Every time you sit down at the poker table, you make mistakes (even if you’re Phil Ivey). What matters is how you learn from those mistakes.
Jamie Nixon is one of the brightest young poker talents in the UK and, like most great players, he is immensely self-critical.
In 2019, when he was up against high stakes regular Örpen Kısacıkoğlu in a WPT Deepstacks tournament, he played what he describes as “the worst hand of his life”.
Nixon stopped by ‘The Chip Race’ to analyze the hand that has haunted him. Watch the video or read the written hand breakdown below.
This article is by Irish tournament pro and Unibet Poker ambassador David Lappin who is a great follow on Twitter. Alongside Irish poker legend Dara O’Kearney, David produces and hosts the GPI global poker award-winning podcast ‘The Chip Race” sponsored by Unibet Poker. All episodes are available on Apple Music, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.
Game: WPT Deepstacks
Format: No Limit Hold’em
Blinds: 200/400/400 ante
Stage: Midway through Day 1 of a 3-day tournament
Effective Stacks: 300bb
The action starts with Örpen Kısacıkoğlu raising to 2.5bb from the Cutoff. Nixon 3-bets to 9.8bb with A♦️ Q♣️ from the Big Blind. Örpen calls.
We’ll keep Örpen’s hand a mystery until the end so we can analyze the hand through Nixon’s eyes.
Standard stuff here. Nixon’s hand is well ahead of Örpen’s range. You can make an argument for going even bigger out of position this deep, but that’s a small point.
The pot is 21bb and the flop comes 6♦️ 2♦️ 2♠️. Nixon c-bets 8bb and Örpen calls.
With the betting lead, Nixon should bet 100% of the time on this board and he should choose a small sizing. The solver would go smaller, but his bet of 38% pot is fine.
This bet will force folds from some overcard hands with equity and get value form worse Ace-high hands. Additionally, Nixon doesn’t have to worry about getting raised because Örpen is not likely to have a 2. Therefore, Nixon will realize his equity and keep the betting lead going into the turn.
The pot is 37bb and the turn comes the K♦️, making the board 6♦️ 2♦️ 2♠️ K♦️. Nixon bets 30bb and Örpen calls.
This is a very interesting card and one that certainly hits Nixon’s range. Interestingly, it is the card that gives his particular hand an awkward amount of equity.
Now with the nut flush draw, Nixon bets 81% pot. This specifically targets hands like Pocket Sevens through Pocket Tens that have no diamonds, all of which will likely fold. It may even get some weaker one-diamond + pair hands (such as Pocket Sevens with a diamond) to fold.
In the video, Dara O’Kearney makes some excellent arguments for why this is not actually a must-bet spot. Nixon will check a decent amount of his range on this card, so he needs to check some hands like this as it has showdown value and the ability to improve.
The solver advocates a mix between checking (60%), betting small (10%), and betting Nixon’s sizing (30%).
Related Reading: Why The Very Best Poker Players Make Decisions At Random (Mixed Strategy)
The pot is 97bb and the river comes the 9♦️, making board 6♦️ 2♦️ 2♠️ K♦️ 9♦️. With the nut flush, Nixon bets 92.5bb of Örpen’s remaining 250bb stack. Örpen raises all-in and Nixon calls.
The river is where things get really interesting. Nixon explains how his big bet on the river (95% pot) is targeting weaker flushes for value. However, when facing the actual bet, Nixon started getting suspicious thoughts, in particular, that Örpen would turn his Ace-King hands with no diamonds into a bluff.
Dara is critical of Nixon’s bet, believing that it does not accomplish his first goal. Dara argues that the large sizing will force folds from inferior hands that might call 50-65% pot-sized bets.
Turning to his reaction to the Örpen’s shove, Nixon needs to win 26% of the time for this call to be profitable (he must call 63,000 to win 238,800).
Örpen’s shove (if for value) represents Pocket Kings, Pocket Sixes, or Pocket Twos for a total of 7 combinations. Nixon discounts the possibility of Pocket Nines as it would need to be 99 without a diamond, and only 99 with a diamond would call on the turn.
To justify a call, therefore, he would have to find exactly 3 bluff combinations and frankly, there are not any natural ones that spring to mind. Feeling like he was up against a capable, deep-thinking player, Nixon leveled himself into thinking that his opponent might be turning Ace-King into a bluff.
Ready for the big reveal?
Nixon makes the call and gets the bad news that Örpen had K♣️ K♥️.
Nixon says that he lost his mind, but upon deeper analysis, it is fair to say though that his call has some merit. Dara’s examination of the solver output revealed that Nixon’s call would break even, in theory. So, versus a capable and tricky opponent like Örpen, who may find more bluffs than most players, it is far from horrible to be a station in this spot.
Reviewing Örpen’s play, he elected to just call preflop, under-representing his hand for deception, pot control, and understanding that he can use the power of position on later streets. His lines on all subsequent streets are completely standard and he got a combination of the perfect runout and a disbelieving villain to win the maximum.
What do you think of the way both players played this hand?
Let me know in the comments.
Note: Doug Polk has created a new poker crash course called The Postflop Playbook, which costs just $7 and takes less than 2 hours to complete.
When you get The Postflop Playbook, you will learn how to make quick and profitable decisions that translate to more (and bigger) winning poker sessions. Learn more now!