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.
This past weekend, my local casino, Horseshoe Council Bluffs, hosted the RunGood Poker Series for a week of fun events. It wasn't the first time RunGood has come to town, but it was my first time being able to play in the Main Event rather than cover it. I played a few notable hands that I'll go over in the coming weeks.
First up is a big hand I won that came against RunGood Pro Ross Bybee (pictured above). We were at the 200/400/50 level, and I'd been playing really aggressively, raising a number of times preflop when Bybee was on the button. I had experienced some nice success early on, roughly doubling my 20,000 starting stack, and Bybee had me slightly covered.
I opened from middle position to 1,000 with . Bybee made it 2,500 to go from the button, and I called to see a flop of hit the felt. I checked and Bybee bet 1,600. I called. On the turn, I again check-called, this time for 2,200.
The river brought an and I checked a final time. Bybee bet 3,200, then I put in a raise to 11,500 and Bybee went into the tank.
"I'm just wondering if we're chopping," he said after asking me what I had back.
I couldn't hold back a laugh as I wondered if I was actually turning my hand into a bluff on accident, but Bybee eventually folded and gave me the pot.
Concept and Analysis
Preflop, I made a pretty standard open with and got three-bet by one of the tougher opponents at the table. It's generally a good idea to focus on extracting chips from weaker opponents, but I felt like Bybee was ready to start coming after my raises when he had position on me, and plays decently postflop, so I felt compelled to defend my raise.
Obviously, a dream flop hits for me, and the only concern becomes trying to get the most money in the pot.
Most likely, Bybee has two outs at best in this scenario. When he starts betting small, I'd be compelled to call with all of my middle-pair type hands. Therefore, when I have a nutted hand like that also blocks his strongest value hands, it's best to simply check-call here to stay balanced with my weaker stuff.
On the river is where the hand really gets interesting. The whole way, Bybee had made pretty small bets that were well under half the size of the pot. I felt his most likely hand by far was a big pocket pair going for three streets of value, with the small bets meant to keep me paying off light.
It seemed criminal to go to showdown after flopping trip kings in a three-bet pot without putting in a raise, so when he bet again on the river I made a sizable raise to 11,500.
It seemed like a sizing that was big enough to look like I hoped to get a fold but small enough that he could afford to call. He had to put in about 8,000 more to win around 27,000.
Bybee's questioning on the river got me thinking after the hand, though. Was raising for value here too thin? Even aces would be a crying call at this point for him as he can't beat anything I'd be raising for value. If he has a king, he likely has me outkicked.
On the other hand, it's plausible I could be bluffing here. If I called twice with a middle pocket pair and put him on the range that I did, calling on the river would be burning money, but turning my hand into a bluff would be an option.
There was still plenty of money behind, and I was planning to fold for the last 19,000 or so if Bybee jammed. I still lean toward raising being fine here to give my opponent a chance to make a mistake.
What do you think the best line is after getting to the river with this hand?