TVK nightmare

RUNNER RUNNER in $250K High Roller (WSOP Hand Breakdown) | Upswing Poker Level-Up #45



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):

With over $5 million on the line. This might be the sickest bad beat you’ve ever seen. I’m Mike Brady and I’ve got Tournament Pro Aaron Barone here to break it down for you. You ready to see this one out, Aaron?

Aaron (00:12):

I’m ready.

Mike (00:13):

This is a hand from the $250,000 buy-in super high roller tournament at the World Series of Poker this year. It just wrapped up right before we started recording this and it is, as I said in the intro, very, very nasty. Here are the stack configurations to start the hand. Six players remain. Ben Tollerene is the overwhelming chip leader at this point. He’s got about 55 million, which is not so much under a hundred big blinds with the blinds at 300k, 600k. Then Tyler Von Kriegenbergh, the other player in this hand battling Ben Tollerene is the second place chip stack. He’s got 22 million, so second place but still quite a bit behind


Ben Tollerene, he’s got a little under 40 big blinds and then stacks from there really fall off. Two players have around 12 million for 20 big blinds and then two players have 6 million for 10 big blinds each. So a couple quite short stacks, big pay jumps on the line here. With each pay jump being worth at least a quarter million dollars if not more so lasting in this tournament is very valuable. You mainly want to avoid big confrontations, but somehow that’s still what happens here in this hand. It kicks off with Ben Tollerene raising it up under the gun six handed with Jack ten offsuit comes in for a min raise. Aaron, is this too loose? Good raise? He’s the chip leader. What do you think?

Aaron (01:35):

I don’t think it’s too loose at all. I mean I think his cards here aren’t nearly as relevant as they would be in a normal situation because of just how many chips he has and how much pressure he can put on this table.


So is Jack ten a little bit loose just in terms of an overall hand strength at this point? Yeah, maybe, but I think he could be opening even wider than this just again, because of how often people are going to be folding and if people are going to fold too much, then you can open more combos.

Mike (02:01):

We did run this one in Hold’em Resources calculator. We plugged in the pay jumps, we plugged in the stack sizes like we do before every one of these episodes and Aaron is right on the money Jack ten offsuit is certainly a profitable raise for Ben Tollerene under the gun here. He could even raise Jack nine offsuit here. It’s right on the borderline, so he makes a good raise with that Jack ten. Then it starts to get really interesting. It gets to Tyler Von Kriegenbergh who the commentators we’re calling TVK.


I’m going to try to do that. I like that acronym. He has Kings on the button, pocket Kings again, he’s around 40 big blinds, more like 37 big blinds deep against Ben Tollerene and again, we have pretty brutal ICM pressure on him right now where he really doesn’t want to bust out since there’s four stacks shorter than him, two of which are very short, around 10 big blinds. So with these kings on the button, Aaron, are you always three betting? Are you ever just calling? How are you approaching the spot?

Aaron (03:00):

Given the stack setup I think the right play is actually to flat almost your entire range and I know it feels really uncomfortable. We’re so used to just taking a hand like kings and three betting it for value. People don’t trap with it as much as they do Aces because they’re afraid of an ace on the flop and they have kings, but he doesn’t want to go broke here and I actually think the best way to do that is to flat given how the size of the pot will be.


Even if your opponent bets half or two thirds, he still might not go broke by the river if he is beat at some point in the hand. Obviously if the board runs out terribly for him he can fold. It’s an extremely strong hand of course pre-flop and we know the chip leader is opening wide. There’s some value there that your opponent has not only a worse hand but a hand that might just barrel into you trying to move you off something. So I like flatting and the last part about it that I want to mention is that when TVK flats here, it gives the blinds a chance to squeeze jam. Now if Huni in the small blind has a hand like pocket nines, he might say, I’ve got 20 bigs, chip leader’s opening wide, other player flats behind, I’m going to jam nines. And if TVK decides to three bet here, those nines really shrink up and the same goes for Hook who has 10 big blinds who also might squeeze jam.


So I think this play of flatting Kings is going to lead to the most profit both just playing the hand in position against your opponent and the potential for players to squeeze behind.

Mike (04:28):

Really has a dream scenario to flat with the kings here and then Huni in the small blind shoves all in and then you end up stacking him. And then to your point Aaron, we can once again confirm that what you’re saying is correct from our HRC calculation. Calling is the most profitable line with Pocket Kings here if you want the specific numbers. Calling makes $97,600 in this spot given the pay jumps and everything and then three betting to a non all in size makes about $1,500 less than that. So not a huge, huge difference, but a non-negligible difference for the calling being the more profitable route. So that is the one that TVK decides to go with.


