isildur at wsop

$50,000 High Roller (WSOP Hand Breakdown) | Upswing Poker Level-Up #44



This article is a transcription of the Level-Up Podcast, hosted by Upswing VP Mike Brady with special guest Aaron Barone. You can watch or listen to the entire episode via the links above or read on if you prefer a written version.

Mike (00:00):

Over $2 million is going to the winner in this $50,000 buy-in tournament at the World Series of Poker. Let’s take a look at a key hand featuring an absolute legend of the game. Viktor Blom, AKA Isildur1. I’ll quickly set up the situation before we get into the hand. There are five players left and there’s $2 million going to the winner like I said, each player has locked up little under $500,000 and the stack set up are as follows. Adrian Mateos is the short stack with about 20 big blinds. Chance Kornuth is covering him by a little bit. He’s got about 30 big blinds. Jesse Lonis, who is one of the players in this hand, goes into this hand with 47 big blinds. So he’s pulled away quite a bit from the fourth and fifth place spots. And Adrian Mateos is really the one who’s almost on the ropes with only 20 big blinds.


And then there’s two bigger stacks. Viktor Blom, AKA Isildur1, he’s got 14 million, which is 70 big blinds. And Sergio Aido is the runaway chip leader at this point with 20 million that’s over a hundred big blinds. In this hand the action folds to Viktor Blom in the small blind. Once again, it’s Jesse Lonis in the Big Blind. So Viktor Blom is the covering stack with 14 million to Jesse Lonis’s, 9.4 million. Viktor Blom picks up King four offsuit in the small blind. Today I’m joined by Tournament Pro Aaron Barone here to provide some expert analysis as we go through this hand. Aaron, how are you playing this spot as Viktor Blom when it folds to you as the bigger stack?

Aaron (01:29):

So we saw Blom looked down at his cards, but I’m pretty sure before he even looked, he thought to himself, I’m raising, it’s such a great spot to apply pressure to a middle stack of Jesse Lonis because the other stacks are so short or a lot shorter.


Lonis is not incentivized to play hands here. He makes money, he makes equity by folding and so he’s going to be folding a lot of hands. And so the fact that Blom has King Four is pretty good. It’s great he’s blocking some of the hands that Lonis would continue with. But again, if you look deep in his soul, I’m pretty sure that Blom was going to raise pre regardless of his holdings. And sometimes in poker, that’s kind of what you want to do. There’s that phrase, you don’t play the player, you play the person. But really you’re playing a situation. And the situation is that Lonis doesn’t want to play a lot of hands here because of his stack setup and you’re going to get a lot of fold equity. So yes, Blom has King four, but if Blom has Jack four or eight four or ten three or for whatever reason he’s dealt more than one card, I think he’s going to be raising here and I think that’s the right thing to do.

Mike (02:32):

We ran this spot in Hold’em Resources calculator as we do before every one of these WSOP hand breakdowns. We inputted all the stacks, all the payouts, so we know exactly how the computer is going to play this spot. And it confirms what Aaron just said. Viktor Blom is going to be raising a lot of hands. When I ran this, the computer had a lot of green on the hand chart, which indicates a lot of hands that can profitably raise and a lot of hands that could profitably just limp in as well. Viktor Blom’s specific hand of King four offsuit really favors raising and that’s what he does. He makes it 700,000, which is three and a half big blinds. Jesse Lonis picks up Ace three of spades in the big blind. Aaron just mentioned that Jesse Lonis should be playing fairly tight in the big blind here, given that he’s kind of trying to wait out those two shorter stacks and not bust before them.


But Ace three of spades very strong hand. It still falls squarely into good enough to call territory. Even given that ICM pressure, he does flick in that extra 500,000 chips and we go to the flop with 1.6 million in the middle. Little note about these two guys, these are two of the fastest players I’ve ever seen at a big final table. It’s basically the antithesis to any high roller final table I’ve ever seen before. I think this entire hand takes about two minutes. There are some players where this hand would take 10 minutes. In any case, the flop comes four four three, with 2 clubs. Once again, Viktor Blom has King four, so he flops Trip fours and Jesse Lonis flops really well too. He’s got Ace three on four four three. So both players have to be feeling pretty good about this flop, but Jesse Lonis is going to get some bad news as the hand develops.


