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Check Poker Action

Checking Down - Check or Bet

by Jesse Knight
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Check - To pass on betting when it is your turn to act.


“Check” is one of the options available to you when it is your turn to act. It is the option to pass the betting to the next active player without making a wager. You will have the option to check as long as you are not facing a bet from an opponent and are not required to make a forced bet. If a player wishes to check when it is their turn to act, they my say “Check it,” “I check,” or they may simply say “check.” It is also acceptable to knock on the table with a closed fist to indicate that you check. Other hand motions, such as a wave or pointing at the next active player may also be taken as a check. Be careful about accepting ambiguous hand motions as a check, as what constitutes a checking motion can be subjective. Generally, checking is a sign of a weak hand unless it is being used as a ploy, as in a slow play or a check-raise. If all active players check on a given betting round, a free card will be delivered.

Sometimes, you will have a bad hand and will not wish to put any money in the pot. In this situation, if you are not facing a bet, the proper play is to check rather than throw your hand away. Technically, you have the right to muck your hand when it is your turn to act, but if you check you may receive a free card or free cards that cause you to win the pot. Additionally, if you muck when you are not facing a bet, it can change the dynamics of the betting, and even alter the outcome for your opponents. Consider the following example. You are three handed on the turn and you have no pair and no draw so you check. The next player has bottom pair and checks. The third player has Ace high, and does not want to try to bluff two players and checks for the free river card. When the river is delivered, no one improves, it checks around again, and the player with bottom pair wins the showdown. Now consider what can happen if you muck your hand when it is your turn to act even though you are not facing a bet. You leave the other two players heads up in a situation where they are more likely to bet or bluff than they would be if the hand was still three handed. Now when the player with bottom pair checks, the player with Ace high senses that he can bet and take the pot, so he bluffs. The player with bottom pair mucks as a result, and the player with Ace high wins. By choosing to muck rather than check when you had the option, you have literally changed the outcome of the hand. This is considered discourteous play.

Sometimes a player may choose to pass on their next betting round before the card is even delivered. This is called a “blind check” or “checking in the blind.” There is nothing in the rules which specifically allows a player to check blind, and its use can create problems. This is because checking blind is necessarily checking out of turn. It cannot be your turn to bet on a card that has not arrived yet, and in many card rooms, action out of turn is not binding. If a player checks blind, and subsequently changes his mind and wants to bet when he sees the next card, it creates a problem.

While there is no rule that specifically allows a player to check blind, it is generally accepted, but only if that player is the first person to act on the next betting round. If a player acts first, they will be starting the betting and therefore will not be facing a bet. This means that a player who acts first is guaranteed the right to check. This makes checking blind feasible, because you will be first to act and will always have the option of checking. If there are other players who act ahead of you, you cannot check blind. This is because you are not guaranteed the right to check when other players act ahead of you. Also, it would be too confusing to allow every player to check blind, because everybody would have to remember which players had checked blind on the previous betting round.

Usage: I Check, Check It, Check-Muck, Check it Down, Check Raise, Check Call

Previous Poker Term: Chase
Next Poker Term: Check Raise

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