I'm in a $33+3 SnG on PokerStars, there are four left -- so its bubble time. I'm on the button with KQ suited. I am one of the largest stacks. The short stack goes all-in for about t750 and gets called by a MP player with a stack about my size. I decide to call because I'm getting a good price and it will increase the odds of knocking a player out. I get a good flop -- Q with two rags, rainbow. Middle position player checks and I'm tempted to try to create a side pot. But, I decide to check behind because it is proper tournament strategy. The turn looks like a blank and it goes check, check again. The river is an ace and I'm certain I've just lost a nice pot. Check, check. I'm not likely to have called a bet if the MP guy made one. The all-in player turns over A3o, MP turns over A8o and wins the pot knocking out the short stack.
I hated to see the river Ace, but that's why you play the correct tournament strategy. If I had bet there are three likely outcomes, none particularly attractive:
- Best case: MP calls my flop bet and folds to my turn bet and I take a few chips, but the short stack lives on and triples up.
- Worst case: MP calls my flop and turn bets, makes the best hand on the river and cripples me.
- Embarrassing case: MP folds to my flop bet and I catch 'em...criticism for my play when the short stack triples through and stays in the tournament.
I applaud the MP guy for not betting on the end. He couldn't know his one pair was the winner and would have been wrong to have risked keeping the short stack alive if he were to make me fold the best hand.
You read books about correct tournament strategy. You think about it and agree it is correct, but it makes the most sense once you've seen it work as it should. Sadly, I've seen it work in reverse too many times. I've had to fold the ultimate winner when another player bets into a dry side pot. Its not so bad when the guy doing the betting has a reasonable hand. However, we've all been sitting at a table when a short stack is all-in with two others. A donkey with trash, bluffs into a dry side pot, losing to the short stack and getting screamed at by the guy who folds the winner that was in the lead the whole way. When that does happen, you make a note and pray you'll be sitting at the table with the donkey in every tournament!