My GIANT Bust Out Hand

July 2, 2018

Since my last blog update I played 17 minutes in the $365 NL Giant on Friday night when I played a massive pot with AA against AJ of clubs that found me all in on the river on a board of K64ccA9c and heading for the exit in stunned fashion yet again.

The pot had roughly 24k in the middle after the turn action and I had about 15k behind. I knew he had a made hand and I thought it was very unlikely that he would fold to a river jam, so I stuffed it in. Of course, I was aware that the missing ace was the ace of clubs but I’m never gonna check-fold my hand getting 2.6-1 with top set and I definitely thought it was more likely for him to call a jam than it was for him to bluff the river and despite the numerous monsters under my bed at this stage of my trip, I had zero interest in trying to show down my hand for free.

He made it 600 pre and I made it 2500 facing two opponents from out of position so even though it’s certainly not impossible for him to have smaller suited aces, I would expect him to fold anything less than AT suited and since AK of clubs is not possible he usually only has a few flushes on the river: AQcc, AJcc, ATcc, QJcc, QTcc, JTcc. I would be surprised, but not shocked, to see anything else.

Meanwhile there are six combos of KK and AK alone. Granted, he might be inclined to raise these hands (and the other sets) earlier in the pot.

Shrug. Just another stupid cooler spot where I feel like pot size and strength of hand has me totally handcuffed. Considering all the variables in retrospect, he probably shows up with a flush here more often than not, despite more non-flush combos in his range.

With that said, it’s always worth reviewing certain pots to see if you took the optimal line. I’m not sure I did here.

With two players in position that have 600 committed, I’m not sure that 2500 is a big enough raise preflop. 4x seems big – and if I was opening from the cutoff it would be – but considering the situation, I don’t think it’s big enough. With 25k starting stacks, my raise to 2500 puts both opponents right in that sweet spot of speculating for 10% of their stacks.

Let’s say I have AK here. Would I give them such an attractive price? Seems unlikely. So what’s a good sizing? 3750 would get 15% of the stacks in, but that does seem rather large. 3500 doesn’t seem so bad. That gets 14% of stacks in pre and imagine if my opponents have hands like AK or TT+ – that’s a pretty gross spot. Most players aren’t going to fold there and that’s obviously great for me.

As played, I think my flop sizing is fine. Once I get called there though, there is almost 13k in the pot and when I bet 5k I’m giving him 3.6 to 1 on a call. He needs to win ~22% of the time to make calling profitable and with his actual holding he is ~18% to make a flush. When you factor in implied odds (which he clearly had here), it’s a very easy continue for him with his flush draws.

Since I perceived his holding as strong, I like some other options better.

Option A) I can size up. With 13k in the pot and ~20k effective behind, I think a turn bet of 8k can be easily justified. Now he needs to improve to the best hand on the river ~28% of the time. The problem here is that it’s probably still profitable for him to continue here since he’s basically always getting paid off on the river since my price will be way too good to fold, which is why I like…

Option B) I can check-jam. In real time I was considering this line, but when I improved to top set, I didn’t think it was super likely for him to bet. I can’t imagine him betting his naked kings here. I knew he was strong when he called the turn so I didn’t quite have that information before I acted here.

In retrospect I really like checking here for a ton of reasons.

1) If he has a king, he’s drawing dead and he will likely pay off a smallish bet on the river after the turn checks through.

2) If he’s at the top of his range (AK, sets) he’s going to bet and I will be able to get stacks in here with him drawing nearly dead most of the time.

3) If he’s on a flush draw, he might try to take it away and I can check-jam and put myself in an amazing spot – whether he folds or calls doesn’t really matter.

4) If he decides to check-back his draws on the turn and the river comes a club, I can proceed with caution and check-call. When I check turn and river, my hand doesn’t look super strong here so he will probably size down with his flushes and I will get off relatively cheaply and remain in the tournament. I can’t imagine him going for much more than 60% pot here which I could check-call and still have 60+ bigs.

Let’s rewind to preflop and imagine if I made it 3500. That makes both players continuing decisions tougher, which we want to do. Even though I’m nutted here, I won’t always be in this particular spot so we don’t want to make their decisions easy just because I’m at the top of my range.

If I size at 3500 and the AJcc decides to continue and the other player folds, there will be almost 8k in the middle heading to the flop. Now if I bet half pot, I can reasonably get stacks in on the turn. There will be ~16k in the middle and I will have around 17k behind and jamming seems pretty damn optimal. If the third player decides to call the 3500 (a reasonable assumption) preflop it would make jamming the turn here automatic. In that case, there would be 20k+ in the middle and I’d have less than a pot-sized bet left on the turn. Perfect.


I don’t think I played this hand bad. I doubt anyone would argue that I should have folded at any point in time. I got insanely unlucky like I have so many times this series. That’s undebatable.

But just because I took an insane beat and can seemingly chalk it up to simple bad luck, doesn’t mean I can’t learn from the hand.

Did I take the best line possible? I don’t think so and I think I’ve illustrated why. The “mistakes” I made in this hand can be attributed to my lack of experience in no limit hold’em. I feel like I’m an above average NL player in the scope of the entire poker world, but if you narrow it down to the top 25% (and assuming I’m even that high is quite a leap), there’s no way I’m above average at NL hold’em in that smaller pool of players.

I have busted with AA in two of the last three NL tournaments I’ve played… both times in the first orbit of the tournament!!!

My takeaway from both those pots is that I need to rethink my 3-bet sizings and try to plan ahead better. In the typical month, I might play one NL tournament, on average, so it can be hard for me to get practice in deep stacked NL. I did play a ton of NL tournaments online over the past year but those events tend to play with a much quicker structure and the decision-making and planning becomes much more trivial.

I think this is an important hand to review as I head into my first MAIN EVENT ever. I’m not planning to play any poker until then as I’m going to be spending my time relaxing and studying before I hop into Day 1C on the 4th of July.

Tormund was ridiculing me for not getting some live NL warm up in at the Rio… like in the Daily Deep Stack, but my pain threshold has been really low as the summer has progressed and multiple days off in a row to recover and recoup mentally seems like a better use of my time.I will not be live blogging my Main Event progress, but I will make a blog post you can follow that will have stack updates throughout and if I feel like mentioning a hand it will only happen during breaks. The Main obviously deserves 100% of my focus.

Good luck to me! Last chance for 2018 WSOP redemption!

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