In November 2018, the Unibet Open took place in my hometown of Dublin, Ireland.
Home advantage meant I was familiar with more of my table mates than I normally am on the live circuit. Late on Day 1, I was moved to the TV table, where I got into a very non-standard hand with Richie O’Neill, a regular on the Irish poker scene and someone I have played against many times.
Situations where you play against familiar villains present opportunities to make more specific reads. It is, however, very possible to take this too far. Take a look at the situation with the video below, or keep reading for written analysis.
Editor’s Note: This article is by Irish tournament pro and Unibet Poker ambassador David Lappin (follow him on Twitter here). 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: Unibet Open Dublin, November 2018
Format: No Limit Hold’em
Stage: Late day 1 of a 3-day tournament (65% of field remain)
David Lappin ~ 109,000 (68bbs)
Richie O’Neill ~ 92,000 (58bbs)
I min-raise from the Cutoff to 2bb with A♣️ 5♥️. The Button folds and Richie O’Neill calls in the Small Blind with 6♥️ 4♥️. The Big Blind folds.
I elect to open a rock-bottom of my range holding from the Cutoff, which Dara says is fine as part of a pretty reasonable 33% opening range from this position.
My opening range from the Cutoff will look something like this:
- Pocket pairs
- Suited broadways
- Offsuit broadways
- Suited Ax and Kx hands
- Some suited connectors and suited gappers
- Some suited Qx and Jx hands
- Offsuit hands like A5+, K9, Q9, and J9
Versus weaker opposition in a live setting, some players will widen their opening ranges farther because they feel like they can outplay their opponents on later streets. That may be true, but it’s a dangerous game and for the most part, I prefer to stick to solid ranges. I believe that the very knowledge of what a solid range is in this spot is one of the ways I create an edge over inferior players.
Richie would have a standard call in the Big Blind with 6♥️ 4♥️, but it is very loose in the Small Blind.
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The Pot: 5.75bb
The Flop: 6♠️ 6♣️ 4♦️
The Action: Richie Checks. I check.
My decision to check back with A♣️ 5♥️ is a tidy play. I split my range between small bets and checks on this board. While a small bet could certainly fold out some equity, my hand does fit nicely into the checking category as it has showdown value and can improve. For balance, I would also check some very strong hands to bolster my overall range.
The Pot: 5.75bb
The Turn: (6♠️ 6♣️ 4♦️) 6♦️
The Action: Richie checks. I bet 2.18bb. Richie calls.
Richie should come out betting on the turn with his quads.
There are a lot of hands in my range that can call one or two streets here. If I check back, then he is only likely to get one bet, which is a bit of a waste. When he calls preflop with a speculative hand, it’s paramount that he extracts value when he hits so that the preflop play is not a bigger long-term donation.
My decision to bet is good because when Richie checks twice, his range is mostly populated by suited broadway combos (like KTs), so I should look to deny equity. My sizing of 2.18bb (~38% of the pot) is too large though, and I could have achieved the same objective by betting 20-25% of pot.
Richie’s decision to call is not good; he should be raising to get maximum value. Having not probed the turn, he has been given another bite of the cherry. If he does raise, it’s a funky line and a good chunk of my range (including this hand) would have to find a call. And a decent percentage of that range would have to call river too (maybe not this hand, although it would be tempting as that line is very polarizing).
The Pot: 10.12bb
The River: (6♠️ 6♣️ 4♦️ 6♦️) 5♣️
The Action: Richie bets 6.25bb. I fold.
Richie’s bet is confusing. The first thing I would say by way of advice is when a line is confusing, it is wise to take some time to replay each street in your mind, including any physical information you may have gotten at different points. The additional benefit to taking this time is that it gives you an opportunity to study your opponent’s demeanor.
From a game theory perspective, I have an easy call. Dara makes the point that I might even have a thin value raise, targeting Richie’s 4x hands for calls. There was, however, a lot of physical information to absorb. Richie was extremely comfortable and willing to engage in some chat with me after his river bet.
I also think that Richie might sometimes take this line with a medium pair, possibly identifying my small turn bet as an equity denier to his broadway combos.
I think the lesson here though is that even though my fold turned out to be correct, I probably deviated too much from equilibrium with this fold. When a decision is on the knife-edge, it’s absolutely fine to let reads and population tendencies tip you in one direction or another. When a decision is this much of a slam-dunk, it is extraordinarily dangerous to diverge.
I fold and Richie wins the pot of 16.37bb. He does not show his quads, but I was relieved when I saw them 30 minutes later on the stream. 😉
Dara makes the point that Richie “fell out of the game tree” on the turn. From that point onwards, things got a little strange. In terms of theory, he should have led the turn. If he had, I would have called and on that particular river, I would have called again.
As played, my preflop, flop, and turn play is standard. But my river fold represents a massive departure from fundamentals. I allowed live reads to completely take over my thinking and while I happened to be right this time, it is not really possible to justify.
Live players will tell you that they ‘just knew’ or that ‘spider senses were tingling’. But in truth, this fold is far too exploitative and only justifiable if Richie flips over his hand and shows me his quads.
What do you think of my river fold? What about Richie’s play throughout the hand?
Let me know in the comments below.
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