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.



  1. Nice play, would you ever be tempted to post-oak this on the river and stick in a bet of around 275 into 800? It’s just if he’s aggressive he’s likely to bet any 8 or 9 on the flop, so going to the river it feels like his range is weighted to a draw or a J. If he’s good enough to value bet a J on the river and a thinking player definitely should here (because you didn’t raise pre, so there’s not many As in your range) so the A really isn’t a scare card at all which just means if you check-raise you’re getting snapped by a J and losing more chips as opposed to the times you lead for a small bet. Although even if that’s true, I guess you could say you win more chips the times he bet-folds a draw and even if he always bet-calls a CR with a J, CRn should still win chips in the long run if he has more draws in his range (which he should) and always chooses to bluff with them. I do like the CR based on the reason he’ll likely check with any 8 or 9 so once he bets his range is screaming a J if he’s good enough to bet it or a missed draw. On the other hand, betting might also be good the times he checks back the Q and K high flush draw and scoops the pot, but if he always chooses to bluff with them then perhaps the check-raise wins. I might be more tempted to post-oak it vs a reg since the check-raise when the A hits is so unbelievably “not believable” so the last thing we would want is them putting in a 3bet with air as it looks a lot more polarising (although maybe we don’t have to rep much, and this should only really be a concern against a really creative, thinking regular) whereas they may interpret a small bet as a J value betting and muck their busted draws, but perhaps the CR works a lot better against less-thinking aggressive players who won’t get creative against a CR (as they’ll only be thinking about their own hand) and perhaps bluffing with more hands i.e. those Q/K high busted flush draws. I think I would also be tempted to post-oak this if he was passive and less likely to bluff with busted draws that are ahead of us. Anyway that’s just my quick thoughts on the hand, I think it’s a spot depending on your opponent you can shift between the post-oak and CR.

    PS: how’d the masters go? you gonna be playing any games on the side during the phD?

  2. Hi Mikey,

    Thanks for commenting. I would definitely be tempted to post-oak this, and it is a toss-up between this and check-raising given my analysis of the hand. Indeed for the same reasons my check-raise is small, if you're going to bet a post-oak bluff is the way to go, as you're just trying to fold out the draws.

    I lean towards check-raising here because I find that heads-up people don't like to fold. I therefore weight his range much more heavily towards draws than a J, given that I think he'll not only call with a T but perhaps also with a Q or something like a K7 for a gutshot and overcard (incidentally I don't have too much respect for my opponent here). I don't discount the possibility though that he could also have a poor made hand like an 82 or a 3x.

    If I put in the post-oak on the river, I feel I'm picking it up from a draw most of the time, but giving him room to make an occasional move. Also, any pair will snap me off and I'll lose. It's a good play, but I prefer the checkraise.

    With the checkraise, I think you maximise the value you get from the draws, in addition to giving him less room to make a move. (He still could, but 3 bet-bluffing over a river check-raise is a lot rarer than a bluff-raise here.) Also, you lose fewer chips when he has the mediocre made hand, although you are correct that when he has a J you probably will lose more. You're right about the K/Q high draw hands being a worry - but most mediocre players will see missed draws as the same thing, ie. a busted hand, rather than seeing the higher ones as having showdown value since they beat my busted draws. He'll probably bet, but if he will check behind then a post-oak bluff becomes much more attractive.

    You are also correct with your assessment that vs a reg, the check-raise here is highly suspect (re: my comment that its such an obvious scare card that it isn't scary at all!). However this guy is no reg, but rather an unsophisticated aggressive fish. He is therefore an ideal opponent. Having said this, I think many regs also would strongly smell a rat but probably grit their teeth and fold anyway, as the price of a move here is pretty high and the general incidence of bluff river check-raises is pretty low.

    As is often the case with poker, in truth the balance of circumstances favouring the checkraise is very delicate (hence why it almost never happens), and how you will see it depends on your own intuitive understanding of how the factors weigh against each other in importance. To me, it felt here like the best move, but post-oak bluffing is also a good move and in truth the two options are likely very close in value.

    In answer to your ps, the Masters I enjoyed a lot (hence the PhD!). I won't have much time to play, but will try to get in a little. I'll still be available also for anyone who wants coaching.

  3. Hey, thanks for replying.

    Yeah, agree with everything you said, I guess in this example just due to the nature of the board and his likely range - a J or a busted draw, a post-oak is definitely the way to go if you are betting. There's absolutely no reason to bet 600 or 700 into 800 here since we aren't trying to fold out an 8 or a 9. The fact it's HU and only the 2nd bet going in no-one is folding an 8 or 9 to any bet here really, and if they are thinking then even less so since who is valuing 600/700 with a J once the A comes? So it becomes one of those where betting more polarises your range here and it actually weights your range much closer to bluffs IMO since you limped pre and "can't have the A" (so would need to show up with some random two pair, which is even less likely since you didn't bet the flop). Having said that, it's not like he's folding to the 285 bet with an 8 or a 9 even if he interprets the smaller bet as more strength, he'll still call with even better odds but just means with the combination of 1/ losing less chips when we're called and 2/ picking up the pot vs his busted draws the same amount of time as a bigger bet, then the smaller bet is more +EV in the long run since it does the same as the bigger bet but with less risk, and conserves some chips.

    I guess I may have originally favoured the post-oak here since I wrote a pretty in-depth blog post about it a while ago :D ( maybe I'll just have to agree the check-raise has the 0.000001% edge in this spot and wins this round!!!