There have been some massive online poker cash games going on recently.
For today’s article, we’re going to look at a big pot played by tournament end boss Michael Addamo and online cash destroyer Markus Leikkonen (aka makeboifin on PokerStars).
The game is No Limit Hold’em, the blinds are $200/$400, and the action is hot!
Without any further ado, let’s jump right into it.
Addamo raises to $800 from Middle Position with A♠ 9♠. Leikkonen 3-bets from the Small Blind with Q♣ J♣ to $3,600. Addamo calls. The effective stack size is roughly $35,000, so they are around 88bb deep.
Addamo should open-raise with the top 20% or so of hands from his position. That includes all Ax-suited hands.
Faced with the raise, Leikkonen should 3-bet with the top 7% of hands from the Small Blind, and QJs makes the cut. His range is made of 99–AA, suited broadways, and AQ-offsuit. He may also mix in 3-bets with some lower pocket pairs and lower suited connectors at a small frequency.
Against a 3-bet of this size, Addamo’s A9-suited becomes a negative expected value (EV) call. Although it does have the raw equity to profitably call given the pot odds (he needs roughly 37% and has roughly 38%), he will struggle to realize all of his equity. This is because he has reverse implied odds against the ATs+ and AQo+ in Leikkonen’s 3-bet range (of which there are many).
That being said, this call shouldn’t cost Addamo much, should he play it well postflop. It’s probably a slightly negative EV call at worst.
Note: Know exactly how to play every hand in every common preflop situation. Get instant access to extensive preflop charts and lessons (for cash games, heads-up, and tournaments) when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Lock your seat now!
The flop comes J♠ 9♥ 5♦. The pot is $7,600.
Leikkonen (Q♣ J♣) bets $2,000. Addamo (A♠ 9♠) calls.
On this type of flop, Leikkonen retains a range advantage because he has a high frequency of AA, KK, and QQ. Compare that to Addamo, who will only occasionally have QQ and never KK+ (because he’d have 4-bet AA/KK preflop).
Moreover, Leikkonen’s range includes a good amount of hands that missed but have good equity, and those hands function well as a semi-bluff.
Due to these two factors, and the fact that AA-QQ are strong but vulnerable hands, Leikkonen should be using a slightly bigger bet size, around half pot.
This size puts more pressure on Addamo’s condensed range. The roughly 30% pot-sized c-bet Leikkonen used is not a mistake, per se. But that small tweak would likely increase his EV. If he does use a 30% pot-sized bet, he should be doing so with his entire range.
Addamo has an easy call with his second pair top kicker. It’s a hand that is high up in his overall range, and it has a lot going for it as far as medium-strength hands go.
First of all, A9-suited has pretty good blockers. The 9♠ makes it less likely his opponent has a set of nines, and the A♠ blocks Pocket Aces and AJ-suited. It also unblocks potential bluffs (such as KQ-suited, KT-suited, and QT-suited).
Finally, A♠ 9♠ has a backdoor flush draw, giving him just a bit more playability on future streets.
Let’s take a turn.
The turn comes the 2♠, making the board J♠ 9♥ 5♦ 2♠. The pot is $11,600.
Leikkonen (Q♣ J♣) checks, Addamo (A♠ 9♠) bets $3,828, and Leikkonen calls.
The turn 2♠ is a good card for Leikkonen’s range because Addamo will never improve to two pair or better — i.e. he never has J2-suited, 92-suited, 52-suited, or 22 based on the action so far. So, if Leikkonen was ahead on the flop, he is also ahead on the turn.
This kind of brick turn allows him to play a very aggressive strategy. This includes value betting with Q♣ J♣. I don’t think the check is a major mistake — the EV between betting and checking are quite similar according to PioSolver — but it does open the door to being exploited.
Faced with the check, Addamo should use an aggressive betting strategy for a small size (25%-33% of the pot). This bet size is best because it allows Addamo to efficiently deny the equity of a lot Leikkonen’s many overcard hands.
That being said, he shouldn’t be float-betting with his hand, even for such a small size. The Ace kicker is actually tremendously good for checking back, given that he would be upgrading to two pair on the river card Leikkonen would most violently attack, the Ace.
Against a bet, Leikkonen should be always calling with his Q♣ J♣.
The river comes the 3♥, making the final board (J♠ 9♥ 5♦ 2♠) 3♥. The pot is $19,256.
Leikkonen checks. Addamo bets $12,708. Leikkonen shoves for an effective size of around $26,000. Addamo makes the call, and Leikkonen scoops a phenomenal $70,620 pot.
The river 3♥ is another brick. After the turn action, Addamo is now more likely to have strong hands (such as AJ-JT). This, in turn, means that Leikkonen should be checking 100% of the time in this spot.
Back to Addamo, who gets way out-of-line with his decision to bet. It’s very hard to imagine how you will get called by more than 50% worse hands. He also may have to face a sneaky (and potentially balanced) check-raising range, which will force him to fold (or call) wrongfully sometimes.
His bet size (which is relatively small for this situation) doesn’t make sense in theory. He should want to maximize the EV of his entire range by forcing as many hands as possible from Leikkonen’s range into an indifferent decision. That can only be accomplished by using the largest bet size possible, which is an overbet all-in, in this case.
Leikkonen’s decision to check-raise all-in is smart. It’s quite unintuitive for Addamo to bet the river so small with a stronger hand than QJ. He is effectively holding the nuts at this point and should act accordingly.
Addamo’s call is way too loose from a theoretical perspective, so he must have had an exploitative reason for doing so. His call indicates that he believes Leikkonen is unbalanced towards bluffs (or weaker hands than his) when he check-raises all-in on this river.
Given what has gone down in this hand, I suspect that Leikkonen took this non-standard line — in particular checking on the turn — because he had an exploitative reason to do so against Addamo.
Great players seem to get lucky more often than their opponents. But this all comes down to a deep understanding of the mechanics of the game and an incredible talent for exploiting their opponents.
This type of hand shows that even at the highest level of the game, big deviations from equilibrium are not rare. Where you have deviations, you have the potential for counter-exploitation and profit maximization. All of this is a fancy way of saying that the poker dream is very much alive and kicking!
That’s all for this article! I hope you enjoyed it and that you learned from it! As usual, if you have any questions or feedback, feel free to leave a comment in the section down below.
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!
Note: Here’s what I recommend reading next to improve your poker skills: 3 Advantages of Betting Big on the Flop