He just flicks in the call. The blinds have junky hands, they get out of the way and we’re going to go to the flop with about 4 million in the middle, 21 million behind with the first and second chip stacks colliding and we get a King six three rainbow flop. Once again, the hands are Jack ten for Ben Tollerene under the gun and pocket kings for Von Kriegenbergh and that’s going to be top set for TVK and an absolute air ball for Ben Tollerene. He’s just got some backdoor straight draws. The action is on Ben, how are you playing this one in his shoes, Aaron, are you firing a continuation bet in there?

Aaron (05:45):

So he does have an air ball as you mentioned, but a king high, somewhat disconnected dry boards are really great boards to be continuation betting. We know that TVK has kings, he’s not going anywhere, but if he’s sitting there with a hand like sevens or he flatted ace queen suited pre or ace five suited even a hand like pocket nines don’t feel that great and sure he’s probably going to call one bet, but as I said, other hands like Ace Queen could fold, Queen Jack could fold Queen ten suited could fold and Tollerene has Jack High, which in this exact spot might not be the bottom of his range, but it’s certainly getting there.


I think the board texture is good for him to bet, I am going to be firing a continuation bet here and again on drier boards you probably want to pick a smaller size, so something around a quarter pot should get it done.

Mike (06:32):

Ben Tollerene does reach for chips and drops a 900K bet into the pot. So around a quarter of the pot, 25% and it’s on TVK getting a great price. He’s got top set. He’s obviously not going anywhere. Are you doing anything but just calling here Aaron?

Aaron (06:50):

No, I can’t. I mean folding would obviously be the worst thing we’ve ever seen. Raising is actually not that far behind. You expect your opponent to have a wide range. You have the nuts on a very dry board and we have an idea of how this is going to go. So some people say, well I would raise and try to take this pot down.


Cool. You really get a lot of value by letting your opponent bluff and at this point we can see by the numbers he’s got a 97% chance to win the hand, not a hundred still 97 is pretty good. Even if you think about the bluffs Tollerene could have here that have equity against you, you’re most afraid of what? Like five four of diamonds. So you’re still like 80 ish percent. So definitely just want to be calling, giving your opponent the chance to bluff some turns and potentially rivers.

Mike (07:35):

Yeah, he’s got the deck absolutely crushed here, right? I think most people would know that this is a pretty clear spot to slow play. I think the people who are going to have that comment about I wouldn’t get this bad beat, I would’ve played the kings differently. They’re probably going to make that comment about preflop.


So get in the comments below if you do think this is a clear three bet preflop and you would’ve avoided this whole mess that TVK is about to find himself in. Turn is the nine of hearts. So the board is king three six rainbow turn nine of hearts. That’s the second heart. So there is a flush draw now. Ben Tollerene picks up that straight draw with his Jack ten. There’s a little under 6 million in the pot, 20 million behind. Are you continuing the aggression in Ben Tollerene’s shoes here?

Aaron (08:18):

I think I am. One thing that happens when you pick a really small size on the flop, even on a dry board like King six three is your opponents going to continue with a wider range than if you picked a bigger size. So if Tollerene had picked a size of two thirds on the flop for some reason and got called, I’d be more likely to shut down like okay, he called a big bet on the flop, it was pretty dry, but when he picks a quarter pot sizing, there are hands that TVK can float with that he thinks might be the best hand, they’re going to call for that size.


He could have a hand like Ace Queen of clubs like well I have Ace high backdoor flush draw, I’m going to call one. I’d mentioned pocket sevens or Pocket eights earlier. Even a hand like seven six suited, they’re not going to fold flop but at this point given the ICM pressure, you could see all those hands folding to a turn barrel and Jack High is behind all of those hands. So yeah, I like the idea of betting again and this time I would probably size up a little bit and see if that got through.

Mike (09:15):

Ben Tollerene does reach for chips, fires out another bet on the turn for 1.7 million, so about one third pot now is that about the size you were thinking Aaron, or would you juice it up even more than that?

Aaron (09:27):

I would’ve gone bigger in this spot. I do think when he picks this size that the hand I mentioned like Ace Queen might fold, but I think the size is a little too small and I think at final tables you are supposed to pick slightly smaller sizing than just Chip EV because it’s the ICM, but I think a bigger size is going to make more of his range fold and even when you’re betting here for value with a hand like king queen or pocket sixes, I think you’re probably picking a bigger size.


