Clear Thinking, Bad Result
In December, I played the main event at the World Poker Tour’s Five Diamond series. I had yet to finish a tournament in the money during my WPT employment, despite about 15 previous attempts, for I am a very skillful player. The streak was finally broken at the Bellagio.
On Day Three, when the bubble burst, I held a stack a little below average. Not long after, I was fortunate to win a large pot when I went all in with 9-9 against J-J and hit the necessary 9, giving me the chips needed to make a deep run realistic.
Late in Day Four, we were down to 18 players and redrawn to the final two tables. On my left was chip leader and WSOP main event final table-ist Soi Nguyen, sitting on more than $3 million in chips. On my right was one of the toughest players remaining, Vanessa Selbst, who had about $900,000. I was also holding $900,000, my biggest stack up to that point. A couple orbits into play, the three of us became involved in a major pot.
Action folded around to Vanessa on the button, who raised the $6,000- $12,000 blinds to $26,000. I was next to act in the small blind, holding As Qs, and I had a decision to make. Because I had no history with Vanessa, and a player as aggressive as her likely perceives me as being on the tighter side, I didn’t think it was correct to three-bet to something like $70,000 and go all in against her if she were to four-bet to about $140,000-$150,000. Not only was it a great deal of chips to risk in relation to her four-bet, but, more concerning, I didn’t think she’d four-bet me with that many weak holdings.
I also thought it was possible that if I called, Soi would use the might of his stack to three-bet as a squeeze with many weaker holdings—which Vanessa would probably also realize. Then Vanessa might four-bet us to perhaps $175,000-$200,000, and with a wider range of hands.
I decided to call and hope that both Soi and Vanessa put in raises, in which case I would move all in over the top, making my hand appear stronger than it actually was. (Besides, even if I got called, I had A-Q suited; I was sucking out for sure.) It’s a pretty clear example of how, at the highest levels, you have to think through many potential courses of action and how your opponents might react to them.
Soi did his part in following my plot, raising to $72,000, but Vanessa failed at hers and folded.
Now I had a new decision to make against Soi. Again, I could consider four-betting, but since the two of us had no history, and Soi isn’t known for being especially aggressive pre-flop, I thought it better to call with the intention of calling down on a number of run-outs, because
I believed he had many bluffs in his range pre-flop.
I made the call, and we saw a 4-2-2 rainbow flop. I checked, and Soi bet $75,000, which I also called. The turn brought a harmless 6, and when I checked, Soi checked behind. It’s a situation where he would almost always bet all his mid or high pocket pairs, meaning it was now far less likely he held such a hand.
The river was an ugly-looking K, and when I checked, Soi thought it over and bet $135,000. I knew the king was a bad card for me, but I also knew it was the kind of card that would tempt Soi to fire with his bluff holdings. I mulled it over a little before calling with my ace-high, and I was disappointed to see Soi’s K-Q offsuit.
An unfortunate result, and though I lost the hand, I’m still comfortable with the call. If only Vanessa had put in the four-bet.
Tony Dunst is a poker pro and host of “Raw Deal” on World Poker Tour telecasts.
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