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In the intriguing world of Texas Hold’em poker, the decision to check strong hands twice melds art with logic. Though rarely practiced, even by those recognized as poker elites, it can sometimes be the optimal move. Here’s a delve into three situations where this strategy might just make the most sense.
1. Against Hyper-Aggressive Opponents
We’ve all encountered that audacious player who’s likely to bet with practically nothing. In such situations, it’s a wise move to check with them. Even if you fear that they might get a free card that could potentially beat your hand, remember that you’re eventually going to bet anyway. The upside? If you happen to hold a monster hand, you can save some money since you won’t have to call a raise. There might be instances where, after your check, the aggressive player also checks. Surprising as it might seem, the right play here is to check again. There are some players who simply can’t resist the allure of a second betting opportunity.
2. An Unexpectedly Strong Flop with a Random Hand
Here’s an illustrative example from a 20–40 game I observed years ago. A player in a late position didn’t raise pre-flop. After the button folded and the small blind called, the big blind said, “Deal.” The flop came at K62. Both blinds were checked, and the other players folded. The big blind, in my estimation, was likely the winner. I remember this hand vividly because he showed his cards and lamented about not getting any action. He had the top two pairs. What action was he expecting, anyway? He had the board locked up with the top two pairs, and the pre-flop action suggested that his opponents at best had marginal holdings. In this scenario, checking twice is clearly a wise move. Despite the potential loss of the pot and an additional bet, it’s the correct strategy in a small pot where others likely have nothing.
3. Tough Opponents, but Slim Chances for Them to Outdraw You
This typically arises when the board pairs or when you hit the top two pairs on the flop. Normally, if you have a top pair or an overpair, an opponent with a smaller pair has five cards that could help them outdraw you on the turn. But with a paired board, they only have 2-3 outs to improve. Here’s a scenario from a recent 30-60 game. After playing for several hours, I noticed one particular player who was tricky post-flop. Sometimes he’d slowly play strong hands to induce bets from opponents on later streets. During one hand, three players limped in, and Mr. Tricky raised. Holding K-Q in the big blind, I called. All limpers are also called. The flop had a King and a small pair. I anticipated that everyone would check to the raiser, so I checked, planning to check-raise. Sadly, no one bet.
Some Texas Hold’em players wouldn’t bet weak hands into four opponents. But if nobody holds a King or trips, a bet can often win the pot right there. The fact that Mr. Tricky didn’t bet is concerning. However, if I indeed have the best hand given the paired board, it’s tough for opponents to outdraw me. Also, if a blank comes on the turn and Mr. Tricky is aggressive, he might be tempted to bet. If he outplays me, his check on the flop hints at that possibility, ensuring I don’t have to face a turn raise. But if I have him beaten, he’s likely to put money into the pot, instead of folding to my bet.
Concluding, these scenarios hopefully offer clarity on the strategic depth of checking twice in poker. To some, it may seem too passive or tight, but in these cases, it’s undoubtedly the best play.