While the poker world has been zoned in on the Doug Polk vs Daniel Negreanu grudge match, another high stakes match has been brewing over on PokerStars.
Two poker end-bosses — Berri Sweet and LLinusLLove — have been battling it out in both No Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha. Sweet is a PLO crusher while LLinusLLove is considered to be one of the top No Limit cash players on the planet.
The stakes? $200/$400. The stack sizes going into this preposterous hand are $70,000 for Berri Sweet and $165,000 for LLinusLLove.
Without any further ado, let’s jump into the action!
LLinusLLove opens on the button to $980 with A♠ 9♣. Berry Sweet defends his Big Blind with 8♦ 5♣.
Both players played this spot correctly.
Linus should be opening with (roughly) the top 80% of hands heads-up. Obviously, A♠ 9♣ is well within the top 80% of hands. His raise size of around 2.5 big blinds is appropriate.
Berri’s 8♦ 5♣ might look like an incredibly weak hand, and it is, but it is still strong enough to defend against Linus’s incredibly wide opening range. Berri’s continuing range should be close to 80% of all starting hands (counting both calls and 3-bets).
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The flop comes K♦ 9♦ 4♦ and the pot is $1,960.
Berri checks and Linus c-bets $487 with middle pair. Berri check-raises to $2,098 with his weak flush draw, and Linus calls.
Monotone flops are boards where the preflop aggressor should tread carefully postflop.
Even though the preflop aggressor usually retains the equity advantage, it’s usually very slight and the nut distribution is also close to symmetrical.
With that in mind, there are hands that still want to continue putting more money into the pot. Second pair with the top kicker is a pretty decent candidate for several reasons:
- It’s the strongest second pair, which means it can get value than other second pairs.
- A♠ 9♣ can work great as a bluff-catching hand on the river if the turn checks through.
- It gives Linus more versatility on future streets*
*When the second pair pairs on the turn, for example, Linus will have more combinations of trips, which denies Berri the ability to make huge bets against a capped range.
Regarding the size of the bet, there are multiple avenues which a player can take and the EV of those solutions will be very close in theory. All-in-all, Linus’ bet is good.
On to Berry’s strategy…this is where the action starts to get surprising.
Check-raising with a flush draw as weak as the 8 is not advisable on monotone boards. This is especially true when considering that they are playing with very deep stacks to begin with.
On these boards, you want to be using very strong flush draws as semi-bluffs. And even then, do so with great care, raising them only occasionally.
The idea behind the low frequency of check-raising with these hands is that there aren’t that many hands that want to check-raise for value, which in turn means we can’t be check-raising that many bluffs either.
After facing a check-raise, A9 is definitely strong enough to call for Linus. Same goes for all of the pairs that bet the flop and the stronger draws (such as flush draws and combo draws).
The turn comes the 4♠, making the board K♦ 9♦ 4♦ 4♠. The pot is $6,156.
Berri bets $4,615 with his weak flush draw. Linus raises to $12,461 with middle pair. Berri 3-bets to $21,999 and Linus calls.
(Remember, Linus and Berri have A♠ 9♣ and 8♦ 5♣, respectively.)
Things get really interesting on the turn!
Berry fires a 3/4 pot-sized bet, which is okay (but not great) given that he still has some outs to the best hand. However, I wouldn’t advise you to make this play due to the reverse implied odds situations that come up on diamond completing rivers.
The pivotal moment of the hand is Linus’ turn raise.
This is definitely not the theoretically correct play. It’s an exploitative move, so I will explain the possible reasons why Linus might have chosen to raise instead of just call (which would be the theoretically correct play).
There is no reason to believe that raising with A9 here would play great as a bluff since it’s only going to (almost exclusively) fold out worse hands. This means that the main reason for raising must be in the sphere of extracting more value out of the hand.
In order for this to make sense, Linus must have assessed that Berri is most likely over-bluffing and not folding enough. And what an assessment that turned out to be!
Faced with a raise, Berri really got out of line with the small re-raise. He is repping the nut flush or a full house against a range that can have all the nut flushes (significantly more than Berri can have*) and all the full houses (some of which Berri cannot have, such as KK and 99*).
*Berri would have 3-bet preflop with many A♦ X♦ hands, as well as KK and 99.
This was likely an egregious mistake given that Berri’s hand has very poor blockers to Linus’ continuing range. Linus’ call against the 3-bet indicates that he believed Berri was over-bluffing this spot. Re-re-raising doesn’t make any sense when you believe your opponent is over-bluffing. Linus was better off calling to give Berri some rope with which to hang himself on the river.
The river comes the 9♠, making the board now K♦ 9♦ 4♦ 4♠ 9♠. The pot is $50,154.
Berri checks and Linus bets $25,577 with his full house. Berry check-raises all-in for $42,751 as a bluff, and Linus calls, scooping a huge $135,657 pot.
(Friendly reminder: Linus has A♠ 9♣ and Berri has 8♦ 5♣!!!)
Berri’s check makes it seem like he decided that Linus has a strong hand that is not going to be folding against any sized bet.
Faced with a check, Linus must bet for his full house for value. His bet size is very good because if he had a missed draw, he would want to use a size such as this to fold out stronger missed draws. And if he had a value hand, he’d want to encourage a hand such as a strong flush to still call.
This size also leaves room for what Berri ended up doing, check-raise bluffing, at some frequency. I would go as far as to say that this bet size choice is masterful on Linus’ part.
Berri’s check-raise is the pinnacle of a really mis-played hand. His blockers are really bad and, if we want to go deeper into a potential exploitative approach, this spot is very unlikely to be over-bluffed and/or over-folded by Linus. This should have just been a give up on the river. He may have been tilted at this point.
This was an awesome hand. Linus displayed a great understanding of both the exploitative and the theoretical part of poker, while Berri showed some gaps in his knowledge of No Limit Hold’em.
No matter what you think of Berri’s bluff, though, it’s tough not to admire this level of ambitious aggression. What an absolute bonkers line from him!
What Do You Think of Berri Sweet’s Ambitious Bluff?
Let me know in the comments below.
Ready for more high stakes heads-up hand analysis? Check out Doug Polk Explains Five $105,976+ Pots He Played vs Daniel Negreanu.
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!
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