Bet or Check Raise?
You are up against one opponent in a pot and you are confident that you have the best hand. Unfortunately however, you are not helped by the fact that you are first to act.
You want to get as much money into the middle, but you are not entirely sure of the best way to go about it. You could bet out straight away and hope to see them call, or you could try check-raising them to help increase the amount of money that gets put into the pot. But what is the most profitable option over the long run?
Firstly, lets outline a few pros and cons of betting versus check-raising.
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By check raising, you are opening up the opportunity to increase the amount of money that gets put in to the pot. This is because you will be raising your opponents bet, and so they will have to put more money into the middle to see the next card. The more you can get them to put in the middle, the more we can win.
The downside to check raising is that there is always the possibility that our opponent will not bet, and we miss out on a prime opportunity to build the pot. In addition to this, the check-raise is a very powerful move, and so by doing this we may well reduce our chances of being able to make our opponent put more money into the pot in future (and even in the current) betting rounds.
- Ability to get more money in to the pot.
- Shows a great deal of strength, and may force our opponent to fold.
- We will not have the opportunity to check raise if our opponent checks behind us.
Betting out first.
If we bet out first as opposed to checking with the intention of raising, we are removing the possibility of giving our opponent a free card on the occasions that they would check behind us. In addition, although our bet shows strength, it does not show nearly as much strength as a check-raise, so we will still have a slight air of mystery surrounding our hand (which can prove to be very profitable).
As you can guess, the fact that we bet out first means that we restrict the amount of money that we could possibly force our opponent to put in to the pot. This is where the check-raise has the advantage over betting out.
- Definite opportunity to get more money in to the pot.
- Our hand is more disguised than if we check raise.
- May not be able to get as much money in to the pot.
Should you bet or check raise when first to act?
The decision of whether or not to bet or check raise all depends on the situation, as these are two viable options for building the pot. However, the vast majority of the time it is going to be better to bet out first, rather than to try and get tricky with a check raise. It may seem as though check-raising is the more extravagant and sophisticated play, but when you are first to act the simple bet is going to be the best choice in most cases.
If you feel that you have the best hand, you should bet out. The reason for this is that by betting out, you eliminate the risk of giving your opponent a free card whilst not giving too much information away about the strength of your hand. These two 'plus points' far outweigh the potential of getting more money into the pot by attempting check raises over the long run, so learn to save that check-raise for special occasions.
In general, you are better off betting straight out in first position as opposed to going for the check raise.
It is better to be consistently safe, rather than going for the risky big win from time to time.
When is it best to check raise?
In my opinion, the check raise is best used in bluffing and semi-bluffing situations rather than as a method for building the pot when you believe that you have the best hand. The true value of the check raise is it's ability to display a great amount of strength about your hand, as opposed to the fact that you could potentially force your opponent to place more chips in the pot.
Against weaker players who are unaware of what the check-raise implies, it could well be effective as a pot building manoeuvre. However, against the more experienced player you are going to be shooting yourself in the foot by letting them know that you have a very strong hand.
The check raise is most useful in bluffing and semi-bluffing situations, rather than as a method to get as much money in to the pot as possible when you have the best hand.
An example of a situation in which I will decide to use the check raise is when I am confident that my hand will not be outdrawn, and my opponent will not call any of my bets. Therefore I am offering them the opportunity to bet out and try to take the hand away from me, even though I know I have the best hand. But then still, if they do decide to bet out, I will be more inclined to call and induce a bet on a further betting round rather than cut off the action by check-raising.
Bet or check raise overview.
As you should have been able to infer from this article, the check raise should be used quite sparsely, as there are often going to be more profitable plays available to you. There is no doubt that the check-raise can be effective from time to time, but there is no need to try and get fancy with your plays when the straightforward option may well be the best (and the one that maximizes value).
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Being out of position is never going to help when it comes to building a pot, so you have to do the best you can with the situation. But as a general rule... If in doubt, just bet right out.
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