Dominik Nitsche is considered by many to be one of the best tournament players in the world, and for good reason.
But being one of the greatest players in the world doesn’t mean others won’t scrutinize your play. Nitsche came under a lot of fire when he took what some consider to be a tight and unorthodox line in a WSOP $100K Event.
In fact, to quote Doug Polk’s joke-needle from his video about this hand, “you can’t spell Nitsche without “nit”.
Dominik stopped by ‘The Chip Race’ podcast to defend his line and it was such a good segment that we turned it into an animated Strategy Video. Take a look at the video below or read on for a summary of the hand.
Game: WSOP $100K Super High Roller 2019
Format: 6-handed Final Table
Ante: Big Blind Ante of 400K
- Small Blind: Igor Kurganov ~ 12.525M (31.3 Big Blinds)
- Big Blind: Keith Tilston ~ 13.575M (33.9 Big Blinds)
- UTG (Lojack): Nick Schulman ~ 12.675M (31.7 Big Blinds)
- Hijack: Daniel Negreanu ~ 7.15M (17.9 Big Blinds)
- Cut Off: Brandon Adams ~ 8.025M (20 Big Blinds)
- Button: Dominik Nitsche ~ 6.05M (15.1 Big Blinds)
The action folds around to Dominik on the Button. He elects to limp Q♥ Q♦ off his ~15bb stack.
Igor completes from the small blind with 3♠ 2♠ and Keith checks his option in the big blind with T♠ 3♣
Dominik choice to limp the button may not seem standard off this stack depth. But, particularly when you consider how poorly people tend to play in limped pots, it is a great way to generate more EV. Min-raising is also a fine option, but he is a bit too deep to shove.
(Editor’s note: Limping some/all of the time in this spot with QQ is the theoretically correct play. For many players, however, shoving preflop with QQ here would be fairly reasonable to avoid tough postflop situations they haven’t studied.)
Dara highlights the large ICM implications and explains how Holdem Resources Calculator likes to limp 9.8% of hands with no ICM, but 17.1% of hands when ICM is factored in. Queens is easily in the limping range without ICM, so it’s a slam-dunk limp given the ladder jumps.
If one of the players raises, we are happy to get it in with a much improved risk/reward. If it checks through, as it does, we proceed with a hand of disguised strength.
Igor makes an easy call with 32s getting 7 to 1 pot odds. Tilston can happily take a free flop with his raggy T3o.
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The Pot: 1.6M
The Flop: 9♥ 6♦ 6♥
The Action: It checks around.
When the action goes check, check, Dominik checks behind as it’s not a good board for him. He is very short-stacked and lacks many 6x hands in his limping range. If he bets and gets raised, he is in a pure guessing game.
Again, the ICM is a looming factor, disincentivizing the putting of chips into this pot, particularly on a board which doesn’t favor us.
The Pot: 1.6M
The Turn: (9♥ 6♦ 6♥) T♥
The Action: Igor checks, Keith bets 800K, Dominik calls and Igor folds.
Keith’s half-pot bet seems a little clunky. It has merits and demerits.
Dara points out that on such a draw-heavy board, Keith’s bet does deny a decent amount of equity (forcing weak draws like QJ or a lone low heart to fold). Dominik makes the counter-point that the T♥ is actually a good card for his range and that, in his opinion, Keith’s kicker is too weak for this bet and his sizing is too big.
The Pot: 3.2M
The River: (6♦ 9♥ 6♥ T♥) 8♠
Stack-to-Pot Ratio: 1.5:1
The Action: Keith bets 1.2M, Dominik folds.
This might not seem like it at first, but this is actually a really tough spot. Dominik only needs to be good 21% of the time for a call to break even, but it’s imagine what he beats
Problematically for Dominik, he has the Q♥ in his hand and if Keith is bluffing, that’s just about the perfect card for him to have.
Keith’s bet SCREAMS value. It such a small bet that he can have a number of value hands:
- 6x for trips
- Any 7 for a straight
- QJ (admittedly blocked) for the better straight
- Any flush.
But could it also be a hand Dominik beats — namely a ten?
In game, Dominik used some time-bank chips and reflected back over the hand. A key piece of information for him was Keith’s half-pot sizing on the turn, which he inferred to mean that if it was Tx, it pretty much had to be AT or KT.
I pushed back on that with Dom, making the case for the inclusion of T9 and T8 which could both make sense. It is fair to say though, that both of these hands also make good turn checks too.
Dara ran the spot in PioSolver and, in short, the solver calls. Crucially though, the solver assumes the correct number of value bets and bluffs from Keith. As Dominik predicted, KT is the worst hand that should bet so Keith is way off firing out a blocker bet here.
It is also fair to say that humans find it hard to find bluffs in these spots. Arguably, these points balance each other out somewhat, making the call compelling again but, in-game, Dominik only put stock in the latter and found the ‘nitty’ fold.
Looking back, there is merit to raising as a bluff in this spot. Blocking flushes and QJ is pretty powerful in this spot and that line would be +EV. In fairness to Dominik though, with limited time, it’s hard to pull the trigger there. Especially when the option to call is so compelling and you are giving that aspect of the decision your initial consideration.
Keith gets Dominik to fold his Pocket Queens and wins the pot with the worst hand.
This hand on the WSOP’s second biggest stage certainly played out in an unorthodox fashion, not because Dominik’s limp is unorthodox, but because it creates a situation where both players were very unsure of each other’s ranges, leading to a lot of assumptions and guesswork.
Aggressive actions do help define ranges, so it comes with the territory that passive lines (like limping) keep ranges wide open and thus complicate postflop situations. Ultimately, Keith’s turn and river bets were not bluffs, but they did credibly represent a hand that he should not possess. It is in this quagmire that Dominik got lost, giving his opponent credit for a better hand.
How would you play this hand differently as either player?
Let me know in the comments below.
If you want more from me, read my previous analysis article: How Being Scared Money Can Cost You Big Money (Hand Analysis).
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