After playing for hours, it finally happens: you flop a set.
But as you are busy counting all of the money you are about to win, the turn brings a possible flush and multiple opponents start to pile money into the pot.
Naturally, the scary board and heavy action make you start to question whether or not you have the best hand.
Sound like a nightmare? Unfortunately for 2019 WSOP champ John Cynn in the following hand, this scenario was very much a reality.
This massive hand was played on the popular Live at the Bike show. The stakes are super high and the hands are very strong, so the pot was destined to be huge. Let’s see how it all went down!
The blinds are $100/$100/$200 with a $200 ante paid by the big blind. If that wasn’t high enough stakes for you, you’ll be happy to know that the UTG player straddled for $400.
There are seven players at the table, including John Cynn, businessman and high stakes regular Bill Klien, and a player named Jacky.
Jacky ($385,000 stack) opens from the hijack to $2,000 with A♥ 9♥. John ($70,600 stack) calls in the cutoff with 3♠ 3♦. Live at the Bike regular Andy ($73,800 stack) calls with 6♦ 6♠ from the big blind. Bill ($209,200 stack) calls with J♠ J♦ out of the straddle.
Note: There aren’t any preflop solutions available for this unusual blind structure, so it’s tough to say for sure what the right plays are.
In a standard live cash game, an effective open-raise size is anywhere from 2 big blinds to 4 big blinds depending on the game, with 2.5 big blinds being a very good standard opening size.
However, with so much dead money out there from the antes, the multiple blinds, and the straddle, players would be wise to use larger sizes in this game. Because the straddle is the effective big blind, opening to a size between $1,000 and $1,800 seems most appropriate.
Jacky decides to go for an even bigger size of $2,000, which is not a big deviation. His hand is clearly strong enough to make this raise.
John makes the first mistake in the hand with his pocket threes, which are not strong enough to make this call. There are a few reasons for this:
- The raise size is quite large, so John isn’t getting great pot odds on his call.
- There five players behind, many of whom are aggressive, who can squeeze him out of the pot with a 3-bet.
- His hand has poor playability on all boards that don’t contain a three.
- The low-but-not-insignificant chance of a set under set situation reduces his implied odds.
If the raise was much smaller, and/or if John was in a later preflop position, calling would be much closer to break even, if not profitable.
Andy is getting a very good price on a call and he only has two players behind, so his decision to call with pocket sixes is good.
Holding pocket jacks, Bill has an extremely strong hand with which he shouldn’t want to play a multiway pot. Because of this, he should always squeeze with this hand in order to deny equity and attempt to play a heads-up pot with a lot of equity on his side. A $10,000 3-bet would be in order here.
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The flop comes 8♥ 7♦ 3♥ with $6,900 in the middle.
Everybody checks to John in the cutoff who bets $4,500 with bottom set. Andy folds, Bill calls with his overpair, and Jacky calls with his nut flush draw.
The flop was played well by everyone involved.
Andy should check because his sixes did not improve and he is out of position against three other players on a wet board.
Despite the fact that he holds an overpair, Bill should always check his whole range here as he out of position with a range disadvantage.
Even though he holds the nut flush draw, Jacky should also check as he is also out of position with a range disadvantage against John. Plus, having some strong draws in your checking range gives your range great playability on future streets.
After flopping bottom set, John should bet in order to extract value from the many made hands and draws that are abundantly present in each of his opponents’ ranges.
When facing John’s bet, both Bill and Jacky should call as their hands are strong enough to do so. Raising in both their shoes also seems like a reasonable option, but it’s hard to say exactly which one is better.
The turn is an action card: the J♥, completing multiple draws. The board is now 8♥ 7♦ 3♥ J♥.
With $22,000 in the middle, Jacky leads out with his nut flush for $25,000. Both John and Bill call the overbet with their sets.
From a theoretical point of view, Jacky should check his whole range as he’s still at a range disadvantage. His lead signifies a lot of strength as he can’t possibly represent any natural bluffs given the flop action.
Jacky is representing the nut flush and is likely imbalanced towards value because he should rarely have A♥ Kx, A♥ Qx in his range given the flop action — these A-high hands were too weak to call the bet on the flop. So, when he leads out for an overbet, huge alarm bells should be going off in the other player’s minds.
Nonetheless, a set is a set and people hating folding those (for good reason). This is starting to get into exploitative advice, but I think folding is the best option John has in this situation.
Without some information that Jacky is capable of turning a hand such as A♥ Ax into a bluff in this spot, John is not getting good pot odds, and his implied odds aren’t (at least shouldn’t be) too good because Jacky will likely play more cautiously on board-pairing river.
Of course, it’s hard to fault someone for calling with a set just because the flush completed, but I think in this exact scenario it’s the best time to make a hero fold.
Bill, on the other hand, is quite a bit deeper with Jacky and is getting better pot odds than John was. Moreover, he is closing the action, so calling in Bill’s spot makes sense.
The river 5♠ makes the final board 8♥ 7♦ 3♥ J♥ 5♠.
The pot is $97,000. Bill checks to Jacky who goes for an overbet of $127,000 with his nut flush. Both John and Bill fold their sets after deliberating for a few minutes.
Bill’s check is standard as, once again, he is at a range disadvantage.
Jacky’s overbet makes sense from a theoretical point of view since he is continuing to represent the nut flush. In practice, this situation is more about figuring out what bet size maximizes the value that he can extract. It’s hard to say exactly what that amount is without more knowledge on the player’s tendencies, but my instinct says to go a bit smaller (closer to pot).
Both Bill’s and John’s folds are fine even from a theoretical point of view, and absolutely so in this (very unusual) specific hand.
How Would You Have Played These Sets on the Turn and River?
Would you make a huge fold on the turn? Would you call down and dare Jacky to show you a flush?
Want more hand analysis from crazy live games? Check out my analysis of the Record-Breaking $438,900 Pot on Live at the Bike.
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