Analysis of a few of my most memorable hands from Super High Rollers in 2018…

One of the first things that anybody will tell you about playing poker is that you need to detach from the money that you’re playing for.  It’s something that I think I’m pretty good at.  Once I have chips in front of me, my chips are big blinds and I focus solely on the game itself, not what I’m playing for or how much I paid for these chips.  It’s a recipe for tilt if you’re thinking about the money while playing poker, especially in high rollers.  The equity swings can be pretty outrageous at times and there are some very costly or beneficial all ins. In 2018 I played my first $25,000 event and my first $100,000 event.  I played many interesting hands from these events, and made decisions for more money than I ever have before.  Let’s take a look at a few of them.

 

Hand 1.  partypoker MILLIONS 2018 Barcelona Event #2 €25,000. 8 players left. €700,000 for first.

When I watch this hand back, there is a part of me that can’t believe I folded the river. Without deep analysis, the hand appears to be one I can’t fold. However, when I break it down, things start to change.

I decide to start with a check on the flop for a few reasons.  I don’t think there are too many run outs I’m comfortable going for 3 streets of value, either, especially given stack sizes between me and Adrian, and other players being short which puts ICM pressure on both of us. Adrian is a strong and aggressive player, and capable of putting me in tough spots.  I could put myself in some really awkward spots if I start betting here and get raised at some point. So, for these reasons I decide to check. It may seem that I have a capped range and I would want to play hands like QQ, JJ, some other Kx, and draws the same way. Also, having the Qc is giving me more equity and protection on some run outs.

On the turn, I’m happy calling another bet, even though I’m already anticipating that the river might be a tough decision if he bets again. I realise that he will still have many flush and straight draws that will want to bet again and target the weak part of my check calling range to fold. Once I call on the turn I think it is clear that my range becomes much stronger, and I know Adrian is aware of this.  On the river, I realise that there is no value hand I beat that bets this large size.  I’m fairly certain he doesn’t have KJ or worse. We don’t have too much history that would lead him to believe I would call him down light,  so I have a pure bluff catcher. Finding his bluffs is difficult.  I have the Qc , which is a very bad card for me, because many combinations of draws that I do beat contain this card. Having an 8 or a 9 with my King, instead of a queen, so that I don’t block his straight and flush draws  would make bluff catching way more appealing. He would be able to barrel back door flush draws and now they get there as well.

Another important part of this hand is the ICM implications that exist in this particular stage of the tournament.  I think Adrian’s pre flop flatting range is tighter than usual and in this spot, he will want to play many hands more passively, so I can include many strong hands, including AK into his pre flop flatting range.  He could have some suited Axss hands, TT and KTs, so there are plenty of hand combinations that beat me.

Another consideration I made was the implications to stack sizes if I do call and am incorrect. If that happened, Adrian would have a very large stack, and I would be left with less than 17 bb. I think that especially on a final table, this is a very important aspect to consider. Yes, we can look at it the other way too. If I win then I have a big stack and he is short but my own chance of winning decreases so much for the incorrect call.  Even if I fold incorrectly, I still have over 32 big blinds .

I can’t really pinpoint exactly what it was, and we can see watching the video that my instincts were correct the whole time on the river.  I felt like he had it, and also realised it is crazy to fold this hand, to Adrian especially, and I was potentially making a terrible fold.  Not to mention, I knew that anyone watching the stream would see this. This hand brings up another massive barrier that I’ve had to face recently with poker, and that is, getting over the hurdle of questioning how my decisions might look if I’m on a stream with hole cards shown.  It can be a paralysing fear to be on a stream knowing that you are being judged and every decision is being scrutinised.  I’ve tried to embrace that being a good poker player is like being an artist, sometimes creativity might produce a masterpiece and sometimes, total junk.  I found the correct fold this time, and I can say it was one of the tougher spots I had on a final table this year, and it’s these types of high pressure decisions that make poker and competing at this level so fun.

 

Hand 2: Aussie Millions 2019 $100k Challenge.

Again, in this hand I’m folding the river in a spot that at first glance, might seem like a tight, incorrect fold.  When the flop goes check check, I’m a bit suspicious and I feel somewhat confident that Cary has a hand that has some show down value. I’m expecting a delayed continuation bet a lot here once he checks this flop.  I do think that he would just bet the flop with all his one pair hands that are very vulnerable, except Ax hands and potentially KK, JJ, TT, and of course a Qx might check here as well.

When he checks the turn, I’m pretty surprised, and now feel I can put his range closer to the Ax hands, KK, and JJ.  I would expect him to bet all his flush draws that might have checked the flop back now, as well as any straight draws.  Again, I strongly think he would have bet all his 22-TT by now, and his suited connectors that totally missed would probably bluff the flop or turn, as I do have a high number of check folds on this board after defending the big blind. So, when the river is an A and he now over bets, the thing that makes the most sense to me is that he checked down an ace until the river.

Now that I have to call an over bet, it forces my call to be correct at a fairly high frequency as well, and I couldn’t think of too many hands that would check down and then now decide to bluff, and for that size. He could have bet 70% and it doesn’t change my calling range too much, so it seemed like he was trying to get maximum value against my range he didn’t think would fold and potentially attempting to look weaker.  For this sizing, I can also rule out him having Qx as well, because I know he is smart enough to understand that there is then, not that many hands that can call that he beats. I thought this was an interesting spot, and again, a spot that I had to turn off any worry about how things might look to viewers, and go with my own deductive reasoning.

 

Hand 3: WSOP Europe 2018 €100k

Ah, my first €100k. Not the ending I hoped for. So I open the button off 30bbs with 78ss which is pretty standard, and the small blind 3b me. I feel good calling this hand, especially vs this sizing.  I felt he would have a fairly wide small blind 3bet and I do think he is capable of making mistakes post flop. So when I flop middle pair and a back door flush and straight draw, and he over bets all in for almost two times the pot, I am put in a tough spot.  I didn’t think he would have any Kx sizing this way on the flop, but I couldn’t totally rule out a hand like TT, or 99 or something as well. Even against these hands I won’t be in terrible shape and he was more than capable of having plenty of random bluffs, as he did.

I took a lot of time with the decision, again to be sure I was thinking everything through and trying to find reasons to fold, but I eventually decided there wasn’t any and I called.  This hand is a fun one just to show how crazy hands can be even at $100k’s, and I can feel good about busting this way. His table talk and playing with him was also quite fun.

What do you guys think of these hands? Leave comments on my Twitter and Instagram!

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