I don’t hate it, but I think typically I would pick a bigger size here around 60% and I think that’s going to do a better job of applying pressure to TVK’s range

Mike (10:12):

That even kind of brings stacks into play on the river, right? Because if he were to bet two thirds on the turn going into the river, there’d be about 14 million in there and Von Kriegenbergh would have about 16 million behind. So Tollerene could even shove or nearly shove on the river if he were to bet bigger on this turn, he’s clearly not playing that game, he’s not trying to get Stacks in here necessarily. He’s going with this one third pot bet on the turn and that means there’s going to be about 9 million in the middle if he gets called and TVK will still have about 19 million behind. So stacks not really in play there.


He can’t really shove for two X pot in this scenario. So Ben Tollerene clearly taking kind of a different approach.

Aaron (10:50):

I think my issue with picking the smaller size here is by not putting the pressure or at least the thought in TVK’s mind that you could be playing for Stacks here, you don’t get as much fold equity now number one and number two that sort of is the whole basis of ICM of putting pressure on the smaller stacks is thinking or making them think at least look you might have to play for your whole stack here and risk losing out on a payjump. So if TVK is flatting Kings pre, we could imagine he’s also flatting hands like Jacks, tens, queens pre and if Tollerene fires a small bet here, I think those hands never fold, right? You’re getting an amazing price, you still have position and you don’t have to worry about playing for stacks on the river and risking busting out in sixth, but if Tollerene picks the big size here, I think all those second pair type hands are going to be put in a really tough spot and the right play is going to be to fold because not only are you worried about calling the bet right now you’re thinking, well I might have to face a pot sized shove on the end and what am I going to do unless if I hit my two outer.

Mike (11:56):

I think that’s a great point. If TVK has a hand like tens here and he faces a bigger bet, he might just get out of the way. It’s really not a great spot, but against this small one third pot bet, I think he probably just peels. I mean his stack isn’t really in play. Like you said, he’s still going to be second in chips by a decent margin if he calls the turn and has to fold the river and loses the pot. So yeah, I think Tollerene certainly could generate a lot more folds on the turn with the bigger size as you would expect. But in any case he does go for the smaller size and now there is a flush draw on board like we discussed. There’s some straight draws now or some additional straight draws. So now with your top set as TVK, is this a point where you can consider starting to fast play and put in a raise or is this clearly still just falling squarely into the calling range?

Aaron (12:47):

Well the flush draw isn’t as bad as it looks. Yes, a heart could come and that’s not great for you but you do have a heart in your hand so that blocks one of the hearts from falling. The other heart that could come is a six of hearts, which would be great for you unless they have pocket sixes because the board would pair and you’d have a full house. So I don’t think the flush draw is necessarily a reason to be raising here. You still have the nuts, you still are in position and I would still opt for a call. I think there are other hands you could consider raising here, but you also want to think about if you’re in TVK’s spot, what bluffs are you raising? Are you going to be raising here with the jack ten of hearts? I mean you’re in position versus a small bet versus a chip leader you really don’t want to get jammed on or played back at.


I think this entire hand starts with TVK playing a bit carefully with the kings and I think that’s totally reasonable, but if you’re going to take that line, I don’t think you’re going to have many bluffs on the turn that raise anyway. So I think again, you’re in this weird spot where your entire range should probably, I mean your continuing range should probably just flat.

Mike (13:54):

That makes sense. He is incentivized to keep that pot smaller even with hands like this potentially. So he does call with the top set now there’s 9 million in the pot going into the river and it’s disastrous. Offsuit queen couldn’t even be the queen of hearts so the flush gets in too, just the offsuit queen making the final board King six three turn nine river Queen Ben Tollerene is sitting there with the nut straight with his jack ten offsuit. TVK has 18 million in his stack and there’s 9 million in the middle.


So like we talked about on the turn, shoving not really in play for Ben Tollerene here, it would be far too big of a size in an ICM scenario, at least. 9 million in the middle. Aaron, how are you sizing this one with TVK having 18 million behind?

Aaron (14:40):

So I wouldn’t have picked this small size on the turn very often, but I think when you go small size on turn, picking a small size on river kind of makes sense. I think a lot of players, what they’ll do is they’ll pick one size when they have a strong hand and one size when they don’t and if you fall into that trap it’s going to be a bad time. Other players are going to figure that out. So I think picking a small size here of maybe 2.8 to 3.5 makes sense. I also think picking a bigger size of 6.5 to 7 makes sense if you think about what TVKs range looks like.


