PezRez and md261 are two of the poker world's most consistent 6-max SNG players. Together they run, which offers coaching and staking services. Here they dissect hands and games they've played. Also found at:

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Check Raise on the River

PezRez on the 23rd February 2013

Hi guys,

Long time of no posting again. After my Masters I went travelling for several months in South America. Little time was left for poker, and in a month or so I’ll be starting that PhD that I put off for a long time, so won’t be playing much more. In the meantime though I’ll be playing a little.

One of the things that always strikes me after a long period away from poker is how clean and fresh all of the theories, plays and moves you know seem when you start playing again. Unencumbered by the frustrations (or elations) of recent plays, recent failures and recent successes, your mind seems to find it easy to spot the right conditions to pull moves which may previously have fallen out of your arsenal.

One such recent opportunity came for me when, after 3 months of no poker, I found a good spot to pull a bluff check-raise on the river (and such spots are few and far between). This isn’t a play that comes up very often in Sit and Go’s – indeed I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have pulled it – but it is very satisfying when it does.

I was heads-up and on the river, looking at a situation where it was likely both my opponent and I had a draw:

PokerStars Tournament $27.58+$2.42 USD Hold'em No Limit - Level VI (100/200)
Seat 1: Villain (4382 in chips)
Seat 2: Hero (4618 in chips)
Villain: posts small blind 100
Hero: posts big blind 200
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [5h Ts]
Villain: calls 100
Hero: checks
*** FLOP *** [8s 3d 9d]
Hero: checks
Villain: checks
*** TURN *** [8s 3d 9d] [Jc]
Hero: bets 200
Villain: calls 200
*** RIVER *** [8s 3d 9d Jc] [Ah]
Hero: checks
Villain: bets 400
Hero: raises 600 to 1000
Villain: folds
Hero collected 1600 from pot
Hero: doesn't show hand

With T5o, I am quite happy to see a free flop. The flop texture doesn’t look great for bluffing, and I have very little to go with, so I check with the intention of giving up if my opponent bets. He doesn’t though, and we go to the turn.

The turn brings me a straight draw (albeit an obvious, one-card non-nut draw). Having said that, it is still strong enough to bet into an opponent who has shown no strength whatsoever. He calls. While he might have some kind of made hand, it seems likely he would have bet the flop with it. Its more likely he has some kind of straight draw or gutshot himself, perhaps in combination with a small pair or overcard.

An Ace on the river is an obvious scare card. In fact, its so obvious that its not remotely scary at all when someone bets it! With no hand myself, the straightforward play would be to check-fold. Since my opponent probably has a draw himself, I could put in a bluff, since he probably won’t be able to call me.

However the Ace probably looks to him like a great bluffing spot. He will bet many of his busted draws, and probably check behind a small and medium pair. If I check-raise, I will be taking advantage of the fact that his betting range in this spot is very weak.

The move is superior to betting out – if I bet, he folds his busted draws but calls and wins with a few mediocre pairs. If I check (planning to check-raise), he probably checks behind with those mediocre pairs (and wins), and I lose no additional chips. Even better, when he does have those busted draws, I usually win even more chips by inducing a bet and then forcing him to fold. The only occasions I come off worse are when he value-bets a mediocre pair (unlikely) and then he calls the check-raise (unlikelier), or alternatively he checks behind with the busted draw and his high-card beats mine (distinctly possible, but my opponent has been aggressive).

Overall, the checkraise clearly wins! I don’t need to make it much – I’m trying to fold out hands with no value, after all – and so 600 more seems like plenty. He does fold, and maybe my 4th (?) successful stone-bluff river check-raise goes into the history books.

The circumstances here that make the play a good one are my aggressive opponent, the high likelihood of him having a draw (and likewise the low likelihood of him having a made hand of any considerable strength) and the rivered Ace which just made it so likely that he would bluff (and which it is so unlikely he holds). The confluence of these conditions makes the check-raise the ideal play in this spot.