keating vs handz

Poker Players Battle for $1,158,000 Pot (Analysis)

It’s hard to even fathom what it would be like to play a cash game pot for over $1,000,000.

But I’m going to do my best to break it down in this hand analysis.

Today’s hand took place on the Hustler Casino Live stream. The stakes are a whopping $200/$400/$800/$1,600. The effective stack is just about $580,000 (362.5 blinds deep).

Without any further ado, let’s jump into the action!

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Preflop Action

Handz raises to $9,000 on the Button with A♠ 7. Ben calls from the Small Blind with 8♣ 5♣. Eric Persson calls with AJ from the Straddle. Alan Keating calls with K♠ 2♠ from the second Straddle.

Preflop Analysis

There were several of preflop mistakes in this hand.

Under normal circumstances, Handz’s raise size of 5.5x is way too large. That said, it’s evident that his opponents behind are playing too loose and passively. If your opponents seem to be calling with roughly the same hands regardless of your raise size, then by all means you should go big. So long as Handz is adjusting his range to be tighter as well, this raise size makes some sense.

The first player to make a mistake is Ben with 8♣ 5♣, who calls $8,800 with 3 players left to act behind him. Based on his pot odds to call, he needs to win this pot just over 36% of the time in order to have a profitable call. This would be a difficult proposition even if he was the last player left to act, but it’s completely impossible with 3 players behind. This call is bleeding chips.

Eric’s call with AJ is likely profitable, but sub-optimal. He would be better off 3-bet squeezing with such a strong hand. This way, he would force out the player behind him instead of giving him good odds to call and steal some of his equity. If he gets 4-bet, then he has an easy fold. If he gets called, then he still has plenty of equity and will be able to leverage his range advantage on most boards.

Being results oriented for a moment, if Eric had squeezed this hand preflop, every other player would have folded and he would have taken down the pot. Instead, he goes into the flop with just 29% equity out of position against 2 players. That’s the power of squeezing in poker!

Keating’s call with K♠2♠ is profitable. He only needs to win this pot around 15% of the time in order to break even. His hand has good playability and draws to the second nut flush, so it’s an easy decision to call.

Note: The most successful poker players know how to play every hand in every common preflop situation. Do you? Get instant access to extensive preflop charts and lessons (for cash games and tournament) when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Lock your seat now!



The Advanced Solver Ranges for cash games — one of six sets of preflop charts in the Upswing Lab.

Flop Action

The flop comes T♠ 6♠ 5. The pot is $37,200.

Everyone checks to Handz (A♠ 7), who c-bets $25,000. Ben (8♣ 5♣) folds. Eric (AJ) folds. Keating (K♠ 2♠) calls.

Flop Analysis

Everyone makes the correct decision to check to the preflop raiser. None of them should incorporate a donk betting strategy because Handz retains the range, nut, and positional advantage. 

Handz’s c-bet size could be a bit smaller, something like $13,000 to $19,000. His big bet size of 66% pot makes it easy for his opponents to fold hands such as weak pairs and some gutshots, whereas a smaller bet size would put those hands in a tough spot (which should generally be your goal when betting).

From a hand selection standpoint, A♠ 7 is a nice hand to bet. Despite being nothing at this point, it has a lot going for it: the backdoor nut flush draw, backdoor straight draw, and an overcard to top pair.

Ben’s fold with 8♣ 5♣ is fine since he does not close the action. Calling with bottom pair with 2 players behind would be a losing play.

Eric’s fold is very clearly fine with such a weak hand.

Keating’s call is good. He has a ton of equity at this point and some implied odds as well with his second nut flush draw.

Turn Action

The turn comes the 4, making the board (T♠ 6♠ 5) 4. The pot is $87,200.

Keating (K♠ 2♠) checks. Handz (A♠ 7) bets $70,000. Keating calls.

Turn Analysis

The turn completes three straights: 87, 73, and 32. Keating could have all three of these (though not at 100% frequency), whereas Handz can only have 87 since he wouldn’t be raising with 73-suited or 32-suited before the flop.

Because he will have a straight much less often than Keating, Handz should be playing a very tight, polarized strategy. His value betting range should include overpairs and better. He can balance that value range by bluffing with combo draws, some gutshots, and open-ended straight draws with a flush draw blocker (such as the one he is currently holding). A♠ 7 fits the mold.

The bet size Handz chose is good. He cannot bet bigger due to the fact that he doesn’t have the nut advantage anymore. In general, if your opponent has more super strong hands in their range than you, but you still have a hand with which you want to bet, you should use a small or medium bet size.

Keating has a simple call with a combo draw. Some readers may think this is a good hand with which to check-raise, but he should save that move for his stronger draws such as A♠ 7♠, K♠ 7♠, or 8 6.

River Action

The river comes the 7♠, making the board (T♠ 6♠ 5 4) 7♠. The pot is $227,000.

Keating (K♠ 2♠) leads out $155,000. Handz (A♠ 7) thinks for a bit and shoves for a total of $465,000.

River Analysis

Keating’s decision to lead here is fine. In theory, he should mainly be doing this with rivered straights (8x and 3x) with flushes sprinkled in for protection.. That being said, he should use a small block bet size to target Handz overpairs (like AAJJ). Perhaps Keating had a different strategy in mind with this lead, hence his larger bet size.

Handz (A♠ 7) has an interesting decision to make. He could simply fold, of course. Or he could try to put pressure on Keating knowing that he cannot have the nuts (because he is holding the nut flush blocker). 

The problem with raising is that based on the bet size, Keating is extremely unlikely to be betting with anything worse than a flush for value. Furthermore, it’s highly counter-intuitive for Keating to find bluffs in this situation while in the heat of the action.

As a last point, the leverage that Handz can garner with the stacks behind doesn’t feel sufficient to make a player fold a flush. His all-in raise is just 3x Keating’s bet, meaning Keating will be getting very good pot odds to call versus the shove. If they had deeper stacks behind — deep enough that Handz’s shove would be 6-8x Keating’s bet — I think this play could actually work.

Keating has a pretty easy decision to make: call the all-in. First of all, it’s possible that Handz raises weaker flushes like Q♠ 8♠. Secondly, Handz has quite a few hands containing the nut flush blocker (such as A♠ 7x or A♠ Tx) with which he may pull the trigger on a bluff.


Keating thinks for a while and finally makes the call, scooping the ridiculous $1,158,000 pot.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes these huge pots are a result of a cooler or a bad beat. Other times it’s the result of a player taking exploitative lines and either failing or succeeding. In this case, it was the latter.

Definitely a hand for the ages! I hope you enjoyed this breakdown.

As always, I am interested to read what you think of Handz’s bluff and Keating’s call. Let me know in the comment section down below!

If you want more high stakes hand analysis featuring Mr. Keating, check out The $150,000 Bluff That Never Should Have Happened (Analysis).

Till’ next time, good luck, grinders

Note: Poker players are getting better every day inside the Upswing Lab training course and community. Don’t get left behind. Crush your competition with the expert strategies you will learn inside the Lab. Learn more now!


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About the Author
Dan B.

Dan B.

Online grinder aspiring to reach the highest stakes and crush the toughest games. I'm available for quick strategy questions and hourly coaching -- reach out to me at [email protected].

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