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How and When to Check/Raise the Flop Light
How and When to check/raise the flop light
The 3-bet light article noted four main factors to consider:
1. Your opponent's opening range.
2. How loose/aggressive your opponent is preflop and postflop.
3. The properties of the specific hand you've been dealt.
4. Your perceived 3-betting range and your opponent’s willingness to adapt. (Gameflow)
Seeing the parallels between fundamentally similar poker decisions that take place in different contexts can help dramatically in becoming an advanced player. One “a-ha!” moment students have told me about is when I described to them how alike the thought processes of whether to 3-bet light preflop and check/raise light on the flop are. The wider your opponent opens preflop, the lower percentage of hands he can continue with for value on the flop, no matter what the texture is. If your opponent calls check/raises loosely and loves to play back at you, that decreases the expectation of check/raising as a bluff, just like loose play decreases your expectation of 3-betting light preflop. If you check/raise with a hand that has some additional potential for equity with it, or provides a blocker to a possible hand your opponent might be able to continue with, that increases the expectation of the play. Fourthly, if you've been check-raising a bunch of flops, you better be prepared for your opponent to adjust his ranges and/or play back at you when you contest another dry board. In these respects, deciding whether to check/raise light is extremely similar to deciding whether to 3-bet light.
Getting to the flop adds another layer of complexity, though, and there are two more factors to heavily consider:
1. Your opponent's continuation betting range.
2. The flop texture.
The more often your opponent c-bets, the better check-raising light will be. Additionally, some opponents like to check behind with middle, bottom pair, or ace high – this means that their c-betting range has an even higher percentage of complete air hands, which adds to the attractiveness of a small check/raise. Furthermore, pay special attention to opponents who like to make different c-bet sizings on different board types – bigger bets on drawy boards when they have a made hand, for example – as that can be another big help in deciding whether or not a c-betting range is weak enough to check/raise light.
The flop texture is another important consideration. On a JT9 board with a flush draw, not only do most opponents tend to c-bet less frequently with weak holdings, they will also have a piece of the flop more often than if it were a much dryer flop. Thus, check/raising a hand with no additional equity is going to be suicide against most opponents. The flop texture also determines what you can represent from out of position. In more advanced games around 12-18bb deep, check/raising dry jack-high and ten-high boards can be extremely profitable, because thinking opponents generally c-bet these flops with a wide range, and then when you check/raise, it's very easy for you to represent connected Jx/Tx type hands, which are prime flatting hands that short.
In terms of sizing, against most opponents on most board textures, your check/raise size does not need to be particularly large. Check/raising light takes advantage of the fact that your opponent has a lot of garbage in his c-betting range, and a simple raise from t80 to t200, for example, generally does the trick just fine. In the “extensions” section there is an article that talks about underbetting theory – when you read that, think back on how it might apply to check-raising sizes on dry boards.
Check/raising light gets a lot of beginning and intermediate players out of their comfort zone when trying to do it, because it produces a lot of tricky, novel situations on future streets once called, and it can feel unnecessarily risky. However, focus on expectation, not your preconception of risk: It is actually far more risky to try to make as much money as you can while constantly passing up on +EV situations, and you can very easily find yourself experiencing significantly more variance in your profit if you are consistently unwilling to bluff. Sure, there are some complicated questions that come afterward: What do I do when I bluff and then hit middle pair on the turn? What do I do when I still have air and am not sure whether or not I need to keep bluffing? Putting unnecessary chips into the pot out of position with no hand does feel uncomfortable to a lot of developing players. However, when the conditions are right, check/raising the flop light is essential to maximizing your winnings, and as you see more and more of those situations, you will get less and less troubled by them.