Fedor Holz, at the age of 27, is already one of the biggest legends of the game.
The German native ranks eighth on the all-time money list with $32,556,377 in career live tournament earnings in addition to two World Series of Poker bracelets.
But not many do know that his early career was propelled by a visit to Bratislava, Slovakia. It was in September 2012, the same month I happened to move there.
Years before his sick heater, Fedor Holz and his crew came and crushed the Bratislava Championship that year. The German phenom both won the €1k High Roller and final tabled the Main Event for a pretty decent weekend. I was a live reporter for the event, so I did not get to play with Fedor.
It took exactly eight years for that to change.
Fedor returned to Bratislava one Friday September evening of 2020, looking for action. Many hours later, he was enjoying himself at one of the €1/€2 cash tables, sporting a nice stack and a five buy-in T-shirt.
I decided to join in for a bit and try my best versus a pretty tough line-up.
Live €1/€2 cash game. 5-handed.
I was new to the table, which was a €5/€10 game just a while ago. It is little after 9 a.m. and everyone at the table is solid, tired, and had a little bit of something something to drink. There is a lot of preflop re-raising going on from the get-go. After a while, this hand happens:
I was in the Big Blind. Everyone folded to the Fedor Holz on the Small Blind. He folds as well.
Now, at this point, I considered calling it quits, just to be able to tell the following story for the rest of my life:
“I once won a pot off of Fedor Holz!”
“Really? Tell me the hand!”
“Everyone folded to him in the small blind and he gave me a walk.”
However, it wasn’t meant to be. I decided to stay a little longer and a couple of orbits later I got myself into a real pot.
The Actual Hand
Playing 4-handed, I opened Q♥ J♥ from the Cutoff to €7. Fedor 3-bet €25 and I made the call. The effective stacks were €151.
(Note: This hand was ran by Upswing coach Fried “mynameiskarl” Meulders for analysis, and his thoughts are intermingled with my own in the sections that follow.)
The mix of high rake, the amount of re-raising in the game so far, and the fact that we are facing a particularly strong player would make me want to 4-bet a wider value range in this spot, as well as more bluffs.
Q♥ J♥, however, is just about a clear call as it gets even under the rather hostile circumstances.
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The flop comes down Q♠ 7♥ 5♦. There is €51 in the pot. Fedor bets €21 and I call.
I think it is interesting to consider what the top of my range looks like here. Following up on preflop thoughts, we can discount AQ from my range as I would be looking to get it all-in preflop vs such an aggressive player.
On other hand, because of the very low stack-to-pot ratio (75bb deep in a 3-bet pot), I would definitely just call KK and especially AA a lot of the time. So, I can have more many more strong overpairs in this spot than I would normally have.
Nevertheless, Fedor’s range is clearly stronger here. While I have some AA and KK hands in my range, he has all of them, along with QQ and AQ.
Because of my clear range disadvantage, I should not look to do much raising on this flop. With a strong top pair and a backdoor flush draw, I have a pretty clear call once again. Yes – it is that easy to play against Fedor Holz (in this spot at least)!
The turn brings the 4♠ (making the board Q♠ 7♥ 5♦ 4♠) with €93 in the middle.
Fedor slows down and checks. With €104 left in my stack, I have an interesting decision to make, but I ultimately decide to check back.
Originally, I suspected that Q♥ J♥ is best played as a some kind of a mixed strategy between betting (shoving) and checking. And even though my hand looks really vulnerable to a whole load of rivers and might want to shove, there is something about checking that I really did like in this spot.
You see, given that I have just a touch over a pot-sized bet left, I believe Fedor’s going to just shove a huge chunk of his main draws such as combo draws, flush draws, open-enders, hands like A8 and so on. If he does not, he is the one who faces a big risk of getting shoved on by me, forcing him to fold a painful amount of equity.
That is why I think him checking the turn discounts not only some of his strong hands, but also a significant amount of those draws we mentioned. That means that most rivers that look terrible for me may not actually be that bad. This would make denying equity less important, which makes checking a more attractive option.
With all that said, Fried “mynameiskarl“ Meulders pointed out that I have a lot more options here. Even with little more than a pot-sized bet behind, there is still room to bet with a small sizing (like 30% of the pot), and my Qx hands should be looking to do exactly that.
Using this sizing, I can accomplish getting both value and protection while leaving room for Fedor to check-shove some bluffs that we can call off. Furthermore, getting a hand like AK to fold isn’t a bad thing either.
The plan of checking back and letting Fedor bluff-shove the river can be executed with a touch weaker hands that don’t have a clear value bet on the turn, most notably middle pairs.
The river comes Q♦ making the final board Q♠ 7♥ 5♦ 4♠ Q♦. Fedor takes a moment before he shoves for €103. I call and am shown T♥ 8♥.
I intended to call off a shove on some really bad looking rivers, so with a queen rolling off, I couldn’t get my money in any faster.
It is interesting to see Fedor shove his T♥ 8♥ on the river even after the second queen hits. This is mainly because, well, he has to find some bluffs to balance the strong hands he checked the turn with. But it might also have something to do with the fact that we checked the turn back.
If Fedor was to suspect that most people would have bet the turn with a queen (and he can therefore discount many Qx combos from my range once I check back the turn), he would have been quite right. My range looked weak and that is a spot you want to attack.
But in this case, my range was very protected and in the end, I was very happy to take Fedor for more than just a walk.
If you could sit in a cash game with any famous player, who would it be?
Let us know in the comments below.
Want more low stakes cash game hand analysis? Read Your $1/$2 Hands Analyzed By A Live Cash Crusher.
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