Every no limit hold-em poker table usually has at least one bluffer. He starts outs slow but by the middle of the game the bluffer has stolen a good number of blinds and probably some sizeable pots as well. Players continually fold away their better hands because of their opponents growing stack of chips and unshakeable confidence. How does one stop this annoying tyrant?
The check-raise. This strategy is most effective in early position when only the blinds are in the pot. It is also essential that you wait for a premium hand before attempting this play, as you would not want to raise a pot against a bluffer unless you were sure that your hand was better than his or hers. When the action comes to you, call the minimum bet to stay in the game and pass the action down the line. Limping in to the round like this shows weakness, which is exactly what you want your overly aggressive bluffer to think.
If some people call or raise a little before the action gets to the bluffer, it makes little difference. However, be wary of large raises from multiple opponents, as a hand that can beat the bluffer is not necessarily a hand that can beat five good hands. If no one raises than the bluffer is likely to do what he or she has done throughout the game and bet into the pot, showing strength. They are bluffing.
An optimal situation would be one in which some fold and some call, but no one raises. When the action gets back to you, again provided that no massive raises have been made, take the initiative and make a hefty raise. Hopefully this forces most of your opponents out, including the bluffer, as he or she has realized that they have been caught trying to steal the blinds with a bad hand. This would be a successful check-raise.
It is important to have a good hand because often times the bluffer will chase his hand down to the river, continually feigning strength even though he has been caught. This is an attempt to make you think twice about your strategy and make you fold your trap bet to him. Stay the course! Watch out for flush draws and backdoor straights and take that bluffer for everything he has. Also, the other players in the game may have something to say about the hand and it would be unwise to forget about them.
The check-raise can also be a valuable strategy late in a hand. A very good hand, such as pocket aces, would probably feel pretty confidant about winning. He or she would not want to chase players out of the pot because any money they put into the pot would likely go to the aces. Checking and calling would be the right move in this situation. After the turn or the river, providing that the aces have tripled or are at least still good, is the time to strike. When you are sure your opponents are done betting against each other, make a big bet. At this point many will be pot invested and will have to call your bet, adding to your cash in. This is also a successful check-raise.
The check-raise can be a valuable tool in a poker player’s arsenal. It can be used to oust an obnoxious bluffer or to maximize the return from a good hand. This and other strategies are necessary for a player to consistently win at poker tables.