Friday, June 1, 2007

How to handle an "away" player

Every once in a while you encounter a player who instantly folds to any action during a tournament because they are away. Some sites actually let you know a player is away, some don't. It's unfair to everybody else at the table if such a player makes it into the money, so I'd like to outline the optimal strategy for dealing with the situation.

If the player is one seat to your left, then obviously when the action folds around to you pre-flop, you simply need to minimum raise to take his blind away from him. In B&M cardrooms, this is typically automatically done, since the dealer will pick up any hand if the player is not seated before the deal ends, but online, the away player is check-folded. Don't let him get to a showdown. Any bet will force a fold.

Otherwise, the away player should be ignored until you are on the money bubble. If he comes back, then so be it.

The remaining players should establish that the player is away and begin the special play to get rid of him. It goes like this:

All players other than the blinds fold. The player who is the small blind to the away player raises. All other small blinds fold. Once the away player cannot complete a blind, all players call to join in the hand pre-flop and check to the river. Repeat until he is gone.

Obviously, if the player comes back in the meantime, play should resume per normal.

So what's going to happen? The player to the right of the away player will take 2/3 of his stack (his big blinds) and the player to his left will take one-third (his small blinds). Everybody else at the table will break even (they'll just pass the small blinds around). It may seem inequitable that the players near him get enriched, but in practical terms an away player will probably be a pretty short stack by the time the bubble arrives.

Is this illegal collusion? No more so when two players with a dry side pot check down a hand to eliminate the all-in player.

If everyone understood this plan, the world would be a better place.

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