What is your take on how Viktor Blom should play this flop after hitting trips? Aaron, 1.6 million in the middle.

Aaron (04:19):

So there’s always a temptation to slow play when you hit a big hand, especially on a lowish board that doesn’t seem to hit your range. But when you’re an aggressive player, especially when you’re an aggressive player and you have that image, you want to be betting more of your strong hands here. And Blom can be betting here anyway with a lot of hands. We had said before he’s going to raise a lot pre, he’s going to apply a lot of pressure. Well now he has a really great hand and he still needs to be betting that sort of combination otherwise are all his bets just bluffs? That’s not great. So I think it’s a great spot for him to keep betting, apply pressure to Lonis’s range, but also balance his own range out by having strong hands and sizing wise, I think going really small is the way to go because he is going be betting this flop so often.

Mike (05:05):

Viktor Blom clearly agrees with you as he reaches for 400,000 chips and throws them into the pot quite quickly. That’s a 400,000 chip bet into 1.6 million, a 25% pot bet. Jesse Lonis, I think clear call in position here with his Ace three against this small bet.

Aaron (05:22):

Yeah, I think any other decision is bad. I mean folding is way too tight. Raising some people might say you raise or figure out where you’re at. That’s not really a thing. So when both other options are so bad then one’s very clear. And I like a call.

Mike (05:38):

Jesse Lonis does quite quickly put in the call, I think the flop action took about 45 seconds total there and we get an interesting turn. It’s the six of spades. So all the straight draws from the flop have now connected in some way. They’ve either made a straight or a pair hands like seven five, six five, six two.


All those types of hands have connected in some way. Viktor Blom with his Trip fours, no reason to slow down here, right Aaron? He should just continue betting.

Aaron (06:04):

Definitely think Blom should continue betting here. I know that a couple straight draws got there, but those aren’t likely to be part of Lonis’s range given what we talked about pre flop where he should be folding more. So would he ever have five deuce offsuit, even seven five offsuit feels pretty thin to defend here in the spot preflop. Suited, you could make an argument for, but you could also say that he should be folding those a little more because of the stack sizes. So maybe he has seven five suited, sure, but five deuce suited doesn’t seem as likely. And so now we’ve eliminated basically three quarters of the possible straights. But what he does have is he does have seven six suited.


He does have six five suited. So he actually has some straight draws. I would say more straight draws that have turned equity that will continue that are worse than Blom’s trips. And that gives Blom another reason to bet. Plus he gets value from three x that Lonis can have or club draws or perhaps even ace highs. So I think it’s a great reason for Blom to keep betting and I think he should size up given this texture.

Mike (07:08):

Blom does load up quite a big bet. He goes for about 1.4 million into 2.4 million, so roughly 55, 60% pot. Jesse Lonis now in a fairly uncomfortable spot. He’s facing this relatively big bet. It’s a chunky portion of his stack and he’s starting to approach the shorter stacks if he calls here and doesn’t end up winning the pot. So there’s a lot on the line for him, A lot more on the line than is for Blom.


That said, Ace three on four four three six, probably just too strong of a hand to fold on the turn here, right Aaron? I mean it’s the best three you can have, you have a ton of hands in your range like King queen one club, queen jack one club, missed Ace High that floated the flop, perhaps some weaker draws. So Ace three is actually one of the stronger hands in Jesse Lonis’s range. And if he folds this hand, he’s probably going to find himself folding 60, 70% of the time on this turn, which an aggressive player like Viktor Blom is going to exploit in his sleep. What’s your take on Lonis’s spot?

Aaron (08:12):

I totally agree and let’s for a second, do the thought experiment of folding Ace three here. Alright, so what does Lonis continue with? Well, three of a kind. If he has a four, he’ll continue. If he has a six five or a seven six, so a pair and a straight draw, he’ll continue.


If he has a big flush draw, he’ll continue. If he has a straight he’ll continue. If that’s his only continuing range on this turn, the range is way too strong first of all. And if you’re up against even an aggressive player who realizes that your range is too strong, they’re just not going to be bluffing the river enough. And so I think calling Ace three while feeling uncomfortable actually gives your range a little more balance in that yes, it’s a pair and you feel that you have the best hand right now, but it’s also a hand that isn’t nutted that you’re not really trapping with. And so your entire range isn’t just traps and big draws, it’s these slightly weaker or actually much weaker made hands that could fold to pressure and you don’t really want to fold them. But part of playing good poker is having a balanced range.


