One of the many common cognitive biases is commitment bias.
In short, commitment bias is our unwillingness to make decisions that contradict things that we have said or done in the past. In poker, that is commonly expressed as the feeling of being committed to a pot into which we have invested.
Good poker players are good at dampening the effects of this most human of biases. Great poker players are able to repress it completely, viewing every decision point in isolation.
Krissy Bicknell is one such great player and, in 2019, during Day 2 of the Nottingham Millions, she demonstrated this ability in a profound way in a hand versus Irish poker legend Dara O’Kearney.
Krissy and Dara discussed this hand in a Strategy Video animated by ‘The Chip Race’ podcast.
Take a look at the video below or read on for a summary of the breakdown.
Editor’s note: This is Irish tournament pro David Lappin’s first of many articles for Upswing Poker. We’re excited to have him on the team to make fantastic tournament content for you. Follow David on Twitter here.
The Tournament: Nottingham Millions $10,300 Main Event, Day 2
Stage: Last Level of Late Registration
Blinds: 15K/30K with a 30K BB Ante
Stack Sizes: Dara: 2.5M (83bbs) / Krissy 1.4M (47bbs)
Facing an early position min-raise (60K) from Dara and a button call, Krissy decides to invest 2 of her 47 big blinds with 5♦ 5♣ — an ideal situation to set-mine.
The Pot: 240K
The Flop: K♥ 7♦ 5♠
The Action: Krissy checks, Dara also checks and the player on the button fires out a bet of 115K. Krissy calls and Dara calls.
Not wishing to spring her trap yet, Krissy check-calls, as does Dara.
The player on the button is identified by both as overly aggressive and likely to bet if checked to. Krissy also says that just calling keeps Dara in the pot with a much wider range of hands.
Dara points to the dryness of the board as influencing his decision to take a more passive line with his range.
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The Pot: 585K
The Turn: (K♥ 7♦ 5♠) 2♣
The Action: Krissy leads for 220K, Dara calls and the player on the button folds.
Krissy comes out firing on this street for 38% of the pot!
She explains how this hand checks through way too often if she checks, as even strong one pair hands like AK may not elect to bet. By betting herself, her chance of getting two more streets of value are improved.
Given his line, Dara is weighted heavily towards value, with the possibility of 89 with the backdoor flush draw the only possible draws. Krissy is cognizant of that, another good reason for her lead.
The Pot: 1.025M
The River: (K♥ 7♦ 5♠ 2♣) 7♠
Stack-to-Pot Ratio: ~1:1
The Action: Krissy bets 650K, Dara shoves for effectively 1.05M total, Krissy folds — with just 355K behind!
Krissy’s actions have narrowed Dara’s range considerably and she gets to the river with very specific target hands.
AK and KQ are combinatorically Dara’s most likely holdings. He might have a sticky KJ and he might have a trickily played Aces (although on that, Dara says that Aces makes a good flop c-bet because there are more Kx hands to target).
Krissy realizes that, from Dara’s perspective, she doesn’t have many bluffs. This fact is key to her choice of sizing as she thought that a small bet would remove those bluffs. Krissy is also aware of her aggressive image which might help her get paid off too light. She bets ~2/3rds of pot and is met with a shove for her last 355k.
The pot is 2.68M so Krissy is being laid 13-2 on her money. To make a call profitable, she needs to be good 13% of the time.
Cue alarm bells going off in her head as she reflects on the hand, narrowing Dara’s range across every street and combining that range with his current action. 77 makes a good flop c-bet for similar reasons to Aces so Krissy only loses to Kings. The problem is it really feels like Kings.
Could Dara be overplaying Aces or turning Kx into a bluff? Krissy deduces that the former is unlikely for the reasons given and that the latter is just too wild, even if it has theoretical merits.
Krissy finds the fold and it is revealed by Dara that he did indeed have pocket Kings for flopped top set, rivered boat.
Of course there will be times in poker when we are legitimately ‘pot committed’.
With cards to come, we will often have the right price versus the range. And even with no cards to come, we can have the right price after we weigh up our villain’s range of possible hands (value that beats us, value that we beat, bluffs that we beat and maybe even some bluffs that beat us) and calculate whether we are sufficiently committed.
In this hand, however, Krissy Bicknell does not succumb to the pitfalls of ‘commitment bias’. She adjusts from the mindset of a player betting the river with a very strong hand and hoping to get called to that of a player facing the unlikeliest of bluffs given the preceding action.
She didn’t allow the fact that she had committed 75% of her stack to cloud her judgement and she broke down the final river decision in isolation. In the end, up against another top player, she felt like she could rely on Dara not overplaying Aces nor taking some kamikaze line.
Let me know in the comments below.
‘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.
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