nitsche qq limp and fold

Top Pro Plays Pocket Queens Passively with $2.7 Million On the Line

Dominik Nitsche is considered by many to be one of the best tournament players in the world, and for good reason.

In his career, the German native has amassed $18,649,880 in live tournament earnings, including 4 World Series of Poker bracelets.

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. 

Editor’s Note

This is Irish tournament pro and Unibet Poker ambassador David Lappin’s fourth article for Upswing Poker. You can follow him on Twitter here

‘The Chip Race’ is a fortnightly podcast sponsored by Unibet Poker. All episodes are available on Apple Music, SoundCloud and Stitcher. They also make a web-show called ‘The Lock-In’ and strategy videos like the one above. They are both available on our YouTube Channel. Please hit that SUBSCRIBE button while you’re there and FOLLOW ME @dklappin on Twitter!

Background

Game: WSOP $100K Super High Roller 2019

Format: 6-handed Final Table

Blinds: 200K/400K

Ante: Big Blind Ante of 400K

Positions/Stacks: 

  • 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)

Payouts: 

1st: $2,792,406
2nd: $1,725,838
3rd: $1,187,802
4th: $840,183
5th: $611,258
6th: $457,772

Preflop

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♣

Dom Pre

Preflop Analysis

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.

Note: Want to know 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 Advanced Solver Ranges for cash games — one of five sets of preflop charts in the Upswing Lab.

Flop

The Pot: 1.6M

The Flop: 96 6

The Action: It checks around. 

Dom Flop

Flop Analysis

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.

The best route, therefore, is to let a card peel, station down on some runouts, or go for value versus top pair hands if we still have an overpair on the turn and river

Again, the ICM is a looming factor, disincentivizing the putting of chips into this pot, particularly on a board which doesn’t favor us. 

Turn

The Pot: 1.6M

The Turn: (96 6) T

The Action: Igor checks, Keith bets 800K, Dominik calls and Igor folds. 

Dom Turn

Turn Analysis

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. 

Dominik’s call is clearly standard. He beats some value, it’s a draw-heavy board, he’s under-repped with an overpair and he can make a Queen-high flush

River

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. 

Dom River

River Analysis

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. 

Results

Keith gets Dominik to fold his Pocket Queens and wins the pot with the worst hand.

Wrapping Up

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).

Note: Ready to join 6,000+ players currently upgrading their No Limit Hold’em skills? Crush your competition with the expert strategies you will learn inside the Upswing Lab training course. Learn more now!

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About the Author
David Lappin

David Lappin

SNG specialist turned Tournament Pro. Unibet Poker Ambassador. Host and Producer of the Global Poker Award winning podcast ‘The Chip Race’. @dklappin on Twitter.

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