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Hand Review: When Two Strong Ranges Collide

Hand Review: When Two Strong Ranges Collide

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.

The Scene

Looking back through my archive of hand histories that I have saved up, I came across a bit of an odd one I played this spring. I had forgotten all about this hand, but seems like as good a time as any to look back over it and wonder about one of the stranger spots I've encountered this year.

I had just arrived at Horseshoe Hammond to play in the opening multi-flight event of the World Series of Poker Circuit. I had literally just sat down to my first hand in the cutoff with my fresh 15,000 stack at 100/200.

The Action

My first two cards were a couple of beauties: {a-Hearts}{k-Hearts}. I opened to 500, which was met by a prompt call from the player on my left. The small blind then made it 2,200 to go. I reraised to 5,800, driving out the player on the button, and the small blind called once more.

The flop came {q-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{3-Spades} and the small blind checked. I bet 2,800 and he called. The {a-Clubs} turn was checked through, bringing a {k-Diamonds} river.

The small blind checked, I shoved for my remaining 6,400, and he quickly called with {k-Clubs}{k-Spades} for a set to bust me.

Concept and Analysis

Looking back on this one, I'm not a huge fan of the way I played this hand, starting with my preflop decision to four-bet to 5,800. I think if I'm going to go that big, I would be better off just shoving and trying to fold out some hands like {9-}{9-}, {10-}{10-} or even {j-}{j-} that some players would lay down.

It's fine to go small on your four-bets, so I think something in the neighborhood of 5,000 would have been more appropriate if I were looking to play postflop. I also think calling would have been a good option since my hand plays fine postflop in position.

Instead, I wound up with a bit of an awkward stack the way things played out. When my opponent called, I put him on a pretty strong range, though my blockers help narrow down the chance he has aces or kings.

The only hands I'm really beating on the flop are jacks and tens, so I think checking back actually makes more sense than betting, though I continued with a bet nonetheless. When my opponent calls and I turn top pair to go with my nut flush draw, I'm smashing those pocket pairs and am way behind a few holdings like queens and aces. Checking back on the turn seems good since the river card is unlikely to beat me and may improve me to the nuts the times I'm behind.

On the river, a very interesting card arrives. With a final board of {q-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{3-Spades}{a-Clubs}{k-Diamonds}, nearly every very strong preflop hand has made two pair or better. Therefore, while my top two pair appears to be a pretty solid holding, in reality I'm actually losing to quite a few hands: {a-}{a-}, {k-}{k-}, {q-}{q-}, and even {j-}{10-} suited if he's three-betting that and then playing this way.

Pocket queens appears to make the most sense overall. That lines up with his play on all streets, and I have no blockers for that hand.

As far as what I'm beating, I think I might be looking at {a-}{q-} only, and maybe only suited. That leaves maybe just {a-Diamonds}{q-Diamonds} and {a-Spades}{q-Spades}.

There are few hands I beat, then, and quite a few to which I'm losing or chopping. I wouldn't expect to fold out a chop since most people will just shrug and call with top two. Still, I have well under the size of the pot left in my stack. The question on the river once I'm checked to is do I shove for value?

I obviously did so even knowing in the moment that it felt thin, and it obviously didn't work out when I was shown the one-outer. I think in hindsight I likely should have checked this back, as weird as that seems holding a hand this strong. My opponent may be able to find a fold with stuff I'm beating, and he's snap-calling with his sets.

That's exactly what ended up happening here. While the river was unlucky, I shouldn't have gone broke in this hand. Instead of one hand played and one bullet lost, I'd have had a fighting chance to make something of my first shell, which unfortunately turned out to be one of many.

  • Could Mo Nuwwarah have avoided going bust with A-K and top two in this WSOP-C event? You decide.

  • Hand analysis: The first hand of a WSOP Circuit event becomes a big one when strong ranges collide.

Name Surname
Mo Nuwwarah

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