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Ben Folds Blind

Thinking about poker, my mind flashed back to the last time I played, a 1/2 NLHE cash game at the Borgata where I made 825$ over about 9 hours. I remembered one player specifically, a crazy Asian player who was pushing all-in like mad. But what really stuck in my head was the blind check.

What the hell is up with checking in the blind? If anyone can offer a good reason for this play, I'm all ears. As nearest as I can tell, there is only one advantage: your in-position opponent gets no information from your action after the flop. Unfortunately, this "advantage" is negated by numerous other factors.

I'm all for odd plays, but only when they make sense. Checking blind never makes sense. That's right. NEVER. Allow me to elaborate.

Let's say you hit your hand. Well, dousche, you auto-checked, so while your opponent does not know that you hit your hand, it does not necessarily mean that he will do the betting for you. If your opponent checks too, then what? First off, you might be giving him a free card to hit a draw (or even a dreaded 2-outter or whatnot). Second, if he checks and you bet out on the next card, it is not as though your clever blind check convinced your opponent that you actually missed the flop, at which point he'll suddenly call your turn bet. Quite the opposite. Betting on the turn after a blind flop check is the same freaking thing as betting on the flop EXCEPT you lose one of your bullets.

Check this...

You have AQo in the BB at a live 1/2 NLHE table. Aggro donk in LP raises to $15 and you call because he is an aggro donk and you'll be heads up. Using your clever, fancy play, you check in the dark. You figure that if you hit, you can check-raise him, and if you miss, then you are done with the hand anyway. Either way, you are negating the power of the aggro donk's position by refusing to give him post-flop info.

The flop comes down AcQc3d. You've hit top two pair, but there are a couple of draws out there. But since you got fancy, the action checks to the aggro donk...and he checks as well.

The turn is a Tc. Now what, asshole? Exactly.

If you hadn't blind-checked, you could've bet the flop. If he had nothing, he'd probably fold and you'd win the pot. Congratulations! It might not be a huge pot, but it's yours.

If he has the flush draw, he may just call on the flop. So, you are still screwed when the turn comes out...but you have more information that before. His flat call on the flop reads like a flush draw and you can act accordingly, checking the turn and evaluating his hand based on how he bets.

If he has the straight draw (KJ) or even an underpair (JJ, TT), he will likely fold to your flop bet, provided you were not stupid enough to check blind. So, you win the hand outright, once again. Kudos.

Now, for the alternative. If he has no cards and you checked blind, then he will check the flop as well, since it is scary with an Ace and from the preflop call, it is likely you are playing an Ace. When the turn comes, if you are bold enough to bet the made-flush board, the aggro donk will likely fold...netting you the same amount of money as if you had just bet out in the first place. THERE IS NO ADVANTAGE TO THIS STRATEGY WHEN YOUR OPPONENT HAS MISSED COMPLETELY, UNLESS HE ALWAYS BETS WHEN ITS CHECKED TO HIM, EVEN WHEN ITS CHECKED IN THE DARK.

he has the flush draw and you check in the dark on the flop, he will probably check as well or may even bet preflop. Whatever the case, when the turn comes around and he hits, he will win the hand. And since you didn't see him flat-call on the flop, you might think that this aggro donk is playing a strong club and still hasn't hit his flush. SO, BY CHECKING BLIND, YOU ARE ACTING WITH LESS INFORMATION WHEN SCARE CARDS HIT, AND YOU STAND TO LOSE MORE MONEY.

he has the underpairs or the straight draw, then the free card you gave him may have given him an unlikely monster hand, like an inside straight draw with KJ or a set with an underpair like TT. Those hands would've surely folded to a bet on the flop, but once the turn comes, it is more likely that your opponent will hold onto these hands, even in the face of the three flush cards, especially if he has the Kc, for instance. BY CHECKING BLIND, YOU LOSE AN ASS-LOAD MORE MONEY BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO INFO AND HAVE ALLOWED UNEXPECTED HANDS TO HIT, WHICH MAY BLINDSIDE YOU.

In my mind, checking in the blind is essentially giving up all control over a hand. There is no value in avoiding giving information. In fact, I advocate giving information at the poker table, provided that you are aware of and in control of the information provided. I don't give a fuck if my opponent knows that I bet out strong on a coordinated flop, because I WANT HIM TO KNOW. If he knows and I know that he knows, I can control what he is thinking and what he will do.

Poker is largely about controlling the flow of information, but damning the flow is not the answer. You only have so many possible plays in a given hand. Bet, raise, check, fold, with varying amounts. You get four shots to do it, preflop, flop, turn and river, with multiple shots on each street depending on the action (raises, re-raises). By checking blind, you are taking away one of your options. You are lessening your arsenal. You are handicapping yourself.

If you don't know how to play poker, then blind check away. It couldn't be worse that what you'd do if you actually retained some modicum of control over the results. But if you know what you are doing, quit the bullshit. Blind checks offer no value.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 4:22 PM,


At 1:51 PM, Blogger Mr Glich said...

I will confess to checking blind -- at least in the LO8 games I regularly play in. This is typically when I am first to act in a multiway pot after calling a single raise pre-flop from the blinds.

To the extent I would ever do it in HE (limit or no limit), I would rarely do it with an AQ type hand (although possible AA/KK if heads up against a LAG that will nearly always fire again). The call/check-in-dark is far more likely with hands like 97s or a small pair where you are looking to get lucky or outplay a bad player later.

Generally, I really need to have a good feeling about how the other players play so that their action after the check provides information.

At 2:52 PM, Blogger RaisingCayne said...

I respectfully disagree that there's ZERO value in the play. While it's indeed true that the play is over used, you even admit that there's an exception to your rule here. "UNLESS HE ALWAYS BETS WHEN ITS CHECKED TO HIM, EVEN WHEN ITS CHECKED IN THE DARK." ... I can't imagine you really believe this circumstance is NEVER the case, as your blog post assumes. In this specific scenario, which IS indeed quite prevalent at many a table, I've found the blind check with the intent to check/raise is a profitable move, imo.

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

If you don't check in the dark, how can you get a cool poker nickname like Darko?


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