A check raise for value on the river is a tricky play—use it wisely.
Before I get into an interesting hand that I played at the Commerce $5-$10NL $500-$1500 buy in game I want all of you lower stakes players to understand that usually betting your very strong hand for value from out of position, when you have had the betting lead for the entire hand, is the right play. The players that you are typically up against check back far too much to get tricky with a strong value hand and it becomes a disaster if they do not bet in position when they would have called a large bet. However, for you mid to high stakes players, and even sometimes at the low stakes there are certain times when we can implement this technique of checking to go for a check raise.
About two weeks ago, I played such a hand. We were seven handed and I raised A♣ 6♣ from UTG +1. A player who usually plays lower stakes called me from the button, about $3000 effective. He had moved up to playing $5-$10 this day because he was losing heavily at the $5-$5 game and was slightly tilted. He is a moody player and has played both overly aggressive and weak tight in the past. He was up about $1500 in the $5-$10 game since he had sat down.
The flop came out A♠ 6♥ 7♦, giving me top and bottom pair. I bet $45 into a pot of about $75, trying to encourage him to call with weaker holdings. He obliged rather quickly and we moved to the turn, which was the 4♠. At this point I thought that he was not going to continue floating me with air, but if he had pieced off with a seven or a six, that he very well may have picked up a straight draw to go along with it. I also thought that he was never going to fold an ace on this street so I decided to go larger now, and bet $130. He took a bit of time with it and called again.
Now the pot was $425 and the river fell the A♥, giving me aces full of sixes. My initial impulse was to come out and bet large but I took a step back and analyzed the situation. No limit Holdem is all about playing off of your opponents’ range, it is less about playing off your own cards. I thought back to all of the streets and realized that he would arrive at the river with three types of hands.
The first would be a weaker ace. One that I thought he would surely value bet at the end. You see, most other players would never make trips as top pair and check to their opponent so if he had a hand like AT or A9 he would not be scared and would bet with a high frequency. He was also a typical lower stakes player that was unable to fold hands that he thought were strong. So I seriously doubted that he would release if I check raised. So checking and having him bet say $250, only for me to raise to $750 would get me a lot more value then coming out and even betting as large as the size of the pot.
The second category of hand that we could arrive at the river with was a bluff. A hand that was a straight draw on the flop that may have turned a flush draw or if he continued to be stubborn with an open ended full eight out draw from the flop. For the same reasons why I think that most of his opponents would bet an ace on the river, I think that he would now bluff a busted draw because he would so rarely see someone check a strong hand at the end.
And the third hand that he may show up with on the river was a middling pair hand that picked up more outs on the turn. I was not really targeting this hand, as I knew this type of holding would not call a bet on the river.
So to me, I thought that the obvious play was to check. I would get more value from an ace, in the best case scenario a slowplayed hand like a turned straight or set that now boated up for a full house or I could induce a bluff.
Again, I want to stress to you lower stakes players to use this play very sparingly. I have actually seen players check back weak trip aces at the end versus a preflop raiser scared that they would be out kicked. These types of players are subconsciously patching their “leak” of not being able to bet and then fold so they check back strong hands so that they can GET TO SHOWDOWN.
This type of river play is actually more powerful when a card like a T, J or Q pair as top pair at the end and we check trips with an ace kicker or a bottom’s full type of hand. Our opponents are way more likely to bet trips all of the time as they think that they may get looked up by AA-QQ.
Unfortunately for me, in this particular scenario my opponent checked back rather quickly, and made it quite obvious that he did not have an ace. I am still happy with my 5th street play, however, as I think that I made the right decision.