MCU poker tip: Take care letting opponents check

In some ways, this may seem contrary to what I teach. So, before I explain this tip, let’s review the more important concept. Here it is: Is perfectly okay to check and call. Checking is natural when your hand isn’t strong enough to bet for value. And subsequently calling is natural when your hand is too strong to fold. And those conditions happen a lot. Therefore, you should shun advice that tells you that checking and then calling is weak.

Fine. But today’s tip deals with checking from a different perspective. There are times when checking is just too dangerous and you should consider making a bet even without a significant hand-winning advantage.

Free cards

While it’s often necessary to give an opponent a "free" card, you shouldn’t be happy about it. When an opponent has a weak, but easily improved, hand in any form of Stud, Omaha, or Hold ’em, your bet might snare the pot immediately.

A check, gives an opponent the opportunity to see another card painlessly. A check lets opponents stumble into free potentially winning hands they might have paid for. By betting, they’re either paying a price when you’re the favorite or they’re surrendering the pot by folding. Either is better for you than giving the gift of a free card.


Tie this all together and you see that checking and calling is a routine tactic when you don’t have a clear advantage against your opponent in terms of winning the pot. However, if your opponent is speculating (trying to make a straight or flush), that’s a time to bet so that the opponent doesn’t receive the next card for free. Don’t get frustrated when opponents draw out on you, but charge them for the opportunity.

Yes, it’s often hard to tell when an opponent is likely to be speculating, but if there’s a reasonable chance that’s the case, it’s often better to bet than check. — MC

Published by

Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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