Covering live poker tournaments for a living affords me the opportunity to see countless thousands of hands played out, many of which offer interesting and potentially valuable insights into how players — both amateurs and professionals — play the game. In this ongoing series, I'll highlight hands I've seen at the tournaments I've covered and see if we can glean anything useful from them.
For this week's hand, we're rolling back the clock a bit to a tournament I played in Las Vegas while the World Series of Poker was in full swing, one from the $570 Grand Poker Series Main Event at the Golden Nugget.
I managed to bag a pittance on Day 1b of the event, then on Day 2 ran up my 14 big blinds to a nice stack of about 460,000 and was in the money. That's when the hand described below went down.
The blinds were 6,000/12,000/2,000 with less than 100 players left in the event and around $130,000 up top for the winner. I had already three-bet the player on my right a couple of times and subsequently lost both pots, and I could tell he wasn't about to fold anything to me going forward. The big blind in this hand had recently joined the table.
It folded around to the cutoff, who opened for a raise to 30,000. On the button, I called with . The big blind came along, making it three to a flop of .
The big blind led out for 46,000 and the player in the cutoff called. I raised to 150,000, and the big blind quickly folded. The cutoff came along after asking to see my stack, then the turn was a . The cutoff checked and I pushed my last 280,000 or so in.
The cutoff snap-called and revealed for a straight. The river was a brick, eliminating me from the tournament.
Concept and Analysis
This hand put me in a tricky spot on the turn, though I think the streets leading up to it played out in relatively standard fashion.
Preflop, I would occasionally three-bet sevens here, but against a player whom I feel is basically never folding and refusing to give me an ounce of credit, I think calling in position is best by far. If I flop a set against a guy who isn't going to lay anything decent down, there's potentially a ton of value — plus I can use position to control the pot and sometimes win unimproved on certain board textures.
On the flop, the big blind leads out, which I wouldn't usually expect most players to do with really strong hands. When the cutoff just calls, I figure it's very likely that my hand is best at the moment. As straightforwardly as he was playing, I just didn't see him flatting a hand that beat me while allowing a third player in the pot with a board that could get ugly very fast if a four-straight hit.
However, my pair is ultra-vulnerable as almost any turn card could beat me if I'm putting the cutoff on , calling with overcards and a straight draw, which I figured was his most likely hand.
Given that reasoning, I decided to raise, and nothing about my guess of his range changed when he called. I figured he was peeling with what he correctly estimated to be 10 outs.
The turn is a rather interesting card as it puts a four-straight on the board, but I also picked up an open-ended draw to a better straight. There's definitely an argument for checking and seeing if I improve, as I now have more secure equity against hands that are down to six outs or less. Plus it's possible my opponent slow played a set or is stronger than I think.
However, I decided to go with my read and push. I didn't really see many threes in my opponent's range, so I thought I had the best hand and the pot was now over 450,000, bigger than the size of my remaining stack.
Unfortunately, my opponent had the one hand I probably should have been most wary of, and I was the one who had six outs, failing to hit one on the river. I collected an 85th-place ticket for a modest profit and was left wondering if I should have checked back. What do you think I should have done?