If I was in Tollerene’s spot, sure I would’ve thought kings are possible, but I would’ve thought hands more like king queen, pocket nines, maybe even King Jack or King ten if those hands get here, all those hands are either top pair with a straight blocker, which is a good bluff catcher or two pair plus and those hands aren’t folding for a pretty big size. So I could see Tollerene here picking a really big size, it’s totally fine, but based at how he’s played the hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if he picked a smaller size.

Mike (15:44):

Yeah, I guess the idea would be if you go for the big size you’re just trying to get them to make that kind of crying call with top pair and a straight blocker, maybe a weaker two pair or something like that. I mean a set is certainly calling any bet size, but that kind of brings me to a question that I have for you when we’re comparing the two kind of sizing options for Ben here, he either can go for a small block size or he can go bigger.


If he goes for the block size TVK is going to be more likely to raise with second best hands like a hand like pocket nines, which is a turned set that might just call against a big bet on the river but against a block bet if Ben Tollerene goes small pocket nines probably feels like it’s worth a raise. Maybe it feels like it’s worth the raise against the big bet anyway. What’s your kind of take on that on how that will factor in, the fact that TVK is going to do some raising against the small size and considering he’s going to have called so many strong hands and slow played so much of his range up until this point like we’re seeing here. What are your thoughts on that?

Aaron (16:52):

I think that’s definitely true. That’s why it’s actually good when you are picking a blocker size to have strong hands in it.


A lot of players just use the blocker size to block their opponents from betting and they’re just using an entirely weak or capped range and so when they get raised they’re obviously in a bad spot but their entire range is that weak capped stuff so the other player doesn’t actually get punished by it. But using a hand like this, like the nuts in that size hope or for that size, hoping that your opponent raises the second best hand makes some sense. I also wouldn’t hate a check from Tollerene here and it wasn’t something I really thought about until you brought up that point about TVK possibly raising, but if we think his range is so strong that it’s two pairs and sets and the bottom of it is a hand like either King Jack or queen jack of hearts, most of that range is going to bet if we check. Now, it’s not going to pick a super big size usually, but he might pick a size of 5 million, he might pick a size of 3 million and then Tollerene can check raise.


I think that puts a lot of pressure on TVK, but he’s still going to pay off with a lot of those hands that we mentioned.

Mike (18:00):

I guess the downside to checking would be TVK will probably just quickly check back if he has a hand like King Ten or King Jack, he’s not going to go for thin value in this high pressure scenario, but on the other side of that coin, Ben Tollerene is holding a jack and a ten, so those hands are both less likely for TVK. So maybe that should steer Ben Tollerene towards some checks with this specific hand on the river. Let us know what you think about that one either on Twitter or in the comments on YouTube. We’re interested to hear how people would play this spot as Ben Tollerene. Definitely. Ben Tollerene thinks for quite a while before betting this river and eventually drops in a wager of 2.8 million chips into the 9.1 million chip pot.


So definitely more on that small block size option that we were talking about. Von Kriegenbergh now 12 million in the middle. He’s got to call 2.8 million to get to Showdown, but I don’t think that’s what he’s thinking at this point. He’s really under repped his hand up until now with the pre-flop call and then calling twice with top set. I think there’s really no scenario where you could do anything but raise here, especially against a small size. I assume you agree with that, Aaron, and if you do, how would you approach the size of the raise? How big would you make it with TVK having 18 million behind?

Aaron (19:19):

I definitely agree that we have to be raising kings. I do think that if I’m here with a hand like king queen or a hand like King nine suited or even a hand as strong as pocket threes, pocket sixes, I think those hands could just call.


I could see that. Again, this is not a chip EV situation if it was a cash game, all those hands are probably raising at least some of the time. But here because of how the stacks are set up, because of the ICM of the final table, you don’t want to raise as many hands, but with kings you do want to be raising, you have the second nuts. Tollerene could easily have sixes or he could have picked small size, small size with pocket queens and now he’s rivered three of a kind. I think your raise size here should be really small. The reason I think that is that if you are getting looked up, I guess you could cooler him with Queens, right? But you’re kind of hoping that he has some sort of, I don’t want to say a marginal hand, but some sort of hand that perhaps he has a hand like Queen ten that got here or Queen Jack or King ten or King Jack that has his top pair, second pair and a straight draw blocker.


