after check-raise

When Your Check-Raise Gets Called | Upswing Poker Level-Up #10



This article is based on an episode of the Level-Up Podcast, hosted by poker pro and coach Gary “GazzyB” Blackwood and Upswing VP Mike Brady. You can watch or listen to the entire episode via the links above or read on if you prefer a written version.

Mike: Hello poker players, let’s help you get better at unlimited Texas Hold them.

I’m Mike Brady and I’m joined by my favorite poker player from Inverness, Scotland, Gary Blackwood.

Gary: What’s up guys and girls? Thank you for joining us. Today we’re going to be talking about what to do on the turn after you’ve check-raised from the big blind.

Mike: Suppose you defend your big blind versus the button and the flop comes J-6-4 with two spades and one diamond. You check, your opponent c-bets, you check-raise, and your opponent calls. Again, that’s J-6-4 with two spades and one diamond.

Commit that to memory because that’s the situation we’ll be honing in on in this episode. We’re going to talk about how to approach the different turn cards that can come so you can better understand when to keep up the aggression with a bet and when to slow down with a check.

By the way, this episode is a follow-up to our very first episode, which was all about check-raising on the flop. If you haven’t heard that one, you may want to go back and listen to it first.

I’m going to ask Gary about four different types of turns:

  1. Straight-completing low cards
  2. Flush-completing spades
  3. Overcard bricks
  4. Board pairing cards.

We’ll discuss them in terms of how good those particular types of turn cards are for our range.

Before we get started, let’s refresh ourselves with what our check-raising range looks like on a board like this.

Gary: Absolutely. Our value is clear, we’ve got 44, 66, J6, J4, 64 and even some AJ and KJ. In terms of our bluffs, we have a ton of open-ended straight draws, and some ace, king, and queen high flush draws. We also have a handful of funky bluffs in there, like bottom pair with a really weak kicker, and also some hands with both backdoor straight and flush draws. Hands like K5 and Q8 with a backdoor flush draw, those hands like to check-raise.

Before we get into the different types of turn cards, a really golden piece of advice that you should etch into your brain here is the following – when the turn card is good for your range, you get to bet really wide on the turn, even with your minimal equity hands. When the turn is bad for your range, you’ve got to be much more selective and equity-heavy with your choices of combos.

1. Straight Completing Low Cards

Mike: Now that our listeners are set up for success with a solid check-raising strategy on the flop, let’s go over those four groups of turn cards, starting with the ones that are the best for us. The low and middling cards that complete straight draws. So on J-6-4, we’re talking about 2, 3, 5, 7, maybe an 8.

When you check-raise on the flop and one of those turns comes, what are you going to be doing?

Gary: These are the best turns in the deck for us. Not only do we have all of our sets and two pair from the flop, but we have got lots of turned straights and pair plus straight draws to go with that value. Turned nut flushes as well.  For that reason, we play these turns aggressively and press our nut advantage. On the turn, for example, the solver bets over 70% of the time, and it is using an overbet size.

So we want to play these turns aggressively. The size we want to use is an overbet. When we’re in the BB vs. the button, we want to check-raise with a smaller size on the flop, and build the pot with a bigger size on the turn. If we’re BB vs. MP, on the other hand, we raise big on the flop and often use a 75% size on the turn.

Mike: Bet often and big on that turn. You just have to rifle some money into that pot with your very powerful range.

2. Flush Completing Spades

Mike: Let’s move on to the next category of turns – the spade turns. AKA the turns that complete a flush draw. So now all of our high flush draws that we check-raised on the flop, they’re now flushes. Some of our value hands, like two pair and sets, shrivel up a little bit now that the flush has completed.

So Gary, how are you approaching these turns?

Gary: So we’re using an overbet size on a lot of different turns, but the flush completing turns we actually use a smaller bet size of 33%. We get to bet quite wide on the flush completing turns for this small size. Overall the spade turns aren’t exactly amazing for our range, but they are much better than something like an offsuit king.

Given we are betting the smaller size, we still get to bet hands like two pair here, and our bluffs are centered around equity. So if we check-raise on the flop, we don’t bet that on the turn, but we’ve got some QT with one spade or A5 with the ace of spades type hands to choose from.

Mike: That makes sense, because our opponent’s range is quite condensed at that point, and we’re also giving them quite a good price by betting small. So we want our range overall to be quite value heavy.

