Assassinato Big Blind Check-Raise Strategy
Today we are going to discuss what I like to call the Assassinato Big Blind Call and then Check-Raise Strategy. This strategy was presented during a Webinar with Alex (Assassinato) Fitzgerald and Jonathan Little. Also, Assassinato does a great job explaining this in his new book: The Myth of Poker Talent
Defending the big blind with a wide range
Against a somewhat loose opener, playing 20% of hands or more preflop, who opens with a min raise (or less than 2.2 times the big blind), we recommend flat calling with about 75% of hands. This is because our big blind is already in the pot and only need to call for about 1 big blind more to see the flop.
When you call for just 1 big blind more, you only need to win about 18% of the time based on the pot odds (depending on the size of the antes) in order to have a positive expected value (EV) for the play.
So, we recommend that you defend your big blind with a range like this:
This range seems very wide – but we are going to win with many of these hands when the opener does not hit the flop – which he will miss about 2/3rds of the time.
Because the strategy we are explaining is so powerful, you should not reraise or 3-bet bluff from the big blind. However, you will still want to 3-bet your most powerful hands (A-A, K-K, A-K and Q-Q) for value.
Most of these hands you would defend with versus any normal opponent because they flop decently well, but with the junky hands, we are calling to implement the Assassinato Big Blind Check-Raise Strategy, which will give us a large amount of equity on many flops.
Let’s look at a typical use of this strategy
Example: You are on the button with 9-7 and the cutoff, who opens 20% of hands or more, min-raises to 2 big blinds (320 chips).
Since our plan is to flat call with 75% of hands, we call.
When we call for just 160 more chips, we only need to win 18% of the time to break even:
160 / (690 + 160) = 18.8%
Notice we only have to call 160, not 320, because our 160 big blind is already in the pot. You can use this strategy for min-raises, and slightly more – perhaps up to 2.2 times the big blind. If the opening raise is 2.5 times the big blind or more, then the additional chips we have to put in the pot makes this tactic unprofitable.
Normally, we would lose far too often in this position to call with a hand like 9-7, because unless we hit the flop, we would fold to the cutoff’s continuation bet, which he is going to make almost every time. But, by adding a Flop Check-Raise Bluff to our arsenal, we can improve our postflop equity.
Flop Check-Raise Bluff
Let’s look at how this tactic works on a few flops.
After our call, the pot is now 850 chips. The flop comes J-4-2. We check and the cutoff bets 425 (about half of the size of the pot).
If we check-raise for about 1,000 chips, we need to win 44% of the time to profit:
(1000 / (1275 + 1000)) = 44%
That means the cutoff has to call our check-raise with 56% of his continuation betting range to make this a losing play. Most loose preflop raisers are not going to call with 56% of their opening hands.
Let’s look at a typical range for an opening raise from a player who opens 20% of his hands.
He would have to call our check-raise with 56% of these hands, or about 11% of all hands he raises with preflop.
Here is a range of about 11% of hands that he would need to call (or reraise) with after we check-raise.
If he continues versus our check-raise with this range, then our play is only break even.
Of course he will call or reraise with the hands that hit the flop such as a Jack, set, over pair, etc. That much is assumed. However, it is unlikely that he will call a check-raise on J-4-2 with A-Q offsuit, K-T offsuit, T-T, 9-9 and a number of other marginal hands.
Also, if his opening range was even looser than the 20% we used in this example, there will be many additional hands he will not call with.
You will find that most of the time he will fold to your check-raise. And when he does call, you can get out of the way to avoid losing additional chips.
How much to check-raise?
In this example we check-raised to 1,000 chips or about 80% of the pot. This is a good amount.
If you raise less, for instance, a min-raise, then your opponent can easily call with draws, over cards, and Ace-high because he is getting fantastic pot odds.
If you raise to more than 1,000, your opponent will still call with his made hands, but you will lose more chips than necessary to make him fold his marginal holdings.
Some other flops
What if the flop was A-7-2?
Now the check-raise is not as good because your opponent has more Aces in his opening range than Jacks, so he is more likely to call our check-raise.
Good flops for this strategy
The best flops to check-raise bluff are those which do not contain an Ace, do not contain two face cards, and do not contain numerous draws. However, most flops will not hit the opener’s hand, and most will be good candidates to check-raise bluff.
Try this play a few times and see what happens. In my experience, it has worked more than 67% of the time – especially in live play where my image, and the Villain’s perception of the strength of a check-raise, make it more likely to succeed.
What do I do if he calls or reraises?
If he calls, or reraises, he probably has a good hand, allowing us to confidently give up on our bluff.
Do not feel like you need to continue bluffing on the turn, or call if your opponent bets the turn. This Check-Raise Bluffing strategy will not work if you blindly barrel off your stack in situations where your opponent clearly has a strong range.
How often can you do this in a typical game?
As long as your check-raise bluffs are working, keep making them.
This situation will only come up a few times in a typical session, and it will often come up against different players – most of whom will have been on their phone or watching TV when you used it on other players. As long as your opponents raise with a wide range preflop and continuation bet too often, this play will yield a large amount of profit.