How many times have you check-called a continuation bet on the flop out of position with top pair, only for your hand’s strength to shrivel up by the river?
Or check-called multiple streets with a draw that never comes in?
Sometimes we need to take matters into our own hands and check-raise the flop, whether it’s for value or a bluff.
In the Apestyles Bootcamp, BBZ coach Jon “Luckyfish” Clark dedicates a 54-minute video to check-raising on the flop. There are plenty of great hand examples he uses, of which we’ve picked out a couple.
Let’s get to it.
In the first hand we’ll look at, luckyfish defends the big blind with K♥J♦ to a cutoff open and the flop comes 8♦K♦6♣, giving us top pair.
The cutoff makes a 33%-pot continuation bet when checked to and it’s back on Luckyfish.
“I think this is going to be a spot where we check-raise at a pure frequency,” he says. “The value threshold is probably going to be K7 here, and KJ, K10 and K9 are going to be close to pure raises here.”
So why are we check-raising the top pair and not just calling?
In this instance, there are flush draws and straight draws on the flop. By raising our top pair, we can not only get value from our opponent’s draws, but we can also get value from their lower pocket pairs, eights and sixes, as well as strong ace-highs.
When checking a sim, Luckyfish discovers he was almost spot on about the hands he listed raising (although K9 is indifferent between raising and calling).
But what’s interesting is how things change when we flop two pair rather than just top pair.
We’re more inclined to just call the c-bet with two pair (e.g. K6) as we block top pair, making it harder for our opponent to have us beat.
“There’s a risk of being counterfeit, but we also block the value we’re trying to gain,” says Luckyfish.
Had he not flopped top pair, there are still some hands we’d want to consider check-raising in this spot at a low frequency.
“We’re going to want to be using backdoor equity,” says Luckyfish. “Combos where we can turn up-and-down straight draws or flush draws, or combos where we have three direct outs to hit top pair.”
This would include hands like J10 suited and even A4 off and A3 off.
Another reason we look to check-raise in this kind of spot is that our opponents–particularly at lower stakes–are simply not going to continue with hands they really should.
According to the sim, the villain in this spot should really be calling with some combos of Q10, J10, and ace-highs which can turn straight draws.
In the second hand, Luckyfish defends 8♦10♠ to a cutoff open and flops an up-and-down straight draw on a 9♣7♠2♦ flop.
He checks and the villain continues for ~33%.
“I think we’re indifferent [to raising and calling] here,” says Luckyfish. “When it comes to straight draws, I think the 108s and J10s are going to be pretty reasonable as check-raises.”
But Luckyfish thinks we’d be less incentivised to check-raise a hand like 65. Why?
First off, while both J10 and 65 are gutshots (an eight would complete both draws), the former also comes with two overcards which could make top pair if hit on the turn or river.
Secondly: “There’s going to be some reverse implied odds when we run into hands like J10,” says Luckyfish. The perfect turn card for our hand could also be the perfect turn for our opponent.
To learn more about check-raising flops, check out the Apestyles Bootcamp. It holds more than 35 hours of unrivalled poker coaching material–which you can own and absorb in your own time.