A check raise presents a tough decision for the in position player and that's why it's such a powerful line, especially on paired boards where it's tough for either player to have a very strong hand.
Today I want to show you how to defend against a competent and aggressive opponent who is finding the right balance of check raises for value and bluffs on paired boards.
I'm going to walk you through one example so you can see what you're looking for in your own study.
Let's dive in...
Jh8h on 944r, HJ vs BB SRP
You open to 2.3bb off around a 65bb stack from the Hijack with Jh8h and just the BB calls.
The flop comes 4h 9c 4s.
This is your strategy on the flop facing a BB check:
Your range wants to c-bet this board for a small size very frequently. Your exact hand wants to bet small around 78% of the time and check back the rest.
You don't mind checking back and seeing a turn card to see if you can improve on a Jack, 8, heart, Queen, Ten or 7, but similarly you don't mind betting and getting some better hands to fold straight away like some offsuit Kx and Qx, and maybe some suited Kings and Queens in diamonds (with no backdoor flush draw).
The BB checks, you c-bet 1.53bb into 6.1bb (25% pot) and the BB makes a pretty small check raise to 5bb (about 38% pot).
You don't have anything right now, but should you just fold?
Here's what the BB's strategy looks like:
Paired boards are great for the BB to attack because they can leverage the fact that they have a lot of very strong hands (trips) by raising a mix of value hands and bluffs.
A well-contructed check-raising range will include bluffs to force the IP c-better to continue with a wide range of hands.
The BB gets to check raise 32% of their range here, and that includes hands like Q4s (trips) and weak bluffs like 53s (hearts, spades and clubs, but not diamonds).
For more ideas on how to find the weaker bluffs on paired boards, check out OTB #014: 4 Rules for Playing Against C-bets Out of Position in the Big Blind in Single Raised Pots, specifically Rule 2.
Your main response to a check raise here, with your range, is to call or fold:
You should only fold ~24% your range and continue with ~76%.
The obvious continues
It should be straightforward to identify the obvious continues as we're looking at:
Full house (99)
Trips (A4s, K4s and 54s)
Top pair (all 9x)
3rd pair (22/33)
All of those hands make up ~31% of your range, so where do you find the other ~45% of hands?
The less obvious continues
If you want to prevent the BB from making too much money from their bluffs you're going to have continue with some somewhat uncomfortable holdings - that means something worse than a pair or a draw.
Remember that the BB can have hands as weak as 5 high with a backdoor flush and straight draw. This forces you to widen the net and include hands like:
Ace high (ATs+,AJo+, A8s-A2s (with a BDFD))
King high (KTs+,KQo,K8s-K5s (with a BDFD))
Nothing (QTs+,JTs,JTo,T8s then some hands with three to a straight, three to a flush like Jh8h and Tc7c)
The 'nothing' part of your range makes up 18% of your continues.
Check raising paired boards is so powerful as a bluff because many players will just always fold these hands.
Don't be one of those players.
If your opponent knows they can leverage the fact that they have a nut advantage (a higher proportion of very strong hands) on this board by raising some weak hands as bluffs as well, then you need to make sure you continue with enough hands.
Very often these will include your best Ace highs and King highs together with hands that can improve to a draw on the turn which means hands with backdoor draws, especially if they have both a backdoor flush draw and a backdoor straight draw.
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