Watching super high stakes poker is the best.
You get to watch players win and lose life-changing amounts of money from the comfort of your own home. Tough to beat that!
Let’s take a look at a hand from a $100/$200/$400 ($200 ante) game on Hustler Casino Live, featuring billionaire poker enthusiast Bill Klein and one of the best pros you’ve probably never heard of, Brian Kim. Brian made a deep run in the WSOP Main Event this year, but he’s also known as an “end boss” in the Los Angeles poker scene.
Without any further ado, let’s dive into the action!
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Brian raises with K♥ K♣ to $1,000 from the Cutoff. Action folds to Bill in the straddle, who calls with A♣ K♠. The effective stack is $133,600.
With Pocket Kings, Brian has an easy raise, and his size of 2.5bb is good. Pocket Kings is obviously a must-raise in every preflop situation, but let’s zoom out to see what the optimal strategy would be for his entire range.
With an ante in play, there is a lot of dead money in the pot, which incentivizes a more aggressive strategy. However, the straddle incentivizes a tighter strategy because the raise needs to get through an extra player. Overall, these two factors combine to incentivize the players to open-raise slightly looser than in a non-ante, non-straddle game.
Now, back to Bill.
Facing a raise from the Cutoff, Bill’s decision to call from the straddle with A♣ K♠ is leaving money on the table. Ace-King offsuit is part of the top 2.5% of hands and many worse hands will call a 3-bet.
Missing 3-bets with extremely strong hands costs you a lot of expected value (EV) over time. For example, here, Brian should be raising around the top 30% of hands and defending with a little under 50% of that range, should he face a 3-bet.
This means that AK-offsuit will dominate the calling range in a very large pot. For comparison, when Bill calls the raise, the pot will be $2,500. When he 3-bets and gets called, the pot will be $9,300. You’d much rather play the bigger pot with such a strong hand.
Of course, he was up against the KK here so he timed this preflop slow-play very well.
The flop comes T♠ 5♥ 4♥. The pot is $2,500. The effective stack size is $132,600.
Bill (A♣ K♠) checks. Brian (K♥ K♣) c-bets $1,600. Bill quickly calls.
On this flop, Brian has a small range advantage because he has all of the overpairs and stronger non-made hands.
This means that he should be c-betting pretty frequently, and his Pocket Kings are a good candidate. The optimal bet size is around 50-75% pot because:
- The board is relatively low (Ten-high)
- There is a flush draw possible
- There are several straight draws possible
- Neither player has a clear nut advantage (i.e. each player has roughly the same number of super strong hands in his range)
Now back to Bill, who elects to call with his overcards. This spot could really go either way. He doesn’t have a backdoor flush draw, which makes it tougher to realize his equity (especially against an aggressive player like Brian).
On the other hand, Bill has some implied odds for when the turn is an Ace or King. Brian will not expect Bill to have Ace-King given the preflop action, so should the turn come an Ace, for example, Brian would be willing to put a lot of money in the pot with a hand like Ace-Queen or Ace-Jack.
Let’s take a turn.
The turn comes 5♦, making the board (T♠ 5♥ 4♥) 5♦. The pot is $5,700. The effective stack is $131,000.
Bill (A♣ K♠) checks. Brian (K♥ K♣) c-bet $4,000. Bill calls.
The 5♦ turn is a great card for Bill’s range. He now has a significant nut and range advantage over Brian due to having many more 5x combinations.
Because of this, Bill could implement a donk-betting strategy. However, his decision to check is probably the best choice. Turn donking strategies don’t add heaps of EV and can be hard for some players to implement if you haven’t studied them.
Back over to Brian with Pocket Kings.
Even though the turn creates more trips in Bill’s range, Brian should continue betting with his overpair. Any overpair is still extremely likely to be the best hand right now. The correct bet size to use is somewhere between 60-100% of the pot. He should not overbet because of the threat of trips which, as previously stated, Bill is more likely to have. Well played by Brian.
If Bill’s flop call was marginal at best, the turn call is certainly a losing play. Even if he has the best hand now, he may have to make a big hero call on the river in order to reach showdown. But what actually happens is so, so much crazier than that.
Related Reading: Play Like a Pro When The Turn Pairs The Middle Card
The river comes 5♠, making the board (T♠ 5♥ 4♥ 5♦) 5♠. The pot is now $13,700. The effective stack is $127,000.
Bill (A♣ K♠) leads for $13,000. Brian (K♥ K♣) raises to $50,000. Bill thinks about it for a while and re-raises, putting Brian all-in for $127,000 total. Brian tank-folds.
While it’s true that Bill should have many more combinations of quads than his opponent, Brian still has a ton more high-end full houses (JJ–AA), which Bill can’t have. Because of this reason, Bill should never lead out on this river. Moreover, his Ace-King is strong enough to win the pot sometimes since it crushes Brian’s give-ups. A
Given Bill’s line and sizing, Brian has a difficult decision to make. He can just call or raise for value. The “correct” answer will very much depend on the reads that Brian has on Bill’s strategy.
From my experience, Bill’s line indicates that he is trying to pot control with a Tx hand in order to not face an overbet. With this logic, it makes sense to try to raise for value, thinking that it would be a hard fold for anyone a Ten.
The raise is probably a correct play from Brian. That said the raise size could be quite smaller in order to force Bill to call with his Tx instead of making a hero fold.
While Bill made several mistakes throughout this hand, his decision to 3-bet shove Ace-King is a damn smart bluff. On one hand, it blocks the most likely 5x hand in Brian’s range (A-5 suited clubs). And, on the other hand, it blocks the most likely hero-calling hands (AA and KK).
Brian is now in poker hell, holding a bluff catcher in a huge pot. Once again, it all comes down to his reads. Does he think Bill is capable of 3-bet bluffing with this line enough of the time, given the pot odds he’s getting?
This is one of the spots in poker where a solver cannot give you the correct answer. This is the wild-west. Each player will have their own perspective of the situation, and no one knows precisely which decision is best.
It’s in spots like this that you have to fall back to the fundamentals of the game and make a decision based on your reads.
Brian must call $77,000 to win the $190,700 in the pot. That means he needs to have the winning hand at least 28.8% of the time to break even on a call.
Do you think Bill is bluffing more than 28.8% of the time here?
And what do you think of Brian’s fold?
Let me know in the comments below.
That’s all for this article, guys! I hope you enjoyed it and that you learned something new from it! As usual, if you have any questions or feedback, please let me know in the comment section down below.
Until next time, good luck, grinders!
Note: Learn an easy-to-implement poker strategy that wins in less than 2 hours with Doug Polk’s $7 Postflop Playbook. Coming to Upswing Poker on Monday (December 19th).