Staying Out of Trouble in the WPT Championship

Staying Out of Trouble in the WPT Championship

A few hours into day 1 of the World Poker Tour Championship, I found myself with only 29,000 out of my 50,000 starting stack. I resolved to remain calm and play my best. It is quite common to see players lose their minds when they lose half their stack. I still had 75 big blinds!

Eventually, I looked down and found Ts-Tc on the button and raised to 1,000 out of my 29,000 stack at 200/400-50. The small blind, a loose, aggressive Asian guy who seemed to like to play pots with me thought for a while, counted out around 3,200 chips, started shaking, and then accidentally put in 2,200 instead of 3,200. While I would have almost certainly been happy to play for my entire stack if my opponent acted in a normal manner, whenever I see someone act in a bizarre way, I tend to assume they either have a premium hand or are bluffing. Either way, I do not want to build a huge pot because if my opponent has a premium hand, T-T is in marginal shape and if he is bluffing, I want to keep him in the pot. So, I decided to call 1,200 more to see what develops.

The flop came 9d-8s-5h, giving me a weak overpair.  My opponent bet 2,300 into the 5,050 pot. I don’t think raising has much merit because if my opponent has any pair 8-8 or better, I am drawing thin. Of course, by calling I will sporadically get outdrawn by various overcards, but conserving my stack when I am drawing dead is well worth that risk. Especially when playing in a deep stacked tournament, minimizing the risk of going broke is almost always more important than maximizing value.

The turn was the beautiful (9d-8s-5h)-Td, giving me top set. My opponent checked. While I am not a fan of making my opponent fold a hand that is drawing dead, like A-K or 4-4, I think I need to bet because there are numerous draws my opponent could have plus he may have a strong hand like 8-8 that he is slow playing. So, I bet 2,900 into 9,650 pot, hoping my small sizing would induce my opponent to stay in with a hand that is drawing thin like A-Q.

My opponent thought for a while and acted as if he was about to fold. He then put a chip on top of his cards and check-raised to 9,000. I wasn’t expecting that! Seeing how I would only have 14,850 in my stack after calling 6,700 more, I decided that going all-in was the right play. I thought my opponent could easily have a decent draw, a set, or a vastly overplayed overpair. While he could have Q-J, I thought he would rarely act both preflop and on the turn in this “nervous” manner. Notice that Q-J is certainly not a strong preflop hand but it would be the nuts on the turn. This made me think that he would act differently on those two streets whereas it seemed to me like he was acting in the same manner, meaning he thought his hand was strong both preflop and on the turn. This led me to think he had primarily overpairs. Since my opponents thought he had the nuts, I did not think he would fold to the all-in, even on this board that is normally quite bad for overpairs.

My opponent thought for around two seconds before slamming his stack in the pot and proudly tabling his A-A. He then lamented about how lucky I was to turn a set. In reality, he acted in a way such that I would have possibly been able to get off the hook, even if I still had an overpair on the turn, because it was somewhat clear to me that he thought he had a premium hand. Always be aware of how your opponent’s actions narrow his range. In this situation, his actions gave me the opportunity to get off the hook with only a marginal overpair while also allowing me to get all of the money in with the effective nuts on the turn, even though the board was quite bad for my opponent’s premium preflop hand range.

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Author: Steve Bowman