Two Top Pros Play Perfectly with $450,076 on the Line (Hand Analysis)
Welcome to some of the toughest poker games on the planet: $25k High Roller Tournaments.
These events attract the best of the best, all competing for millions of dollars and the prestige that comes with winning a high roller title.
This article will analyze a crucial hand from a recent online $25k High Roller event. I will run the hand through PioSolver on each street to supplement the analysis.
Let’s dive in.
Game: $25,000 Partypoker.com WPT High Roller
Stage: 3 players left at the Final Table
Button (30.8bb): Benjamin “bencb789” Rolle
Small Blind (100bb): Michael “iamluckbox” Addamo
Big Blind (38.7bb): Jonathan “apestyles” Van Fleet
With that fat $98k pay jump and three of the best MTT players in the world battling it out, there is no shortage of drama surrounding this hand.
Michael opens to 4bb from the Small Blind with 9♣ 4♣. Jonathan defends his Big Blind with Q♥ J♦.
Michael should open-raise a lot in the Small Blind given that he is the overwhelming chip leader and can effectively apply pressure on Jonathan due to ICM. Even a hand as weak as 9♣ 4♣ is a winning open in these circumstances.
Jonathan makes a super standard call with Q♥ J♦. He should not want to bloat the pot by 3-betting with too many hands here because busting before the shortest stack would be disastrous.
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Pot size: 8.4bb
Board: T♣ 6♦ 4♦
Action: Michael checks. Jonathan bets 2.5bb. Michael calls.
With 9♣ 4♣, Michael has flopped bottom pair with backdoor flush and straight draws. This is a hand that can go either way in terms of betting or checking.
Jonathan’s small bet with Q♥ J♦ versus a check is pretty standard. He can profitably take a stab at the pot here with a bunch of straight draws, overcards and flush draws. This bet will fold out a ton of hands that have two live cards (9♠ 3♠ type stuff). Plus, this specific combo will have a plethora of barreling opportunities on the many turns that give him a draw.
Now, let’s take a look at how the solver plays in this situation:
First, here is how the solver plays Michael’s 9♣ 4♣ on T♣ 6♦ 4♦:
As you can see, 9♣ 4♣ is played as a mix of checks and bets (44% of the time betting small and 37% of the time checking).
Now, let’s see what Jonathan should do when facing a check, according to the solver:
Jonathan’s Q♥ J♦ is betting at a 62% frequency for a small size (around 25% pot).
Finally, here is how the solver plays Michael’s bottom pair when faced with a bet:
His 9♣ 4♣ is always continuing vs this bet, calling 84% of the time. Interestingly, the solver also likes check-raising this bottom pair 16% of the time.
Pot size: 13.4bb
Board: (T♣ 6♦ 4♦) 5♣
Action: Michael checks. Jonathan checks.
The turn 5♣ heavily benefits Michael’s range as the Small Blind. He has now made two pair or better with a number of hands in his range (T5, 65, 54, 55). Additionally, many of his flop floats will now have a draw, such as K♣ Q♣ or K♠ 7♦.
Because this turn hits Michael’s range so well, it doesn’t make sense for Jonathan to barrel this card. If he did, he would be betting into a range that is just not folding often (which is what he wants to happen when holding a measly queen-high). He has also not picked up any additional equity, which is a key factor when deciding whether or not to barrel.
Let’s take a look at the solver’s solution for this street.
As you can see, Michael should always check to the bettor with 9♣ 4♣:
And faced with the check, Jonathan should play a mixed strategy:
You can see that the solver chooses to bet just over 70% of the time with this hand, checking the remaining ~30% of the time. However, because of the heavy ICM considerations in this spot (for which the solver does not account), Jonathan may choose to check more frequently than he normally would with his Q♥ J♦.
Pot size: 13.4bb
Board: (T♣ 6♦ 4♦ 5♣) K♦
Action: Michael checks. Jonathan bets 11.8bb. Michael folds.
Once Michael checks on the river, he effectively caps his range. He will rarely have better than a weak one pair hand here, though it’s not impossible for him to have the occasional trap.
Jonathan’s large bet size is perfect because it puts a lot of pressure on most of Michael’s range. He also has the perfect hand with which to bluff because he blocks strong top pairs (KQ and KJ) and flushes with the J♦.
Let’s turn to the solver one last time. Here’s how it likes playing Jonathan’s hand when checked to:
What a surprise! Just like we assumed, the solved game tree loves betting big (~75% pot) with Jonathan’s exact hand.
Jonathan bet the river and Michael elected to fold his pair of fours.
Both players played this hand well, with all of their decisions being “solver-approved.” I guess that’s to be expected when you’re analyzing the cream of the tournament crop.
Want more tournament hand analysis featuring top pros? Read $2 Million Up for Grabs — Can Dan Smith Get Fedor Holz to Fold?
Thanks for reading.
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