How to Check-Raise on the River Like a Pro

It’s difficult to play out-of-position as the preflop caller.

In this scenario our opponent, the preflop raiser, has both a range advantage and a positional advantage.

However, we can still implement a well-thought-out check raising strategy, which will hinder our opponent’s ability to bet thinly for value and bluff.

How important is check-raising?

To demonstrate the importance of a solid check-raising strategy, I’ve created three simulations for the following hand:

Americas Cardroom $25/$50. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $5000.

Hero is dealt two cards in the BB
3 folds, BU raises to $125, SB folds, Hero calls

Flop ($275): Q♥ 8♥ 7
Hero checks. BU bets $190.

The first simulation represents the button’s optimal continuation betting range for a ⅔ pot sized bet against an optimal BB defense:

You should only focus on the c-bet frequencies for the purpose of these examples.

Editor’s Note: we’ve highlighted the relevant part of each simulation for those of you unfamiliar with solvers

Optimal continuation bet frequency for the button is 36.29% bets and 63.71% checks.

Now, let’s imagine that the BB isn’t allowed to check-raise on the flop. The next picture represents the solution for the button in this extreme and hypothetical scenario:

The optimal c-bet frequency for the button is 76.9% bets, 23.1% checks when the BB is not allowed to check-raise.

Next, let’s imagine the BB is a nit who only check-raises with his value hands. Here is the optimal BU solution for such a scenario:

The button can c-bet a whopping 96.35% of the time against a nit who only check-raises with strong hands.

These simulations prove that you need to have very good and balanced check-raising ranges to become an exceptional poker player.

Although these examples were for check-raising on the flop, they apply to the turn and river as well. We’ll be focusing on river check-raising in this article.

We will be using both PioSolver and Flopzilla to help us build our river check-raising ranges.

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With which hands should you check-raise on the river?

Since the need for a check-raising range on the river after the in-position (IP) player triple-barrels is very uncommon, we will focus on two more common spots:

  • When the flop and turn checks through and the IP player bets on the river.
  • The IP player makes a delay c-bet on the turn and barrels the river.

Generally speaking, the value part of our river check-raising range in these two spots will be comprised of 2-pairs or better. But as you will see below, this isn’t always the case.

That’s the easy part, though. We now need to figure out what types of hands to use as bluffs.

We will primarily use blockers to decide which hands to use as bluffs, since when the action gets this deep in the game tree the ranges become much more narrow and thus the effect of blockers is greatly magnified.

Unfortunately, I cannot give you any general tips in this regard since each spot is extremely specific, and so what is correct in one might be wrong in another.

Practical implementation

Example 1: Check-raising when the action checked through

888 $0.5/$1. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $100.00.

Hero is dealt two cards in the BB 
3 folds. BU raises to $2.5. BU folds. Hero calls.

Flop ($5.5): J♥ 8♣ 6
Hero checks. BU checks.

Turn ($5.5): Q
Hero checks. BU checks

River ($5.5): 3
Hero checks. BU bets $3.8, Hero raises to $16.9

This is a possible balanced river betting range for the button:

And this is the range that he should be defending against a pot-sized bet raise (approximately 50% of his betting range):

We can see that the 8 and the T represent much of his defending range. We can visualize that here by selecting T and 8 as dead cards (as if they were the cards in our hand):

We are blocking 23% of his bet/calling range with this combo as his total river range reduces from 11.5% to 8.86%.

We will have around 12 value combos (flushes), and based on our bet size we will need 6 bluff combos (see: minimum defense frequency article). We will pick Tx 8 and 8♦ 7x since these provide the most blocking effect to his bet/call range while unblocking the least amount of bluffs (9x 8 and 8♦ 7x are close, but I chose the latter because it unblocks K9o and blocking T9 is not a concern). Here’s how that range looks:

Our river check-raise range.

Example 2: Check-raising versus delayed c-bet and barrel.

888 $0.5/$1. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $100.00.

Hero is dealt two cards in the BB 
3 folds. BU raises to $2.5. BU folds. Hero calls.

Flop ($5.5): Q♣ 9♣ 6
Hero checks. BU checks.

Turn ($5.5): 7
Hero checks. BU bets $3.8, Hero calls

River ($13.1): 4
Hero checks. BU bets $8.7, Hero raises to $39.2

This is a possible balanced river betting range for the button:

He needs to defend ~50% which means he needs to continue with this range in order to be unexploitable.

You can see that the river frequency is now 43.2%, which is roughly half of the one before.

Against such a range, we can only raise for value with our flushes which represent 10 combos.

Now we need to find some bluffs. We will look for cards that block his value range and are also is also a part of our range in the form of A9x, A7x and A6x. Since all of these have similar blocking effects, we will choose the two weakest because A9x also does well as a bluff catcher. Our range will now be balanced, containing a close to perfect ratio of value bets to bluffs. There’s no need to worry about bluffing a too much in this spot, since we are blocking many of their bet/call range, and most players fold too much in these spots. Below I have attached a picture of our balanced river check-raising range:


Remember that check-raising is a must-have tool for every top-notch player.

The work needed to improve this part of your game will be tedious, but few players actually take the time to do it.

Here’s some homework for those of you who want extra credit: Use the two examples above as guides and work through the steps for a hand you’ve played in your range explorer of choice (PIOSolver, Flopzilla, etc.).

As always, If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Good luck out there!

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About the Author
Dan B.

Dan B.

Online grinder aspiring to reach the highest stakes and crush the toughest games. I'm available for quick strategy questions and hourly coaching -- reach out to me at [email protected].

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