doug polk folds a set

Doug Polk Does The Thing He Said To Never Do (Analysis)

Doug once said “don’t fold sets” in No Limit Hold’em…

…but apparently he was being hyperbolic because that’s exactly what he did in the hand you’re about to see.

The video above features Upswing coach Nick Petrangelo breaking down Doug Polk’s heroic lay down, and offers some tips on how to know when to fold a huge hand. The article below is based on the video (just in case you prefer reading to watching).

Let’s go through the hand and Nick’s analysis.

Note: Nick Petrangelo and Brad Owen’s brand new Smash Live Cash course just came out! If you want to destroy live cash games, don’t miss out on this course. Learn more now!


Location: The Lodge Card Club in Austin, Texas

Stakes: $5/$10/$25/$50 (straddle)


  • Doug – $47,300
  • E – $15,500
  • DQ – $8,400
  • Scotland – $16,800


E opens from Hijack to $150 with 8 8♣. Doug calls on the Button with 4 4♣. DQ calls from the Big Blind with K 9. Scotland calls from the straddle with J T♣.

Flop: A♠ 7♣ 4 (with $615 in the pot)

E bets $200. DQ and Scotland fold. Doug raises to $675. E calls.

Flop Analysis

On the flop, Nick notes that E is going to need to play extremely tight since he is up against 3 opponents. On a lot of board textures, he should be checking north of 90% of his range on flop.

Breaking down E’s range on the A-7-4 rainbow flop, he should sometimes bet and sometimes check with his strong hands (AQ+). He should find the occasional bluff with hands like 76s and 54s. JT and T9s also make for reasonable bluffing hands at a low frequency.

Nick points out that one of the main mistakes players make in E’s position is that they bet too often with hands like KQ and QJs—we really don’t want to be bluffing with these hands as they have bad removal and very low equity when called.

To quote Nick:

This is a spot where we should be happy to check-fold our air, and then barrel sometimes with those [hands that block sets] like 76, 75, 54, as well as some of the higher equity stuff like 65.

Doug makes a good raise with his set. He should look to extract value and build the pot ASAP with a hand this strong.

E’s call versus the raise is almost certainly too loose, but it might be okay at a very low frequency.

Let’s head to the turn.

Turn: 8 ($2,000)

E checks. Doug bets $1,500. E raises to $4,100. Doug calls.

Turn Analysis

This is a pretty bad turn for Doug. The 8 obviously makes a rare set for E, but on top of that 65s has made a straight.

Despite this, Nick still likes betting for value in Doug’s shoes. However, this is not a spot in which Doug should be excited about stacking off for 300 big blinds if E check-raises.

Nick points out that, by this point in the hand, E’s potential bluffing combos have narrowed dramatically. He says…

In order to have enough bluffs here, E is going to need to be doing things like c-betting 76, then calling our flop raise, and now check-raising. Or we need him to be doing this with hands like K7s.

It’s really interesting to think about what we do against an opponent that isn’t finding those weaker check-raises… We’re already going to be indifferent on the turn, but on the river (Doug’s hand might be) a pure fold.

In other words, Nick thinks this could be a reasonable fold on the turn against an opponent who will almost never check-raise with a bluff. That would have been a next-level sick play from Doug, but it’s hard to fault him for calling.

Let’s see the river.

River: 2 ($10,200)

E goes all in for $10.7k. Doug folds.

River Analysis

One of the most important things Nick teaches in his Smash Live Cash course is how to develop a deep understanding of how our real-world opponent approach bluffing and how to adjust. That’s why this river fold is so easy for Doug.

Doug gets put all-in on the river and he knows he’s already in the blender. He’s going to randomize some calls because it’s necessary to protect his range with some sets…

But what I’m showing* you guys here is that in these spots where your opponent is going to have to reach really hard to find bluffs, it’s OK to make huge folds. You’re actually going to save a lot of money against the population.

*He pulls up a solver to show that against most players, 44 loses a significant amount as a call in this spot (pictured below).

44 loses 5693 dollars

This screenshot from PioSolver shows that 44 loses $5693 calling on this river versus the range Nick estimated for E (which includes a lot of value and a handful of bluffs)

Final Thoughts

If you run a PioSolver sim for this spot, it will show that Doug should call on the river with 44. However, that’s because the solver is playing against itself — and the solver is a straight up savage.

On the turn in E’s spot, the solver check-raises with 76s and 75s very often. It also slow-plays 65s most of the time. But is a human opponent really doing that? To quote Nick one last time:

This is a really important thing to hammer down in game — you need to be able to think about if [your opponent] is doing these things…

[Ask yourself] ‘did my opponent really c-bet 76s and is now check-raising pure on the turn? Is he ever slow-playing 65 more than half the time?’

Against most opponents, you’d be correct to say “no” to both of those questions.

Check out part 3 of this strategy series from Nick here!

And if you’re interested in getting over 25 hours of in-depth poker training that will help you win as much as possible in live poker games, be sure to check out Smash Live Cash coming out next month.

Until then, good luck at the tables!

Want to win the max in live poker games? Get the new Smash Live Cash course and watch your hourly win-rate soar. Learn more now!

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About the Author
Mike Brady

Mike Brady

I used to play a ton of poker. Now, I'm the Vice President of Upswing Poker and only play a decent amount of poker. Read my full bio here.

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