Let’s take a look at what is perhaps the most interesting TV poker hand Doug Polk ever played.
It’s an ultra-high stakes cash game with the blinds at $1,000/$2,000 and $2,000 in total antes. Both Doug and his opponent, the famous Patrik Antonius, are very deep, with an effective stack depth of $470,000 (235 big blinds).
Time to dig into the action!
Everyone folds to Doug who is in the Small Blind with 7♠ 4♥. He limps and Patrik checks back his 86 offsuit.
Given that it’s an ante game, Doug should be playing a very high percentage of the hands he’s dealt when the action folds to him in the small blind (roughly 80-90% of all starting hands). This is because he is getting very good pot odds — so good that even trash hands such as 74 offsuit become profitable to play.
There are two approaches to implementing a limping strategy:
- A limp-only strategy.
You either limp or fold with no raising. This means limping with premium hands (AA, AK, etc), medium-strength hands, and weak (but playable) hands alike.
- A mixed strategy.
You either limp, raise, or fold. Both the raising range and the limping range will contain premium hands, medium-strength hands, and weak hands.
It might be helpful for you to see a visual example of a SB range for a game with antes. Elite tournament pro Nick Petrangelo is an expert in such spots, so let’s take a look at the 100BB SB Unopened range from his Winning Poker Tournaments course:
The substantial amount of limping is driven by the incredibly good pot odds mentioned above, and the need to protect your limping range by including an adequate number of strong hands.
Versus the limp, Patrik should be raising around 40% of the time. In terms of hand selection, he should raise with the top 25% of hands, along with some combination of trash hands in order to balance the strong hands. Exactly which trash hands to raise is up to him to decide, and his exact hand (86o) can go either way.
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The flop is dealt 7♣ 5♣ 4♦ and the pot is $6,000.
Doug checks with top and bottom pair, Patrik bets $6,000 with his nut straight, and Doug calls.
Even though Doug’s hand is very strong, he should be checking on the flop. He is out of position with an extremely high stack-to-pot ratio against a range that has more super-strong hands — a prime spot to check with one’s whole range.
By playing this way, Doug will be able to mitigate the pressure that Patrik might put on him. Doug will have some very strong hands in his check-calling range (such as two pair), and these “slow-played” two pairs will protect him in case Patrik decides to start overbetting on the turn and/or river.
Once it’s checked to him, Patrik has a very easy bet. He should use a big size because the board is low and connected, and his value hands want to start building the pot right away.
The turn comes the 5♥. The board is now 7♣ 5♣ 4♦ 5♥ and the pot is $18,000.
Doug leads $5,000, Patrik raises to $23,000, and Doug calls.
This card is amazing for Doug because his range has way more 5x hands than Patrik’s does. For this reason, his donk-bet (and size) make for a great play. and he should do so with his whole range.
(To learn more about leading on turn cards like this, read This Poker “Cheat Code” Will Help You Win More Hands).
Patrik’s raise is very standard. His hand is super strong and wants to build the pot further.
Doug has an interesting decision at this point. From a theoretical perspective, his hand is a very strong bluff-catcher (since it’s blocking 77, 75 and 44) and should always be a call.
From a practical perspective though, the situation may be different. The question he should ask himself is: “is Patrik balancing his value range properly in this spot?” If Patrik’s range is value-heavy while lacking bluffs, Doug will want to fold his hand.
Doug went for the theoretical approach and called, so let’s take a river.
The river comes the Q♠, making the final board 7♣ 5♣ 4♦ 5♥ Q♠. The pot is $64,000.
Doug checks, Patrik bets $90,000 and Doug raises to $302,000. Patrik thinks for several minutes before finally calling. The final pot was a whopping $668,000!
Doug has a clear check with his entire range on the river.
Patrik’s overbet is very good. He’s representing the nuts (or at least a very strong hand) and wants to extract max value in case Doug has trips.
Versus this overbet, Doug has a very tough decision. His hand doesn’t beat any of Patrik’s value range, which means it’s a pure bluff-catcher. On the other hand, he has some of the best possible blockers, eliminating some 77, 44, 75 and 54 combinations from Patrik’s range.
In theory, his hand is very close between folding, calling and raising, which means he is walking the 0 EV line.
In practice, it’s important to be able to measure your opponent’s playing style (more on the calling side or more on the folding side) and his mental state at that point in the match (tilted or calm). Those factors can push this type of hand one way or the other — though that’s easier said than done versus the great Patrik Antonius.
In this hand, Patrik was involved in some kind of prop-bet with Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey which had him lose between $100,000 to $200,000 because of the specific flop that was dealt. This may have had him a bit tilted and may have made him more likely to call.
Doug would certainly play a bunch of value hands (75, 54, 44, 55, 77) the same way, so you could say he was unlucky to have the perfect bluffing hand in this instance. Or maybe he was just unlucky that Patrik lost the prop-bet on the flop. It’s tough to say for sure when analyzing two titans of the poker world.
Would you bluff-raise with any hands in Doug’s river spot?
Or would you take a value-only approach? Let me know in the comments below. Feel free to drop any strategic questions there as well.
That’s all for today — I hope you enjoyed this analysis!
Till’ the next one, good luck at the tables!