jamie kerstetter vs brandon cantu

How Being Scared Money Can Cost You Big Money (Hand Analysis)

Have you ever been scared money?

It can do funny things to you. Some players adjust too aggressively and fire out loose 3-bets and 4-bets, afraid to trust their postflop skills. Others get too timid and look for reasons not to put chips in the pot.

One way a person can be scared money is if they make it to the later stages of a large-field tournament. With the psychological pressure of big, possibly life-changing money up top, some buckle under the stress and cannot play their A-game.

Another way a person can be scared money is in a cash game. Close your eyes and picture this. (Ok, don’t actually close your eyes because I need you to read on.)

  • You’ve decided to take a shot in a bigger game.
  • You double-up.
  • Everyone at the table has you covered and people start straddling.

You find yourself sitting with 5-6x the chips that you normally play behind and a straddle that’s 20x the big blind in your regular game.


Now imagine you are the talented and (almost) universally loved poker player / commentator / icon Jamie Kerstetter. And your opponents are a bunch of sickos and it’s a TV table, so you don’t feel like you can really leave.

Double gulp.

Jamie stopped by ‘The Chip Race’ podcast and discussed a hand with myself and Irish poker legend Dara O’Kearney. 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 third article for Upswing Poker. His first two articles are here and here. You can follow him and ‘The Chip Race’ on Twitter here and here.

‘The Chip Race’ is a fortnightly podcast sponsored by Unibet Poker. All episodes are available on Apple Music, SoundCloud and Stitcher. We 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!


Cash Game: Televised Poker After Dark Cash Game in Poker Go Studio in the Aria, Las Vegas

Format: 7-Max

Blinds: $25/$50

Ante: Big Blind Ante of $50

Straddle: UTG Straddle to $200

Relevant Stack Sizes:

  • Cantu ~ $63k
  • Berkey ~ $20k
  • Kerstetter ~ $9925


Brandon Cantu straddles to $200 UTG.

Matt Berkey opens to $600 from the Hijack with K 5. Jamie Kerstetter calls in the Big Blind with J♣ J. Brando Cantu calls with K♣ T♠ in the Straddle.

Preflop Analysis

Firstly, Cantu’s 4x straddle effectively makes this a 50bb deep spot for Jamie. After Berkey makes the loose open, the decision is on Jamie.

Referring to this hand as a “complete tragedy from front to back,” Jamie regrets her decision to flat her Pocket Jacks.

While it is certainly possible that ‘wild animal’ Brandon Cantu will squeeze wide, it’s just far too likely that he will flat and she will be OOP (out of position) to both players with a 5:1 SPR (stack to pot ratio). She would rather take down a nice little pot preflop, get it all-in preflop or play against just Berkey (should he call) with an SPR of 2:1.

Pro Tip: High pairs and high-card hands perform better when the stack-to-pot ratio is low. This is in contract to speculative hands like small pairs and suited connectors, which perform best when the stack-to-pot ratio is high.

These stakes took Jamie (who is a $5/$10 regular) out of her comfort zone. In what was a very relatable confession, she says that she knew the right play but instead made an emotional decision to keep the pot small.

Dara O’Kearney makes the additional point that flatting in this spot not only gives Brandon a lot of profitable flats, but it also fails to punish Matt because it allows him to play his hand in position and realize equity. Dara advocates a 3-bet in the $2,200-$2,400 range.

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.


The Pot: $1,875

The Flop: T♣ T 3♣

The Action: Jamie checks, Brandon bets $1,100, Matt folds and Jamie calls.

Flop Analysis

Although donk betting (aka leading into the preflop aggressor) is usually an unwise play, it can be acceptable in some situations. It’s hard to say if Brandon’s lead here is good, but let’s start by highlighting the merits of the play, followed by the downsides.

The merits: Brandon’s lead targets the pairs and weaker 10x hands in his opponents’ range. Considering his image is that of a loose-maniac, he may get called lighter as well. Leading also takes away Matt’s option to check back on the flop, which is not what you want to see when you flop trip tens.

Jamie’s preflop call of $600 from the Small Blind already represents a fair bit of strength, so I think he can probably get two and sometimes three streets from a good chunk of her range.

Jamie, however, thinks that Brandon’s bet is unwise. Her reasoning is that if Brandon checks, then Matt will c-bet with a lot of his range on this texture. Jamie will call Matt’s c-bet some of the time, and then Brandon would likely raise, inflating the pot with his super strong hand. This sets up a potential turn shove versus Jamie or the option to overbet shove turn or river versus Berkey.

As played, Jamie’s call on the flop is a good one. Brandon has flush draws, backdoor draws and maybe some smaller pairs and even some air in his range. Her hand is way too strong to even consider folding.


The Pot: $4,075

The Turn: (T♣ T 3♣) 9

The Action: Jamie checks, Cantu bets $2,800 and Jamie calls.

Turn Analysis

Jamie must call again.

Brandon could still have flush draws. He could possibly have picked up equity with backdoors (although we block a lot of those combos) and given her read on him, it’s possible that he’s firing bets with nothing.


The Pot: $9,675

The River: (T♣ T 3♣) 9 2

Stack-to-Pot Ratio: 0.56:1

The Action: Jamie checks, Cantu bets $5,425 and Jamie calls.

River Analysis

It’s a tough spot now for Jamie. She only needs to be good 27% of the time to call profitably.

In-game, she tanked for quite a while. Her first thoughts strongly leaned towards a call as she felt like Brandon would not have lead out the flop with a ten in his hand.

Her second thoughts swung her in the opposite direction as she reflected on how her line to this point was strongly indicative of a ATs / JTs / T9s type hand. Therefore, Brandon was actually representing super-strength.

Dara ran a PIO-solve and in a vacuum, Jamie’s call shows a small profit.

It’s really close, though, and the solver assumes the opponent is playing a balanced strategy. Given how Brandon is tagged as an over-bluffer, I think Jamie has even more reason to call. Her passive line has placed her in a dark-tunnel but that happens sometimes in poker and when it does we have to make our best guess with the limited information available to us.


Brandon shows K♣ T♠ and wins a pot of $20,525.

Wrapping Up

While Jamie made the correct decisions postflop, the key lesson in this hand is a point made strongly by both her and Dara.

They explain how a conservative player’s decision to play passively with a tricky hand preflop ‘just kicks the can down the road’.

In effect, that player’s desire to minimize variance only serves to put them in a dark-tunnel and actually causes them to lose a massive pot postflop.

Had Jamie taken the more aggressive line and raised here with Jacks, there were four possibilities:

  1. Taken down the pot preflop, without showdown.
  2. Get flatted by Matt and proceed to the flop with a 2:1 SPR.
  3. Get shoved on by Matt, which she can comfortably call.
  4. Face loads of action from both Brandon and Matt and (maybe) be able to get away

All of these options are better than proceeding in the hand out of position against one or two tough loose players with an under-repped holding of middling strength.

What do you think of Jamie’s line? And have you ever been scared money?

Let me know in the comments below.

Ready for more hand analysis? Read Jungleman Hits $825,635 Straight Flush vs Phil Ivey’s Quads (Analysis).

Until next time!

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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