And when we’re bluffing we want it to be equity-driven. You’re going to mainly be using those high spade hands on the turn, like the A5 with the ace of spades that you check-raised on the flop with a bunch of backdoors. Now you picked up that nut flush draw, of course you’re going to barrel it.

3. Overcard Bricks

Mike: Let’s move on to the next type of turn, the overcard bricks. These are the third-best type of turn for our range, AKA the second-worst type of turn. 

Gary, can you talk about how you would play a turn like an A, K, Q, how are you approaching it?

Gary: These turn cards are really not great for us, and our betting frequency goes way down as a result. We’re still using the overbet size, but it’s for a different reason. We’re polarized here to really strong draw and really nutted hands.

The button gets to float our check-raise on the flop here with hands like and , so given the fact that we don’t check-raise many two overcard type hands AND the button gets to float these hands, the overcard turns are really nasty for us.

How does that affect our range? Say the rolls off, we now never bet a marginal bluff like just a gutshot, or a no equity bluff like . Instead all of our bluffs have better equity,, , etc.

Let’s talk a little bit about the . That combo can raise the flop. Not always, but certainly not never. It’s got a gutshot, the 8 is live sometimes versus a hand like A6.

On the turn, our global frequency shrivels on that turn card, and therefore doesn’t want to bet. But if the turn is a 2, or an 8 and we’ve made second pair, still gets to bet, because on that turn our global frequency is much higher.

So you want to think about how often your range wants to bet, and construct your range around that number. If it’s a really low frequency, you want to choose higher-equity bluffs. Your nut flush draws, second-nut flush draws, and open-ended straight draws.

On the flip side, if your global frequency is high, you get to be a little more liberal with your betting range.

4. Board Pairing Turns

Mike: Let’s move on to the board-pairing turns. These are the worst turns for us, and Gary can explain why.

Gary: These are just disastrous turns for us. You might think to yourself “well we raise some type hands on the flop, shouldn’t a four be quite good for us?”, and you’d be forgiven for thinking so, but remember, we raise very few 4x hands on the flop, and our opponent never folds a four when we raise, so we only have some 4x hands, and they have ALL the 4x hands, the 6x hands, the Jx hands.

So the board pairing cards are really bad for us, and we have to be very mindful of that. Same as the overcard bricks, it’s a bad turn, we’ve got to be really equity driven when it comes to our bluffs.

Our global frequency is really low on board-pairing turns, and we’ve got to be very selective with our bluffing combos. And we have to do a lot of trapping with our nutted hands. 

The global frequency will dictate how aggressive we get to be, and how passive we have to be. So on a 4, 6, or J turn, our global frequency is really low, because it’s such a bad turn for our range. Therefore we have to be very selective with the combos we want to bluff, and we have to start to trap our opponent (with some of our strong value hands).

Mike: One thing to add – these board-pairing turns, they kind of act as blockers to our value range. You talk about the hands we check-raise on the J-6-4 flop; we check-raise J6, J4, 64, and sets. When the turn pairs the board, there are now fewer combos of all of those hands. So our potential value range also shrinks.

In The Big Blind vs Other Positions

Mike: We’ve been hyper-focused on a button vs big blind battle so far, so I think it’d be helpful to touch on how things change if we’re up against a player seated in, say, middle position or under the gun. How do things change versus those positions? Being that we’re up against a tighter preflop range in those positions, and therefore a tighter range on the turn.

Gary: Things actually don’t change that much, the same concepts apply. If the turn is really good for your range, you bet extremely wide, and if the turn is really bad for your range, you’ve got to be very selective with your betting range.

One of the main differences is that we simply have fewer airball hands that check-raised the flop. Versus the button, we get to check-raise really liberally with hands like , . Doing so will force them to fold those totally missed hands like A8 offsuit etc.

On the other hand, MP’s opening range is tighter and will have less air, so we don’t get to raise those airball hands as often, so the overcard turns and the board pairing turns now become REALLY bad for us, so our checking frequencies go up even further.

Paired Boards

Mike: So, we’ve covered that dynamic high-low-low flop extensively at this point, so let’s briefly talk about a couple of other board types before we wrap this one up.

Let’s talk about the board type on which we should have the highest check-raise frequency: paired boards. Suppose you check-raise on T-T-2, big blind vs button. Gary, can you give our listeners some advice on how to approach playing turns in this situation?

Gary: Yeah a really fun board to check-raise on. The solver check raises 27% of the time here, and humans will really struggle to get anywhere near that frequency, probably lucky to get half that on average.

