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May 10, 2005

Tournament Strategy – Checking a Hand Down to Eliminate an Opponent

Posted at May 10, 2005 05:10 PM in Sit N Go's , Tournament Strategy , by Greedy Gecko.

It is dismaying how often players demonstrate a complete lack of tournament strategy knowledge, and as a result, breathe new life into opponents on the verge of elimination. Specifically, I’m referring to the common practice that should be employed by all tournament players [whether in a Sit N Go (SNG) or multi-table tournament (MTT)] of checking a hand down when there is a possibility of eliminating an all-in opponent.

What is Checking It Down?
You will often hear experienced players reciting the mantra of “check it down” when there is a player all-in in a multi-way pot. This concept becomes applicable when you are approaching or already in the money in tournaments, and the elimination of each additional opponent becomes both important and profitable to all. The idea is that if more players see the hand to showdown, there is a greater likelihood of someone making a better hand than the all-in player. While this is a subtle form of collusion amongst players with the common interest of obtaining the largest tournament strategy possible, there is nothing wrong with the practice under poker rules or in the spirit of the game. Given that tournament structures pay out on a sliding scale to many places beyond first place, then it is in your best interest for players to be eliminated.

So the opportunity to check a hand down materializes when a small-stacked player moves all-in, and multiple players call the bet. Unless you have flopped absolute nuts, it is more logical to check the hand down to the river, rather than make a play at the pot with a lesser hand, giving the all-in player a greater possibility of having new life in the tournament.

What if you Flopped a Strong Hand?
Unless you have flopped nuts, or near nuts, I believe the correct play is to still make every effort to ensure that the small stacked player is eliminated. All too often, I see large stack players get aggressive with two overcards, and successfully isolate the all-in player post flop, only to lose to a small pocket pair that would have been easily defeated if other players were allowed to remain in the hand.

I don’t know if you want to call it delayed gratification or just common sense. Either way, think beyond the few chips in the center of the pot and consider the importance of eliminating another opponent from the tournament. Whether in SNG or MTT play, each opponent eliminated is one less in your way as you attempt to capture first place.

The Greedy Gecko