The extreme opposite of c-betting at a high frequency is checking all of your range – or as it’s more commonly known – range checking. This rather extreme and slightly depressing strategy is fortunately only necessary in the very worst situations for the pre-flop raiser: the flops on which his range is getting smashed by that of the caller.
As we previously noted, betting frequency is determined mostly by range advantage. Today we move away from playing against the feeble big blind. As you’ll remember, his range can never have an advantage vs. a pre-flop raiser. He hoped only to approach equality. People who cold-call, however – meaning call when not in the big blind – have much stronger ranges and these players can really harm us if we start betting too much of our range.
Disadvantaged Pre-Flop Raisers
What if we open in the HJ and a tight sensible player calls in the CO and it go heads-up to the flop? Does Villain have an incentive to flat a wide range here? Not at all. Villain’s range should be very condensed and full of hands like medium pocket pairs and good suited broadways.
Our range, on the other hand, is full of high cards, off-suit and suited, and also contains some suited connectors and suited aces. We have far more total combinations of hands in our range; less pair concentration; and a lot more air on low flops. While high flops will be quite equal in this match up, the low boards will give Villain a significant equity advantage range vs. range.
When the flop comes 9♦7♦3♦, then, Villain has a higher concentration of sets, pairs and, flushes; while we have a higher concentration of rubbish overcards. We might be a pre-flop raiser but here it is us, not the caller, who is suffering from the equity disadvantage. The best reaction here is to start off with a check out of position with all of our range. Sound weird? Fear not, read on.
Why do we Range Check?
Range checking is a concept we all apply every day. Even complete beginners understand how to correctly check their whole range, just not as the pre-flop raiser. The normal proponent of the range-check is the big blind. We are all told:
‘Check to the raiser.’
But rarely are we told why. Sometimes the word ‘initiative’ gets flung around like some magical spell.
‘You must keep the initiative’.
Why do I have to keep the initiative? What is so special about having the betting lead?
The only reason that the big blind surrenders initiative to the in-position raiser by checking his whole range is that his range is doing terribly on most flops. It is range disadvantage that cripples your betting frequency; not the arbitrary facts about who last made a bet or raise!
We are used to range-checking as the big blind. It is now time to apply the same logic to the out of position spot where we’re the raiser.
We should check our whole range to Villain on the 9♦7♦3♦ flop because we are out of position and our range is an underdog, much like the big blind’s range normally is. Who raised last is not important – it is besides the point.
‘But Don’t We Lose Value?’
This is the most frequently asked question when I cover this topic with a student in private coaching. The answer is no, at least; not in theory. The very reason we had to check a lot is also the same reason that we don’t lose value by checking when we have a good hand.
The stronger your range, the more you bet.
So when we have flopped a flush on 9♦7♦3♦ with the A♦6♦, and check, Villain’s range advantage incentivises him to bet frequently to deny our range its equity. Since we get here with huge amounts of overcards and not many flushes, he should be betting A♥9♥ and sets, almost always. He needs the protection. If Villain does check behind, it is unlikely he has a hand strong enough to call three times anyway.
We don’t lose much value by checking and we’re free to start raising our monsters when Villain does bet. How does that work?
In the same way that we bet polarised in the not so bad situations (see Part 2), we can check/raise polarised now. We already know how to do this. In this spot where we have range-checked, it means checking everything in your range and then raising with a hyper-polarised range of nutted hands and bluffs. On a wet board like this, our value raises will be flushes and our bluffs will very often, but not always, be hands with one big diamond.
The hands in between will be check/called, and our complete trash will be check/folded.
Do not range check in position. You always need a betting range when you have position because it is untenable to let the pot stagnate when you have the nuts. If you are in position with a range disadvantage then you should just bet very selectively (hyper-polarised), using very good hands and some bluffs.
The exception to this is when the effective stack is small in relation to the pot, in which case, you can check back a street with your whole range, if the flop is dry enough on which to safely slowplay the nuts.
- When we face a cold-call and the board is low and/or wet, we have a disadvantage and should start by checking our range out of position just like the big blind after flatting a raise.
- Range checking limits the size of the pot and minimises the EV lost by having a range disadvantage.
- You can still build big pots with a hyper-polarised range by check/raising sometimes.
- Do not range-check in position.