There’s another benefit of if you make a small raise here and Tollerene gets here with a hand like Ace Jack or Ace ten or even the Jack nine, he might make a move at it and actually raise you back. I think if you go too big here, you’re just not getting looked up enough, you’re actually not getting value and some of that value is baked into your opponent bluffing you back. So I think I would pick a small raise size here. The only question I have is what are we going to bluff with?

Mike (20:52):

Yeah, it’s really hard to imagine being in this spot as TVK and finding a bluff. I guess I just had a couple hands splashed through my head and I was like, those probably aren’t bluffing. I mean top pair with a straight draw blocker almost feels like one of the more reasonable bluffs.


But then what are you trying to make fold? You have top pair, it’s just worth a call. Maybe a hand like Ace queen of hearts that called the flop with Ace Queen high and a backdoor flush draw turned a flush draw now has rivered a pair of queens. You at least block like three queens and king queen and it’s at least something to bluff with. I mean it’s just really hard to think of potential bluffs here. Does that make sense or can you think of any other combos that might find a bluff raise?

Aaron (21:42):

I mean ace jack of hearts, Ace ten of hearts would be hands that would peel the small flop and turn sizes. Now you block the nuts and again, traditionally when people blocker bet, pick a tiny sizing on the river as a pre-flop raiser as somebody who triple barrels into you, they don’t have the nuts.


So yeah, Ace Jack or Ace ten could do that. I think even Queen ten of hearts, queen jack of hearts kind of do the same thing. In fact, those might be better because they not only block straight, but they block King Queen or three queens. Any other hand that he gets here with doesn’t really make sense. I don’t see how he gets here with seven eight diamonds or ten eight of clubs. So I guess we’re stuck with hands like Queen Jack suited Queen ten suited or Ace ten, Ace jack of hearts.

Mike (22:25):

Very few hands that could potentially bluff here. TVK goes for a bigger size than you were saying. He goes for 8.8 million, so about three times the bet that he was facing. Ben Tollerene’s got a call 6 million more, but of course he’s not thinking about just calling here. He’s got the nuts. He takes about a minute before eventually announcing all in Tyler Von Kriegenbergh, instantly smirks, instantly uncomfortable, kind of can’t believe his luck.


He’s looking at the board and he just, in a way he looks happy, but he also really doesn’t look happy. It’s one of those smiles that it’s a smile you never want to have at the poker table. It’s not a good sign when you’re in one of these spots. Aaron, I mean, I think this is kind of a weird question. It’s hard not to be biased by the cards, but there’s no way he can fold this, right? He’s got top set, he really underrepresented it. He’s got to call 10 million to win a 36 million chip pot. If he calls and wins here, he’s going to be the overwhelming chip leader. He’s basically going to switch places with Ben Tollerene. If he folds, he’s one of the short stacks, and he’s got top set. What do you think?

Aaron (23:35):

I mean, I think sometimes you just lose. That’s the extent of the analysis here.


Sometimes you have the second best hand, actual second nuts against a disguised nuts and you just lose, and I think that if his hand’s different, he might be able to fold. I think if he has a hand like pocket threes or pocket sixes, he could say, you know what? My opponent has not only Jack ten, but maybe Queens and kings, right? And maybe against a different opponent who never bluffs. We could talk about it with a slightly different hand, but here not only does he have the second nuts, he’s up against a really accomplished player who is capable of bluffing this sort of spot, even though it’s unlikely and he’s getting an amazing price. And as you said, if he wins this pot, he flips stacks with Ben and he takes over the chip lead and gets to bully the table. So I think he has to call the rest off.


He’s not really happy about it despite the smile, but he puts it in.

Mike (24:33):

TVK does call and quickly sees the bad news and he’s out of this tournament in sixth place for $945,000. Ben Tollerene becomes the overwhelming chip leader in a commanding spot to take home that 5.4 million. You can buy a lot of side saddles with that. If you enjoyed Aaron Barone’s analysis in this episode, I got great news for you. You can head over to right now to learn from him in the upswing lab and get a huge discount. All upswing lab plans monthly, semi-annual and annual are currently 33% off during the World Series of Poker main event from the very firsthand dealt until the moment the champion raises the bracelet.

That course will be 33% off over on Aaron has some great content in the lab that will help you boost your tournament game before your next event. So I highly recommend checking that out. Head over and if you enjoyed this episode, hit the like button, comment, subscribe, follow any of those nice things, we would appreciate it.

It helps us keep this thing going so we could bring you free training content like this every week. Thanks for joining me today, Aaron. Thank you for having me. Take care everyone.