Multi-way pots in no limit holdem can sometimes lead to side pots once someone gets all in, which can be a tricky spot to navigate if you and your remaining opponent have a plentiful amount of chips remaining. While your all in opponent has the luxury of making no more tactical decisions in the hand, you’re forced to deal with a side pot against another player that, if you fold at any point in the hand, forces you to lose any stake you had in the main pot. Depending on the terrain you’re in, be it tournament or cash game, your actions on the same hand may be incredibly different. While this article focuses on holdem, the same basic concepts apply to other games such as omaha hi-lo or triple draw.
In tournaments, these multi-way pots can function incredibly simply if the all-in player’s elimination constitutes a pay increase or a bubble popping in a tournament; the “check-down” may occur. This is one two players implicitly collude to knock out the other player by checking the hand down, leaving both players in the pot and giving everyone the greatest chance of knocking the third wheel out of the tournament. Notice; this is implicit; it’s illegal for players to simply come out and say, “Hey, let’s check this hand down and knock this guy out!” and can net you a swift penalty or removal from the tournament for even suggesting the action! You do not have to ever check the hand down; it’s only a custom if an elimination merits an increase in pay for the remaining players.
For cash games and other tournament situations, the tightrope walk begins. Knowing that your cards are going to be exposed at the end of a multi-way all-in (thanks to a remaining player in the hand) makes it a trickier proposition to bluff in pots, and usually forces players to play much more straightforwardly in the short term. If you constantly play aggressively in these situations, you’re going to need advice from a pretty good bankroll management blog to keep yourself afloat, because your variance will be very high.
If you’re facing a bet on the flop in a three-way all-in hand and the board reads AQ4 rainbow, the vast majority of players in this spot won’t be showing you anything weaker than AK in this spot, and some may even be checking hands like AQ and 44 here, waiting before the turn to act. Only the most aggressive and wild of players will be taking potshots at boards like these, mainly because they could care less about players knowing they’re capable of anything in any hand. If 95% of the players in this spot bet here, expect monsters