To Bluff or Not to Bluff? – Huge Spot on the River with Just 6-High
When you are playing on a final table you must always consider the ICM implications of your actions. In this hand, Marty Mathis decides to use this to his advantage as he runs a huge bluff against the chip leader Bruno Volkmann, who recently won the GGPoker Super Million$, in the $10,300 partypoker Millions South America Main Event.
Mathis shows us why he is one of the most feared online players as he picks his bet sizes beautifully to allow him space to shove on the river, but can he pull the trigger?
The hand took place at the final table with four players remaining and the blinds at 700K/1.4M/1.4M. Things began when action folded to Volkmann, who was the chip leader, and he raised to 5.7 million from the small blind holding the . Mathis was “short-stacked” with 90 big blinds, so things were still deep-stacked, and he opted to defend the big blind with the , which brought about a flop of .
This is a flop that Volkmann can do a lot of checking especially with hands that can easily check-call. If he thinks his opponent is going to be overly weak when facing a bet then he can also bet at a high frequency. If Volkmann were to bet then a lot of hands that could potentially bluff will just fold so his ace-high will gain more value from opting for a check-call.
We should make sure we protect our checking range and sometimes check much stronger hands like hands that contain a king in this spot. Indeed, Volkmann checked to Mathis, who had a club flush draw. He definitely wants to be betting with his draws that have good equity but completely lack showdown value. As such, he bet 6.7 million and Volkmann made the easy check-call.
The turn gave Volkmann a flush draw of his own and he checked for the second time. Mathis, who picked up a gutshot straight draw, needs to think ahead and figure out whether he wants to use a small or big bet size on the river, which will affect the size of his turn bet. If he were to take a line that put him all in on the river it would look extremely strong because of the two other shorter stacks at the table. Would the second-biggest stack be getting it in against the chip leader weak with ICM implications in play?
Mathis bet 20.9 million and Volkmann had to call with his flush draw. Even if he missed, some of Mathis’ bluffs will give up on the river so Volkmann would win with just his ace-high at least some of the time. Volkmann doesn’t want to raise here as he will only get called by hands that are beating him and he still has some showdown value with ace-high. If he did want to raise, he should use semi-bluff hands that have lower equity and lack showdown value.
The Brazilian put in the chips and the river missed both players. Volkmann checked for the third time and Mathis had to decide what to do with just six-high. There was 68 million in the pot and Mathis had 93 million behind with two other shorter stacks still at the table. When choosing bluffs on the river you should pick ones that have zero showdown value but remember you should have value hands in your range that would also bet in order to stay balanced.
If Mathis were to use a smaller bet size then Volkmann may call with a lot of his pairs given that a lot of the draws have missed, so a small bet usually won’t get the job done. I think all in is really the only option. Volkmann will know that a big bet size from Mathis will often be very heavy as Mathis is second in chips out of the four remaining players. Also, if Volkmann were to call and lose, he would drop out of the chip lead and fall to one of the shorter stacks, which isn’t a place he wants to be.
Mathis double-checked his hand and then did move all in for 92.7 million. That did the trick as Volkmann quickly folded.
For a more thorough breakdown of this hand, check out my thoughts in the following video used with permission from partypoker:
Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and author with over $7,000,000 in live tournament earnings. He writes a weekly educational blog and hosts a podcast at JonathanLittlePoker.com. Sign up to learn poker from Jonathan for free at PokerCoaching.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanLittle.