Did this super high roller make a million dollar mistake?
We are about to analyze one of the biggest televised No Limit Hold’em cash game hands of all time, which took place on the Triton Poker Million Euro Cash Game in Montenegro.
There were 8 poker players at the table with €2,000/€4,000 blinds and a €4,000 big blind ante. The minimum buy-in for the game was a whopping €1,000,000.
The two American players that did battle in this hand are Jason Koon, a successful regular on the super high roller series circuit, and Kane Kalas, a veteran poker pro who specializes in NL Hold’em and Short Deck Hold’em.
They were playing for insanely high stakes and the action was hot, so let’s jump into the hand!
Note: If you’ve seen the video of this hand, keep in mind the graphics are not accurate. Kane is actually in the small blind (not the big blind) and there was no straddle.
Dan B. and Tim Jenkins contributed to this article.
Jason Koon opens to €11,000 in the hijack with A♥ Q♣, Mikita Badziakouski calls on the button with 9♣ 8♣, and Kane Kalas squeezes to €55,000 from the small blind with T♠ T♥. Jason then 4-bets to €120,000, which only Kane calls and the high rollers go heads-up to the flop.
The effective stack size is ~€900,000 or 225 big blinds.
All of the preflop action until Jason’s 4-bet is standard.
Jason's 4-bet is profitable and probably the best play for a few reasons:
- AQ has great blockers to Kane's continuing range (particularly AA, QQ, and AK).
- His hand has decent equity against a 4-bet calling range and even dominates some of it (QJs, QTs, AJs, etc).
- AQ will play well in a 4-bet pot position.
However, he could also profitably call with AQo facing the squeeze, given the facts that they are playing very deep with a big ante and he will have the advantage of position postflop.
Kane has an easy call with his pocket tens given his pot odds and the amount of money the two pros have behind.
With €263,000 in the pot, the two seasoned poker players see a flop of 6♠ 5♦ 3♥.
Kane Kalas checks and Jason Koon fires a €128,000 continuation bet. The action is back to Kane who calls.
Let’s try to determine the best course of action for Jason with his AQ. To do that, we'll have to determine Kane’s range first.
Given the preflop action, Kane’s range has been defined to something like 99-AA, KQs, AJs and better, AKo, and any suited hands with which he decided to 3-bet (A5s, QJs, 87s, etc). This is a stronger-than-usual calling range because there is little reason to 5-bet hands besides AA and possibly KK for value when stacks are this deep versus a competent opponent.
(Jason would not stack off with anything less than KK for 225 blinds, so a 5-bet from Kane with a hand like AK would be pointless. He would only force many worse hands out of the pot while bloating the pot size for when Jason does have KK or AA.
Note that Kane would be wise to flat-call against this 4-bet with AA as well, at least some of the time. Calling with AA does wonders for Kane’s range as it becomes more protected and harder to play against.)
Since Kane’s range is so strong on this board, betting with AQ, especially for this medium size, doesn’t accomplish much as the bet will get called by all the stronger hands (99-AA) while forcing folds from equal or inferior ones (AQs, AJs, KQs, etc).
However, it makes sense for Jason to bet small with his entire range in this spot, including AQ, because of his range advantage. His range is very similar to Kane's here, only stronger. So, he can push equity with his range by firing a 30-40% pot-sized bet.
Kane has a fairly easy call with his overpair versus the 48% pot-bet. If Jason was an extremely tight player (picture one of the nitty old guys from your local $1/$3 game, in which case you maybe should just fold preflop), this could be a spot to make a tight fold. But Jason is anything but tight, so let's take a turn.
The pot is now €519,000 Euros and the board is 6♠ 5♦ 3♥ T♣.
Kane Kalas hits the money-maker and checks over to Jason Koon who fires a €160,000 bet. Kane thinks for a bit and calls.
Kane’s check is good because his range is at a disadvantage from a theoretical perspective. From a practical perspective, he holds top set so it makes sense to let Jason continue to fire with his value bets and bluffs.
Jason bets around 30% of the pot, which is a reasonable bet size. His value hands (AA-TT) don't need much protection, and this size will still force Kane to fold AK and possibly hands like 99 or 88. Jason's specific hand also blocks QQ, which is the strongest hand in Kane's range besides TT (unless he wouldn't 5-bet KK preflop).
Note that this small size would be even better had Jason bet small on the flop, as this would mean Kane has a wider range which is more difficult to play.
Kane can raise or call here depending on how he views Jason. He likely believes Jason is an aggressive opponent, which means he will want to just call and to give Jason the chance to value bet thinly or bluff on the river.
The pot is €839,000 and the board is 6♠ 5♦ 3♥ T♣ A♦.
An action killer card in general but not in this case. Kane Kalas checks and Jason Koon goes all-in for €504,000. Kane snap-calls and Jason immediately sighs as he knows Kane wouldn’t have called so quickly with a hand worse than AQ.
Kane has an easy check as most of his range hates this card. Leading doesn’t accomplish anything as he would get called by all the hands that Jason would have bet for value minus his bluffs.
Jason's river shove would be a big mistake in roughly 99% of poker games in the world, simply because no one in Kane's shoes will hero call with a hand like QQ.
The reason you wouldn't hero call with QQ in, say, your local $1/$3 game is the lack of bluffs in Jason's range. But Jason is a world-class player, so it's fairly likely he would 4-bet at a high frequency with hands like K9s (which is the right approach according to many preflop solvers).
If Jason would indeed 4-bet K9s-type hands, he would also likely play them this same way postflop. That means he would get to the river with some bluffs, which would force Kane to hero call with hands weaker than AQ, and so Jason could profitably shove with AQ for value.
If Kane doesn't think Jason would reach this point with any bluffs, Jason's shove is obviously a losing one as he will only get called by AA and TT.
It's very tough to say with the information we have whether this shove wins money, but one takeaway is that hero calling versus Jason's shove on the river is almost certainly a losing play in whatever games you frequent.
Final Thoughts from Montenegro
This hand sent shock waves around the poker world when it happened, and its definitely one of the highlights from the Triton Poker Super High Roller series of cash games and tournaments in the past year.
How would you have played the hand in Jason Koon’s shoes? Would you have just called the 3-bet preflop or checked back on the river? Let us know in the comments below.
If you’re ready for more hand analysis, read this article about a record-breaking $438k pot on Live at the Bike.
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!
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