Overall, low-stakes games are far more passive than their higher stake alternatives. And yet, it is mostly in low-stakes that you will be confronted with an opponent type who believes “checking is weak,” and betting is what drives profit.
Part of why this mindset exists is the nature of early poker training material. When the poker boom was chugging along 15 years ago, the most common source of education was probably Doyle Brunson’s book Super System. At that point, the book was already ancient, having been written in 1979.
But that didn’t stop hungry beginners from diving in and learning how to play.
For anyone who’s read Super System, you will likely recall the big, dazzling takeaway was that aggression is key.
Fast-forward to 2020 where many poker players’ education has never evolved further than that. Lucky you!
For anyone with ample experience at live, low-stakes tables, you’ve surely heard some version of the following: “I can’t check there and show weakness”.
Let’s be clear: timely aggression is a vital component of a winning poker strategy. What we are hammering home here is that there is a vocal minority of bad poker players who consider checking a misstep at any time they were the previous aggressor in the hand.
This mistake is less about players who habitually bluff, and more about players who always bet when their hand has any value whatsoever. These eager aggressors will often use bet sizes that mirror the strength of their hand; for example, large bets with strong hands, and small bets for marginal hands. This tends to result in bizarre betting lines by the river, where it’s anyone’s guess whether the player is betting their middling hand for value, or as a bluff.
- The answer is neither, because they are not even thinking on that high of a level. Instead, they are just resorting to some misguided instinct that “betting is better than checking”
Checking is an essential ingredient of a sound, balanced strategy. Having an appropriate understanding of when to bet, and when not to, is of the utmost importance.
Be on the lookout for players in your game who display this aversion to checking. Chances are their bets will be way less weighted towards strong hands.
As far as the specifics of what exact hand ranges to be betting and checking, you will learn more in “Preflop Mechanics”. For now, understand there are several valid reasons for betting (value betting, protection betting, bluffing), but “checking is bad” is not one of them. Bet with purpose.