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 week's hand comes from Poker Night in America at Golden Nugget, a $1,675 tournament that just wrapped up in downtown Las Vegas. It featured three starting days, and we focus our analytical lens upon Day 1b here.
It's the dying moments of Level 14 (1,200/2,400/400), and players are set to bag in only about 20 more minutes. Mike Comisso (pictured above) has been playing solid poker and sits in second place, while Todd Tooley — at the same table — has been on cruise control with the chip lead for awhile.
Comisso came in from early position with a raise to 5,200, Tooley made the call from the hijack seat, then the player on the button called as well, making it three players to a flop.
Comisso checked and Tooley bet 10,300. The player on the button folded, and Comisso called. Both Comisso and Tooley checked the turn, then an river hit. Comisso bet 28,000 and Tooley shoved all in for 257,900 effective.
Comisso snap-called and Tooley tossed into the middle for trip queens, but Comisso had it beat with for aces full.
Concept and Analysis
Comisso starts out the hand by electing to pot control and check-call a bet. That is generally a fine play in this spot as betting just exposes you to getting raised, and then you're out of position with a hand that has little equity against what your opponent is representing (three queens).
One ironic move that occurs in this hand is Tooley deciding to check back the turn, because given that an ace fell on the river and he got coolered, that move could have saved him a ton of money. Consider that if Tooley makes a standard-sized bet on the turn of 25,000 or so and gets called, there will be around 90,000 in the pot on the river.
As played, there's only about 40,000 in the pot, so when Comisso makes his river bet of 28,000, Tooley has a chance to get away quite cheaply. Instead, he makes a strange decision to overbet shove for more than three times the pot.
Certainly, trip queens with top kicker is a huge hand. But you have to consider when making a big value bet what hands you're hoping will pay you off.
Remember that Comisso has been playing pretty solidly and he raised from early position. If he has a queen, most likely it's a queen with a good kicker, and of the combos where is a high card, Tooley beats only queen-jack.
Other hands that he could conceivably have would either beat Tooley — e.g., a full house — or won't be calling this monstrous bet because they are too weak.
If Tooley was hoping to get looked up light and maximize his value, he could have easily raised to something like 125,000 and still had a sizable stack behind in case his opponent shoved. Tooley had a stack that was on par with a couple of the players who would make the five-handed TV final table, and it's painful to let that slip away in a spot that could have been avoided.
Overbet shoves can definitely be a powerful weapon, but they have to be used judiciously because of hands like this — where Tooley would probably be taking down the pot much of the time, but the times he is called, he's crushed.
Make sure you take into account what hands you're looking to get called by, as well as pot-to-stack ratio. Otherwise, you're simply risking too much for too little gain.