You should have a very good reason to go for a check raise on the river. A lot of players don’t value bet thinly and will check behind
If you are familiar with some of my previous articles and my training material over at CrushLivePoker.com you know that in general I think that going for check raises on the river, especially at $5-$5 and below, is a bad play. However, like slowplaying, I think there are certain times where we can implement the concept for additional profit. The following hand took place on a Wednesday afternoon. For some reason that day, the games were off of the hook at the Commerce $5-$10 tables. I arrived at noon to start the second game and by 3PM there were five games going, with multiple “casual” players spread around.
In the hand the Villain was an unknown, mid 40s Middle Eastern player. He appeared to be playing rather snug, and bought in fully for $1500. I had an above average image and sat with $2200. The villain had $1700. The Villain limped in UTG, and three players limped behind. I had A♣ 9♣ and decided to check my option in the BB. The flop came out J♣ 7♣ 5♥ giving me the nut flush draw. I came out and bet $35. Only the UTG player called. The turn was the 9♦ giving me a pair. At this point I did not think that my opponent would ever fold a jack here so I looked at this as a sort of way ahead way behind spot. I also did not want to get raised off of my draw on the turn so I checked. Without too much thought the Villain checked behind. The river brought out the 8♣ giving me the nut flush and also putting a one liner to a straight on the board.
Now normally I would just come out and bet my hand for value, as I never want my opponent to check behind on this river. However there is a very important hand-reading clue that gives us information in this hand—the action on the turn. You see, if my opponent had a jack I really think that he would have bet when checked to. When he checks back on the turn I think that that skews his hand more towards flush draws and possibly pair plus straight draws like 9T. If I come out and bet the river with the nut flush, I believe that he will just call with all of those hands. However, if I check my hand he will certainly value bet and I can put in a check raise.
Now a case can be made, if my opponent is good enough that he may fold a strong hand to a check-raise and we may win more money by just coming out and betting. However, I have found that in live play opponents like this value you bet so infrequently on the river that when they are facing a raise they find it very difficult to fold. It is similar to the older player types that have trouble folding AA or KK post flop. They play so few hands that they just cannot find the fold button in the proper scenario.
Sure enough, when I checked the river, my opponent bet $75. I decided to go for a bit of gold and raised it to $400. My opponent thought for some time and finally called and flashed a T for a straight. I was very happy with the way that I played the hand as if I had just come out and bet the river surely he would have just called with his T.