To check-raise or to check-call? That is the question.
I don’t watch many training videos but I stumbled across one last night and saw this interesting hand which I am certain I would have played differently.
As is the norm in these videos, the narrator talked us through his play and described what he was thinking on each street. Playing in a $3/6 cash games he min raised to $12 from the cut-off before calling a 3-bet of $45. He said this player 3-bets him a tonne but doesn’t like folding to 4 bets either – so it was either a call or fold decision and he elected to call.
The flop is an absolute beauty, even though he doesn’t hit. And he checks, just as I would.
That’s eight cards for a straight (sixes and jacks) and nine clubs for a flush. I’m counting the 6c and Jc twice so taking those away you’ve got 15 outs twice.
Now this is where I would do things differently. I’m absolutely not claiming that I’m right and he’s wrong here. Absolutely not – I’m probably the one in the wrong here and I’m open to criticism/suggestion – but I’m just saying when I see this kind of flop I always think the same thing.
My (rather limited) thought process has always tended to be: “My word look at that draw! Get it all in and have two shots at hitting the turn or river.”
With 15 outs and two cards to come you are 54.1% to make your hand. So go ahead and shove it all in safe in the knowledge that even if you are called there’s a better than average chance you’re going to make your hand. That’s not to say you will always win – you might make a flush and he could have Ac-Kc – but that’s a small enough chance not to worry about.
First to act though – I would never bet first because I wouldn’t want to lose my opponent. If you bet and they fold well that’s not a disaster, but it’s a pity. When they show aggression before the flop they’ll probably have another crack on the flop so just check to the raiser, let him bet again and then pounce. I’ve virtually always made this move in cash games. In tournaments it’s not so great to put yourself at risk on a draw but in cash games it’s a play I love. I don’t love it quite as much when the turn and river are the 2h and 3h or other variety of brick and that happens without fail of course. But our man in the video does something different.
He just calls.
He says by check calling the flop we look weaker (encouraging more bets which is good when you hit) and that with a hand this strong there are so many turns we can hit and so many turns we can bluff. So he just calls.
I suppose the reason I don’t like check-calling is because you can reach the turn having invested lots of money in the pot only to blown away by a huge bet. Say you face an all on the turn and it’s an over-bet you won’t be getting the 15/44 odds that you need. And then you’ll wish that you’d been the aggressive one. This is what happened.
A King appeared on the turn and now he decided to check raise all in. And then the bad news. Two bricks in a row – isn’t this always the way?
Like I said before, I’m not saying I’m right and he’s wrong. In fact after the event he’s absolutely fine with the way he played his hand saying “it’s a shame we’ve run into the very top of his range.”
My way – to smash all in on the flop – would have certainly taken the pot down and saved his stack because his opponent couldn’t very well call off his chips with A-Ko holding no pair. But that’s easy to say after the event. Granted you will win the pot right there and then against A-Ko. But it’s a smallish pot and you might win a lot more if you catch a club and he had AA for example. And this gets us to the heart of the matter.
The real question to ask when debating whether check-shoving this flop is better than check-calling in the long run is: “Which play wins the most in the long run against his entire range of hands?”
And all I can say is it’s a very tricky puzzle to solve. You’d have to consider every hand in his range could have got him this far and then compare check-calling against check-raising for every one of those alternatives. When you’d finished doing that you could work out an average profit or loss. Help!
Some other points I could make about this hand.
One argument in favour of not check-shoving 100% of the time is that it definitely makes sense not to always do the same thing. This is just for the sake of balance. An astute player will pick up if you always shove your big draws but never your made hand. You don’t want to become easy to read.
But I can’t help feeling that with a draw this big, even if you are advertising “look at my draw that I’ve just over bet” you don’t care if you are called because you will still be a favourite against any hand bar a flopped set. (I suppose I just really love check-shoving drawy flops :) )
And did you see all those stats in the pictures? He keeps 30 stats on every player on display. I was really hoping he would talk us through some of these because I’d like to know how the good cash players get an edge with their tracking devices, but he barely uttered a word on the subject. Pity.
Another thing – and you might well think I’m a pussy here – I couldn’t help but think that it was a brave call with AK. He snap called and although I know it looks easy when you can see the cards how often would AK actually win this confrontation? When I call this turn with AK I guarantee they are holding either 77, 55 or 1010!