Around 1:37, something happens in this video for which the person is penalized. He apparently "checks behind" when he is not supposed to do so. My question is to explain this situation and why it's illegal without poker jargon.


Apparently it's because this person has the "nuts" or the best possible hand from the community cards at the river, and he is not allowed to check. Does this video mean that if at the river you have the best possible hand it's illegal to check you have to raise? Where is this enforced if that's the case.

  • In my opinion, this rule is at least ridiculous, at least he didn't wear the ridiculous hat
    – user1165
    Jun 20, 2015 at 22:11

4 Answers 4


It's not ridiculous. It's softplaying. In this case the guy seems to have made a mistake recognizing that he had the nuts, or maybe he's a good actor. But in general this is illegal because it can be used as a strategy to keep shorter stacks alive in order to maintain some preferable dynamic at the table, or to favor one opponent over another. Perhaps the two players here had pieces of each other, or some other undisclosed financial relationship. It is related to collusion in that two players at the table here are inappropriately harming the tournament status of a third. In a cash game soft play is not as relevant since stack sizes are not usually as important as they are late in a tournament.

  • i got you, cause you're probably playing with smaller stacks and just can buy in in a cash game where as in a tournament when you're out, you're out right? that's kind of what you're getting at in part Jun 21, 2015 at 17:08
  • @Chris Farmer, i'm not used to this behaviour. Are you saying it's a play meant for favor the loser on a hand because of a past incident or keeping a strategy vs shorter stacks? They had around the same stacks, was something 9M vs 7M. He could just as well check the hand down to river before fire a 10% of the pot then but he tried to win with a C-bet. Nevertheless, by checking his reaction at the end i realized 3 things: 1) he probably did it on purpose 2) he's not a good actor :) 3) he forgot about penalty. He probably just forgot the rule, but i can't figure why's illegal, its valid move.
    – user1165
    Jun 22, 2015 at 5:43
  • It's not a "valid move" here. He could not lose. He had the unassailable nuts and it was checked to him on the river. In this position he must bet, because he cannot lose. You could legitimately argue about appropriate bet sizing here, but you cannot argue that he may check here. Checking here has the same effect as chip dumping, but rather than overtly passing chips to another player, you simply allow him to keep more of his current stack. It's unethical in that it creates an air of impropriety and partnership between two players, much like any colluding behavior. Jun 22, 2015 at 16:03

Checking when you have the nuts is generally okay, because some people like to slowplay. The only situation where you're not allowed to do so (and this is true in almost any tournament and casino) is if you're the last to act on the river. In this case, checking cannot be part of any reasonable strategy, so the assumption is that you're colluding. The punishment is usually not harsh (e.g. one round of sitting out) to allow for mistakes but is meant to be enough to discourage genuine collusion.


As others have mentioned, the reason the rule exists is to prevent collusion. However, there are legitimate times in both cash games and tournaments when it makes sense to check the nuts on the river, even when last to act, and in my opinion should not be penalized:

  1. In a cash game, it is not uncommon for friends to "check it down" once they are heads up. They do not want to take each other's money, and by forcing a showdown they are showing the entire table what their cards are, to alleviate any fears of collusion.
  2. In a cash game, it is not uncommon for someone to check or call instead of raising/reraising, simply because they want to be nice to their opponent for some reason.
  3. In both a cash game or tournament, if you are fairly certain your opponent will fold if you bet, you gain nothing by betting. By checking you get to see your opponent's cards, which could be valuable information to you.
  4. Sometimes, to be funny or make a statement of some sort, people will play a hand without looking at their cards. Obviously if they check the nuts on the river they can't possibly be colluding...
  • Case (1) is absolutely cheating. Slow-playing your friends is cheating the other players that you don't slow-play. (2) is iffy. (3) might actually be legitimate, but I'd have to see a very unusual situation to justify it. (4) is probably OK in a live game. I'd still penalize such play in a tournament. Jul 20, 2015 at 19:51
  • For #1, as long as the friends don't do it if someone else is in the hand, I wouldn't consider it cheating. I see spouses/partners do it all the time, and they're typically open about it. #2, I've done this myself. I only called instead of raising with the nuts, because I was trying to earn points with an attractive girl (though it didn't work out so in retrospect I should have raised). #3 isn't that unusual- missed draw vs nuts... #4 I agree, if the rule is in effect in a tournament, then this situation should not be given special treatment.
    – TTT
    Jul 20, 2015 at 20:10
  • To potentially rebutt my argument to #1, just because people do it all the time doesn't mean it isn't cheating. However, I can't think of how you could possibly gain an advantage by doing it, therefore I don't see it as cheating. In order to cheat you must be gaining an advantage. Suppose 9 players at a table are doing this with each other, unless they are in a hand with the 10th player. Is this cheating? I'm hesistant to say this, but my gut makes me want to declare, still not cheating. I'm trying to imagine myself as the 10th person and how this would hurt me...
    – TTT
    Jul 20, 2015 at 20:42
  • What I've seen people do, for example, is raise out a third player to get head up with someone they know will check down. Likewise, I've seen players call their buddy and one of two others with a bad draw knowing that if the others fold, he'll draw for free, if they don't he'll have better pot odds, and if either of them catches, the other won't have to pay off but the hangers on might. Jul 20, 2015 at 20:59
  • @LeeDanielCrocker. With those last two scenarios you described, that would certainly be cheating. I think in order for my scenario to not be cheating, the players need to play entirely normally, unless they are the only ones left in the hand. If they can accomplish that, your scenarios could not occur. One could argue that very few people can realistically play that way though, which means most people who would check it down with friends would probably end up colluding somewhat, whether intentional or not.
    – TTT
    Jul 20, 2015 at 21:26

At all times in poker, you are ethically required to play your hand in a way that benefits you, and only you. If you make a play for the benefit or someone else at the table, you are cheating all of your other opponents at the table; this is called "collusion".

"Soft play" is a form of collusion, failing to take as much as you can from your opponent (or from one opponent, but not others). It can be quite subjective and hard to prove. The one case where it is obvious is not betting the nuts in last position on the river. If you have the best possible hand on the last betting round, and everyone has checked to you, there is no legitimate reason to check. You cannot lose because you have the nuts, and failing to bet sacrifices any chance you have to win more money.

Let's say you were head up on the river with player B. Checking only benefits player B at the expense of everyone else at the table. They have every right to complain that you did not try to bust player B when you could have done so with absolutely no risk. A penalty is entirely appropriate.

  • The only possible legitimate reason I can see to check is if you want everybody to see the cards you have, and so want to see a showdown. But you can normally show your cards after you win anyway, right, even if everyone else folds?
    – user1934
    Jun 24, 2015 at 21:05
  • Absolutely. Checking here is cheating. No two ways about it. Jun 24, 2015 at 21:22
  • @Michael. By checking you get to see your opponent's cards, which may be valuable information to you.
    – TTT
    Jul 20, 2015 at 19:46

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