Killing the action

How the check-raise with a big hand on a heavily textured board can be your best friend

Opponents who have raised before the flop in a heads-up pot are very unlikely to ever check when they are checked to

Playing hands out of position is always more difficult than playing in position because you don’t get to see what your opponent does before you have to act. This is particularly difficult on a board that is very l ikely to create tough decisions for you. I’m going to explai n how to deal with this type of situation, when you flop a big hand on a highly coordinated board when you are heads-up and out of position.

So, let’s say you have a hand like 9-9 and the board comes A?-10?-9?. Going back to what I discussed last issue, you know you have the best hand right now (if you don’t you are very unlucky), but the problem is that the board is super-coordinated. There are a number of straight and flush draws that can cause you big problems on the turn. As discussed in the last issue, what this means is that the next card is a favourite to give you some difficulty in your decision.

But what has changed from last month is that this time you are out of position, so when that difficult card hits you are going to have to act before your opponent. This is a particularly ugly situation to be faced with, and the best option here is to aim for a simple solution.

Just like last month, the best play is to look to end the decision-making process right there. You are looking to create a line of play that is the most likely to get you out of having to make another decision on the hand. So how do you go about this on this kind of board?


Let’s talk about the check-raise. As you might recall, we talked about the check-raise and what it means in a previous article about playing big hands on untextured boards. The check-raise is a play that effectively turns your hand face up in the sense that it conveys great strength to your opponent.

Now, when you flop a hand like a set on a board with no scare cards the last thing you want to do is convey strength to your opponent, meaning a check- raise is not really an option. But the check-raise is not necessarily bad, it just has to be deployed wisely.

There are times when you really do want to announce great strength to your opponent because you really don’t care if the hand ends right there. This is one such situation.

The check-raise is a tool and it is just a matter of using the tool in the right way. So, on a super- coordinated board like A?-10?-9?, you want to try to check-raise if you can. The check-raise tends to be a hand-ending play and this is what you are looking for in this situation. If your opponent has position and was the pre-flop raiser, you can check here.

This is because opponents who have raised before the flop in a heads-up pot are very unlikely to ever check when they are checked to. And if they do check then it’s unlikely their hand really relates to the board, since a flush draw or straight draw would bet and most made hands will bet to price out the flush draw.


Once your opponent has bet for you, you can’t call. By calling you are setting yourself up for a fall on the turn. Even if you were to call and neither the straight or flush draws hit on the turn, you would have to bet out. You couldn’t count on your opponent to bet for you twice, and giving a free card on the turn would be disastrous.

So any element of disguise you hoped to maintain by calling on the flop would very quickly evaporate, as by betting out you are effectively announcing your hand on the turn regardless.

Worse yet, if the flush draw or straight draw does hit you now have to play your hand blind. You can’t really check because allowing a possible free card, and thereby allowing someone to draw to a four- flush, would be horrible in this spot. But if you bet and get raised you will have to fold, and a hand that is well behind like A-K with the K? might end up taking down the pot.

Someone with top pair and a flush draw on the turn can make that play against you, not even knowing they are bluffing. When a hand can bluff you without knowing it you must have chosen a poor line of play. So whichever way it goes, flat-calling an opponent’s flop-bet only stores up trouble for you later when you are forced to lead out on the turn.


If you just go for the check-raise on the flop you will create a much more favourable situation for yourself. First, you are likely to win the pot right then and there, which should be fine with you under this set of circumstances.

Remember there are a huge number of cards that can cause your heart to sink on the turn and the pot is already a good size on the flop. There is another benefit to check-raising. If you don’t win it right there you are actually more likely to eventually get paid off by a worse hand. This is because opponents will often misread the check-raise as a weak hand or a draw and go ahead and play with you anyway.

If you check and call against a hand like A-Q or A-J and then lead out on the next card you are likely to lose them if the flush or straight draw hits – and even if it doesn’t.

And as we discussed before you can also find yourself in the nightmare scenario where you can be bluffed off the hand by a raise on the turn. So you either get paid off zero or lose a big pot because you have put yourself in a situation where you have to bet to prevent any more free cards. But if you check-raise, hands like A-Q and A-J can re-raise you, misreading you for making the jiggy check- raise with the flush draw.


Now, clearly, if your opponent cannot be counted on to raise you should not go for a check-raise here, as giving a free card is a disaster. If your opponent is passive you should bet right out, even if they were the pre-flop raiser. If you have the lead in the hand then you must be certain your opponent will bet for you before you give that lead up to him on a textured flop.

If you are forced to lead out, either as a continuation bet or because you can’t count on your opponent to bet, then you should really bet big, trying to give the flush draw the worst price possible to hit with one card to come. The reason I say the player with the flush draw only has one card to come is that you are clearly not checking the turn in this hand, so your opponent is only going to get to see one card before they face another bet.

So, bet close to the whole pot. If you get a flat-call you will lead the turn no matter what. If a flush card hits you can represent the flush. If it doesn’t – if the board blanks – you cannot allow another card to come anyway, so you must make another big bet. You have to make sure at that point you are making them pay to see the river card.

Of course when the flush or straight draw hits and you lead out you must hope you don’t get raised, and that is the problem with out-of-position play. You can’t check the turn and risk another straight or flush card hitting on the river. But when you do bet you are hoping beyond hope that you do not get raised.

This is why there is pressure on you to make that action-ending play on the flop and get it over with so you don’t have to face those difficult turn cards. The moral of the story is bet to get the pot over with before it all turns sour on the turn.

Pin It

Comments are closed.