That means having hands like that, that will fold to more pressure. If your entire range is just, I have the nuts. If someone figures that out, why are they going to bet into you? So having a hand that does fold a later street like this one, to pressure, I think while feeling kind of uncomfortable and yeah, I don’t want to call and just fold later, I actually think having hands like that in your range makes you tougher to play against and that’s really the ultimate goal.

Mike (09:45):

There was a really key nugget of advice that Aaron peppered in there, and it’s something that Doug Polk has harped on for years when making poker training content. It’s okay. And in fact, correct to have folds on every street just because a hand has to fold the next street to aggression, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call it on the current street.


In fact, you should have a folding range on every street. That’s how optimal poker is played. Now, if you have a very reliable exploitative read, if you know your opponent is an absolute monkey who’s literally going to bet on the river every single time if you call the turn, then sure you can fold more on the turn so you don’t find yourself in that crappy river scenario. But against most players and even Viktor Blom who’s a very aggressive player, he is a thinking balanced player overall. He’s not going to just barrel this river every single time. And it’s okay for Jesse Lonis to have a hand that’s going to have to fold on most rivers. So despite the fact that this Ace three on four four three six doesn’t look so great, doesn’t look like an amazing scenario, Jesse Lonis really has no choice but to call the turn, reevaluate on the river and just see what happens.


It’s not a comfortable spot, but sometimes you have to get into uncomfortable spots in poker. And indeed, Jesse Lonis calls on the turn and we go to the river with 5.3 million in the pot and it’s the Queen of spades. Four four three six queen is the final board and the flush draw from the flop missed. Viktor Blom quickly loads up the clip again, he’s going to go for 3.2 million into this 5.3 million chip pot, so about two thirds pot. This is also about half of Jesse’s remaining stack. So this is a very high stake scenario for Jesse Lonis. If he were to call and lose here, he would be down to 3.2 million. He would actually be the shortest stack and he would be at risk of busting next and missing out on that next really juicy pay jump, which is about $180,000. Aaron, what is your take on this river


bet size of 3.2 million from Viktor Blom and what do you think about Jesse Lonis’s spot?

Aaron (11:59):

I really like the bet size overall, and we can see that Blom has King four and has trips, but this is a really tough spot for Lonis because Blom is a very aggressive player capable of applying pressure with hands that bricked entirely. And there are a lot of them on this texture. He could have two missed clubs, he could have a random five or a random seven. What if Blom has King five or King seven or even King Deuce or nine eight of clubs? There are so many random hands that Blom could use as bluffs here where if I’m Lonis I’m thinking, well, he’s a really aggressive player. He knows it’s a great spot to apply pressure and I know he is going to do it with so many combinations that I wouldn’t fault Lonis for making this call.


And I think in a cash game situation, if you have that read, you should make this call a hundred times out of a hundred, right? The player is capable of bluffing the spot. A lot of draws bricked. I don’t block any of them, I’m going to make this call. But in a tournament it is different. And as you mentioned, when Lonis loses this pot, he goes down to a stack that’s actually going to be the shortest stack and that drastically affects how much his equity is in this tournament. So it’s not just purely, do I have the best hand enough pot odds wise to make this call? You have to think about other factors, which makes tournaments a lot more complex. On the other hand, we talked on the turn about Lonis having a hand that could call turn and fold river. And I know a lot of players feel like, well, if I call the turn and I fold a brick river, I’m being exploited.


When in the reality, if you have a hand that never folds the river, if you’re just always going call, call, that’s far more likely to get you exploited by a really good aggressive player. And as you mentioned, Blom is a very good aggressive player and he’s not a monkey, as you described, who’s just going to barrel all the time. So I think it’s a very tough spot for Lonis, and I wouldn’t fault him for making either decision.

Mike (13:59):

Yeah, maybe the Isildur1 of 12 years ago is the monkey who’s going to barrel the river every time, but he’s grown into himself. He’s going to play probably more