Again, our turn betting strategy is dependent on our flop check-raise strategy. So let’s think about the types of hands that want to check-raise on TT2r. We have so much J8 suited,Q8 suited type hands, those lovely three-card straight and flush combos. We also check-raise really wide with hands like 43s and 53s with a backdoor flush draw.

These can turn a lot of equity, but have really great unblockers to the button’s folding range, so if you have and you check-raise, you unblock hands like 87s, 65s, king seven suited type hands that will fold vs your check-raise. Fun fact, all those hands are supposed to call your check-raise, but there’s no way a human is betting 86 suited on TT2, and then calling a check-raise, so your check-raise bluffs will be even more profitable on the flop.

As ever on the turn, we build our range around equity. So if we turn equity, we keep barreling. If we raise on the flop, and the turn is the we keep betting. If the turn is the , we give up with this combo, but we bet our 43 suited, our turned heart draws, etc. Same as ever though, these overcard turns really aren’t great for us, and we’ve got to play them more passively overall.

Last thing on that type of board, the size that we choose is really different when betting the turn. So far we’ve done so much overbetting on the turn after check-raising, but here we are actually using either 33% or 75%, and the reason for this is that both ranges are really wide, the button has tons of trips in their range, and we don’t want to be shoveling money into the pot into a range that contains lots of trips.

Disconnected Boards

Mike: I’ve got one more board type: the super disconnected ones like K-8-2 rainbow. We check-raise a lot of backdoor draws like 9-8 on this board, as well as a relatively large amount of thin value hands like KJ. Given that information, how do you approach turns after check-raising a board like K-8-2?

Gary: So a pretty cool board for us to finish with here, and a fun fact about this board, there are two out of a possible 49 turns that give us more equity than our opponent, just two out of 49! If we think about why that is, it’s because we rarely improve on a K82r, you know, no straights get there, no flushes; it’s a board with no draws, and so we can’t have more straights or more flushes than our opponent.

So if we know that there are no amazing turns for our range, and we apply the logic of “we bet really wide on turns that are good for us”, we can work out that there are no good turns for us, and no turns that we get to just barrel relentlessly.

Same as what we’ve seen so far, when the turn is not great for your range, you’ve got to be really selective with your bluff combos and barrel with equity. So if we check-raise with on K82, we get to bet on all of the 7 turns. We wouldn’t get to bet all of the 3 turns, for example, only the when we turn a flush draw. 

The most important factor in constructing your range on the turn is how good or bad the turn is for your range. If it’s good or reasonably good, you can be more liberal with your combo choices, and choose some gutshot-type hands.

If the turn is really bad for your range, those complete (Nik) airballs go into your check-folding range, and you continue with your higher-equity bluffs. Remember, it’s completely okay to check-raise the flop with 97 on K82, and then just check fold on an offsuit 3 turn!

Final Thoughts on Playing Turns After Check-Raising

Mike: This wraps up Level-Up Season 2 Episode 2. We’ve really just scratched the surface of this topic. We’ve covered three boards, a handful of different types of turns. If you want to learn about this topic more in-depth, Sign up for the Upswing Lab to get instant access to Gary’s module on this very topic.

(Use coupon code LEVELUP when you sign up to save $50.)

The module is called “So You Check-Raised The Flop, Now What?” and I’m going to give Gary a few seconds to tell you all about it.

Gary: One of the really cool things about this module is we actually took a really deep dive into c-betting frequencies and strategies. So not only do you get the benefit of check-raising strategies, there’s a lot of c-bet stuff in there as well. We really broke down the different c-bets you want to use, and sizes you want to use on different board textures.

Then the module goes into a deep dive into all of the different types of turns, in a variety of scenarios. The different sizes that you want to choose, and why. What turns are good and bad for your range, focusing on your equity. I’m really happy with it, you guys should check it out.

Mike: And with those videos you get a bunch of downloadable spreadsheets to study mass data analysis. It notes optimal trends on different types of boards. So you can kind of study on your own, in addition to watching those videos from Gary. It’s really great stuff, whether you study with a solver yourself or not. So I highly recommend checking it out.

There’s loads of other valuable lessons and resources in the lab as well. You also get access to our members-only community, where you can ask questions, get answers, and improve your skills through the power of friendship.

As a listener of this podcast, you can get $50 off when you sign up for the lab with the coupon code LEVELUP. Click here or on the banner below to learn more.

Thanks for listening to Level-Up, we’ll see you next week.

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