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The Last Bet

Understanding the Check-Raise

The check-raise is a deceptively simple piece of poker strategy that can take some practice but once you've mastered it, you can see your winnings increase drastically at the table. A check-raise does two things very well. First, it uses your position against your opponents to get more money into the pot when you're holding the nuts. It also is a great way to force them to throw away the winning hand when you're bluffing.

The check-raise is a trapping move and it's a snap to execute. You first check when the action is on you and then you raise if a player after you has bet into the pot. Yes, it's that easy. It's a move that works well in just about any poker game, fitting into basic strategy at cash games, online poker tournaments and sit and go events alike. As position plays a very important part in hold 'em poker games, the check-raise helps you gain some kind of advantage from being early in the cycle.

The most important thing you need to know about the check-raise is that it should be used judiciously. This isn't a move you want to throw out left and right when you're playing. You'll want to make sure that you understand your opponents and their methods before you give it a whirl. Check-raising increases your aggressiveness at the table greatly, but don't let it lead you down a path you're not ready to walk yet.

If you're just now starting to use check-raising, it's best to stick to check-raising for value in order to get as many chips into the pot as possible. The better your hand, the more comfortable you can feel about using check-raising as a poker strategy. You must be the first to act against your opponent and the person you're playing against must be aggressive enough that they're willing to bet with a broader variety of hands. Check-raising for value works extremely well in multi-way pots, so practice and make sure you're able to use it confidently when you're holding a monster.

If you've become comfortable with the check-raise as a way to get more money into the pot, you might well find that you're able to use it as a bluffing tool as well. The most common "bluff mode" check-raise is when you've reached a heads-up pot and you're out of position. Continuation betting is the name of the game when you've raised before the flop and by check-raising, you can make your opponent very uncertain about their final decision. Just make sure the cards on the table back up the way you're playing.

Remember: there are two ways to check-raise – to get more value out of your hand or to bluff your opponents. It doesn't matter if you’re playing Omaha poker online or stud with your friends in the kitchen – if you're not in a situation where either of these is the end goal, then restrain yourself. The check-raise is only powerful when executed judiciously.

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