Don’t check it down if there’s a side pot

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - POKER - By Chad Hol­loway

One of the big­gest mis­takes that play­ers make in tour­na­ment poker in­volves side pots. For those who may not know, a side pot is cre­ated when a short­stacked player is all in and two or more ac­tive play­ers (play­ers with chips re­main­ing) con­tinue to play on the side.

The old adage used to be that play­ers com­pet­ing in a side pot should check it down un­less one of them im­proved his hand. This was con­sid­ered to be a com­mon cour­tesy of sorts. It was done to in­crease the chance of elim­i­nat­ing the all-in player — two against one is bet­ter than one against one — thus bring­ing ev­ery­one else a step closer to

Stephen Graner’s hand: vic­tory.

How­ever, that line of thought is not only out­dated, but it will cost you valu­able op­por­tu­ni­ties to pick up chips.

As an ex­am­ple, let’s look at a hand from a Euro­pean Poker Tour event in Prague last De­cem­ber — a tour­na­ment that at­tracted 1,044 play­ers. A year ear­lier, Amer­i­can Stephen Graner de­feated a record field of 1,107 play­ers to win the Prague main event, claim­ing

Mustafa Biz’s hand: a prize of 969,000 euros. Graner re­turned in 2015 to de­fend his ti­tle, but he ran into trou­ble in Level 6, with blinds at 200-400 plus an ante of 50.

It hap­pened when Jochum Weenink opened for 900 from middle po­si­tion and Mustafa Biz called. When ac­tion reached a short-stacked Graner in the cut­off seat, he three-bet to 3,000, leav­ing him­self just 2,175 be­hind.

Ac­tion folded back around

Flop: to Weenink, who four-bet to 5,400, and then Biz came in with a five-bet to 12,500. Graner didn’t seem thrilled, but called off the rest of his stack none­the­less. Weenink put in the ad­di­tional chips to cre­ate a side pot, and the two ac­tive play­ers saw a flop of 8h Qs 6s.

Weenink checked, Biz bet 10,500, and Weenink got out of the way. Graner showed Kc Qc for top pair, but he was be­hind the Ac Ad of Biz.

An As on the turn left Graner draw­ing dead, and he wished the ta­ble luck be­fore the 6d on the river made his elim­i­na­tion of­fi­cial.

In this hand, there were nu­mer­ous fac­tors that made check­ing it down a ter­ri­ble idea. First, there was nearly as much in the side pot as in the main pot, mean­ing there was sim­ply too much at stake not to com­pete. Se­cond, Biz held a pre­mium hand, one that was more than likely good un­less Wee- nink had flopped a set. Biz needed to pro­tect it, which meant plac­ing a bet. There was no rea­son to give Weenink a free card to win. Do­ing so would have been reck­less and un­wise.

You may won­der if you should check it down if the side pot is only a small one, or if you don’t have a qual­ity hand. When side pots are in­volved, ev­ery sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent. Just make sure you’re al­ways think­ing of ways to win, rather than just au­to­mat­i­cally check­ing it down and hop­ing that you have the best hand.

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