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 couldâ€™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 donâ€™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 didnâ€™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 opponentâ€™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 opponentâ€™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 donâ€™t find yourself letting the short stack survive when he could have been eliminated or so that you donâ€™t find yourself having to call a value bet.
Always be aware of the situation.