One of the first things you learn as a rookie poker player is how to call, raise, fold, and check during a hand. You’re also told what a preflop, flop, river, and turn means, but you’re still learning the game, and so it’s easy to forget the basic rules. If you’re not sure when to check during a game, don’t worry, there’s enough information below to answer your question.
Can you check preflop? You cannot check preflop because the big blind (BB) and small blind (SB) are already in place. You can only check post-flop when no other player has placed a bet. A player can only raise, fold, or call preflop. There’s one exception to this rule, and that is when you’re the big blind on the table. On Big blind you can check, raise, fold, or call preflop.
Strictly speaking, there is one more scenario where you can check preflop. It happens when you sit down on a table and decide not to wait to post a big blind when is your turn but instead post the blinds immediately. This can cost you a big blind or sometimes even big and small blind combined. Now you can check if it is folded or limped to you. However, you should avoid posting the blind and instead always wait to be your turn to post the big blind when you sit down on the table.
At first, poker rules may seem a bit complicated, but once you can learn the various terms and actions permitted during a hand, you should not have a problem mastering the game.
Preflop and Flop
In literal terms, a preflop means ”before the hand”. A flop is the second betting round (3 community cards dealt) after the first round of betting in Hold’em. Since the dealer deals a flop after the first round, the first round is called ”preflop”. There are two other betting rounds, and we know them as the turn and the river. Preflop and post-flop are also featured in different poker variants like Omaha. Stud and Draw poker do not feature preflop and post-flop because of the absence of the three community cards found in Omaha and Hold’em.
The game of poker begins when two players sitting on the dealer’s left-hand side place their bets in the pot. This bet is called a ”blind,” and the action is called a ”forced bet’‘. Posting the blinds is required before the dealer deals a hand. The first player on the left of the dealer is called the small blind (SB), while the first player sitting on the left of the small blind is called the big blind(BB). After each hand is played, the position of the dealer and the blinds rotate clockwise to ensure each player has the chance to enjoy whatever privileges that come with the positions. The position is power in poker. In the later position you are, the more money you will make. Unsurprisingly my most profitable position is button followed by the cutoff.
To start a hand, SB and BB are required to post their blind amounts before the dealer deals the cards. To keep or play their hands, players are required to match the blinds. Immediately after the BB and SB have placed their bets in front, the dealer shuffles the cards and deals two cards facing down to each player. The dealer is required to deal cards one at a time and from left to right in a clockwise direction.
The SB is dealt the first card while the dealer gets the last card. These cards are called ”hole cards”. Immediately each player receives their hole cards; the player on the left of the BB is expected to start off the betting round. In hand, every player is expected to take either of several actions. They can ”call” the bet (match the blinds), raise (place a bet that is higher than the current blinds by at least double) or fold (discard your hand, with cards faced down and pushed into a pile of other cards called muck).
As mentioned earlier, all players are expected to match the big blind or ”raise” the bet by placing a higher bet. If a player places a higher bet, it becomes the new minimum bet expected from other players, or they have to fold.
Betting goes in a clockwise direction from left to right, and all players are expected to act preflop. The last player to act preflop betting round is the big blind who can either call, raise, or fold. If another player hasn’t raised the bet during the rounds, the big blind player is allowed to ”check” the bet.
What does it mean to Check?
In a game of poker, a check is saying you pass up on the chance to make a wager. Checking can only be possible if no other player has placed a bet. When a bet is placed, players only have the option to fold, call, or raise. There’s no option to check during a bet; this is why checking is only available during a post-flop (flop, river, and turn) and not a preflop.
When you check, players behind you are required to act by calling, folding, raising, or checking as well. If one of the players behind you raises your bet, you’ll have another chance to act by calling, raising, or folding. If the other players decide to check, it becomes impossible for you to act again until the next round of bet. Players signify they are checking by saying the word ”check” out loud or by tapping the betting table.
Checking as a Strategy
Like most actions during a hand, checking can be utilized as a strategy by players. You can check to your advantage when it’s any of the following scenarios.
- Players who want to keep the size of the pot small could use checking as a strategy. This strategy makes more sense if the player has a marginal hand. Marginal hands refer to a hand that is neither too good or too bad. Its expected value is 0.
- Checking can also be used as a strategy to get more money from other players when you know you have a strong hand. A player with a strong hand can play passively while hoping that other players will catch a second-best hand or bluff. This way, the player is able to make more money from his opponents. This strategy is a ploy to lure opponents into the pot, and it is called slow playing.
- A check can also be utilized to ”drive out” other players from a pot. This strategy is called a check-raise. It is done when you check, your opponent bets, and you raise the bet. Check-raise can only happen when you are in a position to act before your opponent (out of position). Check-raise can also be a form of slow play, but they are not the same since a check-raise is mostly used to drive-out opponents.
Some players believe checking cools down pressure during a hand, and that it’s better to keep the bets coming. However, the pros of checking outweigh any perceived con, and players will always check once the preflop round is over. In fact, you’re more likely to see a check than a bet during a post-flop round.
How do I learn to play poker? You can learn poker by reading articles and blogs that are specially dedicated to teaching new players how to play the game. Also, you’ll find lots of YouTube videos with tutorials on how to play poker. Another great resource is PokerStrategy. They even give you FREE $50 just by completing a simple quiz once you read the beginner’s articles. Reading through their beginner’s material and you will know all the rules through game examples.
How do I become a better poker player? There are several ways a player can become better at poker. Practice as often as you can to get yourself acquainted with the game; you can play online poker to practice. Also, discuss your game with friends or people who are better players than you.
What if you don’t want to spend a lot of money to learn what works and what doesn’t? Then your best bet is instead to save some of that money you would have lost at the tables anyway and invest in a poker coach. Even better than a poker coach at the beginning of your poker career is spending some money into educating yourself through educational poker coaching websites.
Most often, this is done by watching a video on the poker coaching website. There experienced and proven winning poker player will analyze a specific spot and tell you the best move for that scenario. I struggled a lot at the beginning of my poker career. But after joining this website, I saved myself a lot of money by not being a losing player anymore. In one month, I even became the winning player at my limits and was quickly able to move up in stakes. It’s great for micros and small stakes.
Eventually, I felt I learned a ton, but was still missing something. That last push to go even higher in stakes. Way too late I made the jump to another great coaching website. It is more expensive, but I was able to advance my knowledge even further and with time, move to mid-stakes.
Can I Play Poker Just For Fun? Yes, poker doesn’t have to be played with money. The majority of online poker sites allow you to play without having to bet real money. There are poker games designed for mobile devices, as well. You can find them on top app stores. Just type in free online poker. Just remember, playing for play money doesn’t get even close to playing for real money, even on the lowest stakes. Playing for real money will always be harder than play money, but with proper strategy, all games are beatable.