Golden Touch Craps

Checking It Down – Strategy or Collusion

Many tournament players believe there is an unwritten rule that when a short stacked player goes all in and is called by two or more larger stacks, these players should check the hand to the end. This increases the odds that one of the callers will have a hand that beats the short stacked player and will knock them out of the tournament.

This is a common practice and some even consider it to be standard tournament strategy and when it is not followed it can lead to some heated arguments at the table. I saw this happen a few days ago in a tournament when a short stack went all in and he was called by two players with more chips. The flop was King- 9-7. The first player with chips raised the size of the pot and the second player folded. The short stacked turned over A-A and the player who bet tuned over Ace –King, giving him a pair of Kings. The turn was a ten and the river was a two. The player who folded was holding a Queen-Jack which would have given him the winning hand with a straight and would have eliminated the short stack. Instead the short stacked player won the pot and doubled up.

This lead to some angry comments directed at the player who bet for not following the "rule" to check the hand down. Although checking down a hand against an all in player is a common occurrence, it is by no means a rule that must be followed. In fact, the so called "rule" of checking down a hand could be considered implicit collusion (because it is only implied) but if there is no verbal communication between the players then it is not illegal. It is against the rules to suggest such the action during the hand or to verbally discuss and agree on it at anytime during the game.

May Not Be the Best Play

Automatically checking down a hand to eliminate an all in player is not always the best play to make. There are several factors to consider. You should consider what stage the tournament is in and whether eliminating a player will have an impact on the tournament. If you are in the late stages of the tournament and are close to the money or already in the money, then eliminating a player makes the most financial sense as you will be moving up towards the first place prize money.

During the early stages of the tournament however, you should be focused on surviving and building your stack. At this stage eliminating players should not be your first objective. You want to build your chip stack and if you have a good hand you should bet it. Many times when there is an all in player along with other active players, there will be a side pot. If the side pot is substantial, you first goal should be to win that pot and then worry about knocking out the short stacked player.

In some situations it might be best to narrow the field by raising a player who goes in to force out the other players who might have called. A hand like pockets aces plays well against a small field so when I have that hand and a player goes all in and another player limps in (calls), I will raise enough to force the player out in order to get heads up with the all in player.

Poker is a situational game and your strategy should change based on the current conditions. Nothing is written in stone and there is no set rule that says you have to check down a hand to try to eliminate an all in player. There is however a rule that says you CAN NOT openly discuss how to play a hand with another player. That would be collusion. Play your hand according to what you think will help you win and don’t worry about what the other players do or say.

Until Next time remember:

Luck comes and goes.....Knowledge Stays Forever.