have to be creative, but measured, in finding the 'nothing' bluffs.

On the 732r board, you don't have the luxury of flush draws because it's a rainbow board, but you do have some 4 out and 8 out straight draws to choose from. They only make up a small percentage of your check raises though and it's the 'nothing' type hands again that make up a huge chunk of your bluff raises here.

Once again, it's three to a straight, three to a flush type hands that dominate.

That means raising with hands like Ts9s, 8c5c and Qd4d. All of these hands can get better hands to fold (so raising makes sense logically) and can also improve on the turn.


If you want to be tougher to play against after defending the BB in heads up, single raised pots and increase your check raise frequency, here are four powerful strategies:

1. Raise more frequently the smaller your opponent bets

2. Use aggregate reports to identify the highest frequency check raise boards and start there

3. Raise worse than top pair for value

4. 3 to a straight and 3 to a flush are the go-to bluff raises

Good luck!


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