Poker End Bosses Abandon GTO? ($26,229 Pot Analysis)
This high stakes cash game hand is anything but standard.
The players are two absolute crushers — Nacho124441 and DavyJones922* — battling in a $50/$100 game on PokerStars.
*I couldn’t find a photo of DavyJones922, so I used an artist’s depiction of Davy Jones from the Pirates of the Carribean movies. Credit to Evgen Karpenko.
Spoiler alert: GTO plays get thrown out of the window in this hand!
Let’s jump into the action!
DavyJones raises to $250 from the Button with . Nacho calls from the Big Blind with .
Effective stacks are about $13,000 (130 big blinds).
DavyJones makes the correct decision to raise with . His Button raising range should include around the top 40-45% of all starting hands, which all suited Aces are comfortably part of. His sizing of 2.5bb is also perfect as it puts a lot of the Big Blind’s hands in a difficult spot.
From the Big Blind facing a 2.5x open raise, Nacho should defend with roughly the top 55-60% of hands. Around 11-12% of those hands should be defending by 3-betting. is a must-defend in this scenario and calling is the preferred move.
Note: Learn step-by-step how to become the best player at the table when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Winning poker pros have been adding new content every week for the past seven years, and you get all of it when you join. Learn more now!
The flop comes . The pot is $550.
Nacho checks. DavyJones bets $164. Nacho raises to $601. DavyJones 3-bets to $1,650. Nacho calls.
This Ace-high flop is very good for DavyJones’ range and also his hand as he flops top two pair. He has the advantage with strong top pairs and he can also have top set with Pocket Aces, which Nacho can’t have. When this is the case, a high c-bet frequency using a small bet size is optimal.
A small sizing strategy will allow DavyJones to capitalize on the vast amount of totally whiffed hands that Nacho has in his range, while still retaining the ability to get the entire stack in on the river.
Against such a strategy on this type of flop, a polarized check-raising strategy is optimal as the Big Blind. While it is true that DavyJones has a lot of air in his range, he also retains the nut advantage.
For this reason, Nacho should check-raise bigger (75% of the pot instead of 50%). He should do this with hands that are strong enough to do so, focusing more on getting value than on denying equity. This is even more incentivized on a board that has a lot of gutshot straight draws and flush draws that will change the nuts on future streets.
Nacho’s exact hand of doesn’t fit into a polarized check-raising range, though it does have some good raising properties. His hand does benefit from denying equity (by getting hands like to fold) and he has the highest possible diamond on a two diamond board, which could come in handy should another diamond fall on the turn and/or river.
I’m sure Nacho has a good reason in mind when he made this check-raise, but it is the first non-standard play in the hand. Davy Jones responds with a non-standard play of his own.
Against this strategy, DavyJones should only have a calling range, despite having such a strong hand with his two pair. Interestingly, he decides to 3-bet. This could mean one of the following:
- He thinks Nacho is check-raising too many draws. Thus, he is incentivized to attempt to extract value from them.
- He thinks Nacho is check-raising too many middling hands such as , , , etc. Thus, he can extract value from them.
- He thinks Nacho is going to 4-bet him too aggressively. Thus, he is attempting to induce too many bluffs from hands such as flush draws.
- He simply made a mistake.
Given that DavyJones is one of the top 10 regs currently in No Limit Hold’Em, the chance of him making a mistake on the flop is extremely low. Thus, chances are that it’s one or more of the previous points.
Against a 3-bet, Nacho should be defending with his hand at equilibrium, blocking both and Pocket Eights. It’s not that this hand is very good, it’s that the pot odds are enticing. Nacho only needs to win the pot ~28% of the time to break even.
Other hands that he should be defending with are flush draws and gutshots with a backdoor flush draw.
The turn comes the , making the board . The pot is $3,850.
Nacho checks. DavyJones bets $2,885. Nacho calls.
This turn completes the and in Nacho’s range to a straight. Plus, his hands like , , improve to combo draws. Meanwhile, this card does almost nothing for DavyJones’ range — i.e. he probably wouldn’t 3-bet on the flop with any hand that hits the on the turn.
A donk bet strategy could be implemented here to punish all the thin value 3-bets from the flop. Having said that, K8-offsuit would never be included in such a strategy. Nacho makes the right play here by checking.
DavyJones’s barrel is very good. He has a strong value hand that wants to extract money from hands such as combo draws and pair plus flush draws.
Nacho should always be folding now. His hand is way too weak against DavyJones’ likely range. Even if he does have the best hand, it will be tough for him to realize all of his equity since he’s quite likely to face a river bet that he can’t possibly call with middle pair.
The river is the , making the final board . The pot is $9,620.
Nacho checks. DavyJones goes all-in for $8,304. Nacho calls.
The river is a blank that helps DavyJones’ range as all of Nacho’s draws have missed.
His check is the best decision now despite the fact that he rivered two pair. But he shouldn’t even be in this spot.
DavyJones’ shove is likely too thin. The only way this shove can be good is if he thinks Nacho:
- Has raised or donk-bet all of his Pocket Eights and Pocket Fours on the flop or the turn and is now left with a capped range
- Will bluff-catch too wide here with hands such as , ,
That being said, Nacho makes a very bad call with his middling two pair. It’s easy to get fooled by the absolute strength of the hand here but in reality, while he is blocking and , his hand is a pure bluff-catcher.
What do you think of the play in this hand?
Let me know in the comments below.
I hope you enjoyed this breakdown!
If you want more, scroll down to related articles and pick another hand analysis. We’ve done around 100 such articles on Upswing Poker so you’ve got plenty to choose from.
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!
If you want in-depth lessons covering crucial poker strategies, join the Upswing Lab training course!