A Poker Tip for Playing Tournaments

Lately, I have noticed a common trend among most Internet poker players: they don’t know how to play tournament-style poker.

The scenario I am talking about is when a player is all-in, and there are two other players in the hand playing for a side-pot. Oftentimes, one player will bet out at the other in attempt to win the side-pot and go against the all-in player. And, in my experience, the player that bet out at the side-pot ends up losing to the all-in player, allowing him to not only continue playing in the tournament, but to have a good shot at building up his chip stack even more.

The two players should not even bet to create a side pot; they should check the hand down to the river, that way they have two hands that can possibly knock out the all-in player, allowing themselves to move up in the money.

The only time one should ever bet in that situation is if he is sure he has the best hand (i.e. getting the nut flush or a full house) and he is trying to extract chips from his opponent. If your hand is not made (and getting a pair, or even two pair, does not constitute “made”), collude (this is legal collusion) with your opponent. As the proverb goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Just for clarification, here are two scenarios — one is correct, one is not.

Incorrect

Blinds $25/$50

Player A posts small blind $25

Player B posts big blind $50

Player C folds

Player D folds

Player E raises to $250 and is all-in

Player F folds

Player G folds

Player A calls $225

Player B calls $200

Flop [Ks 9d 3s]

Player A bets $100

Player B folds

Turn [5c]

River [2d]

Player A shows [Ac Qd]

Player E shows [8d 8c]

Player E has a pair of eights

Player A has high card — Ace kicker

Player E wins main pot ($750) with a pair of eights

Correct

Blinds $25/$50

Player A posts small blind $25

Player B posts big blind $50

Player C folds

Player D folds

Player E raises to $250 and is all-in

Player F folds

Player G folds

Player A calls $225

Player B calls $200

Flop [Ks 9d 3s]

Player A checks

Player B checks

Player A checks

Turn [5c]

Player B checks

Player A checks

Player B checks

River [2d]

Player A shows [Ac Qd]

Player B shows [5d 5s]

Player E shows [8d 8c]

Player A has high card — Ace kicker

Player B has three of a kind, three fives

Player E has a pair of eights

Player B wins main pot ($750) with three of a kind, three fives

Player E finished the tournament in 7th place

The side-pot-betting isn’t so bad early in tournaments, but when it’s getting down towards the final table, there’s no question you want everyone else to drop like flies. Roughly, you’re cutting down your all-in opponent’s chance to win by 17% regardless of what the cards are (1-on-1 is 50%/50%; 2-on-1 is 33%/33%/33%).

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