When Not To Check It Down

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When playing in tournament poker there will frequently be a situation when a short stack goes all-in and sees two or more callers. A standard practice here is for the players who called the all-in to check the hand down in order to increase their chances of eliminating the all-in player. However, checking the hand down may not always be the smart move. The strategy of checking the hand down has one huge weakness: it depends on the cooperation of the other player. If the other player does not cooperate, you can find yourself folding your hand to a strong bet, only to see the all-in player win the pot with a hand you could’ve beaten had you stayed in. Here are a few scenarios where checking the hand down may not be the best solution.

Say you are holding A-Q and call an all-in from the short stack of the table. Another player calls behind you, and the two of you go to the flop with the short stack. The flop comes down A-10-9, giving you a pair of aces. Not wanting to force the other player out of the pot, you check, and he checks behind you. The turn card is a 4, and you check again. The other player checks behind you and an 8 falls on the river. You check and the other player fires out a small bet. The bet is so small that you feel you have to make the call in case you do have the best hand. Your opponent turns over Q-J for a rivered straight, defeating your pair of aces. In this situation you would have been better served firing a bet on the flop in order to force out the possible draws.

In another scenario say you are holding pocket sevens and call the all-in bet. Once again another player calls behind you. The flop falls down J-10-2 and you immediately check, making your intentions to check the hand down known. Your opponent checks and a second 10 falls on the turn. You check quickly again, and the other player bets out. Fearing that he may have a jack or a ten, you fold. He turns over A-Q while the short stack turns over A-K, and after a 5 on the river the short stack triples up. Checking on the flop was the correct play, as you don’t know if you do have the advantage; however, you can make a case for betting on the turn, as at this point you can assume that your opponent is probably not going to win the hand. He didn’t bet on the flop which suggests he either did not hit a jack or a ten or he wants to check down the hand himself. However when the second ten hit on the turn it provided an opportunity for a bluff at the pot. By betting here with your pocket sevens, which are probably a better hand than your opponent’s, you can take the opportunity to force your opponent out of the pot. There is very little risk of having the short stack beat your hand with a hand that would not beat your opponent’s, since if he hit a jack or ten on the flop or was holding a higher pair he would be likely to triple up in any case.

These scenarios are designed to get you thinking about when you may not want to check a hand down. It is always very tempting to check the hand down, but you must be aware of exactly what the situation is, so that you don’t find yourself letting the short stack survive when he could have been eliminated or so that you don’t find yourself having to call a value bet.

Always be aware of the situation.

One Response to “When Not To Check It Down”

  1. Jay

    Have to disagree. In tournaments you make money off knocking people out, not winning pots.
    In both scenarios there is more value in knocking the shortstack out than winning the pot. 2 on 1 is always better than 1 on 1


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