High Stakes Players Collide in Record-Breaking $974,631 Pot (Analysis)
2020 has already produced some of the biggest pots in online poker history.
The hand in question today features Tan Xuan facing off against rising star Ali Imsirovic. Ali has been crushing the high stakes tournament scene for a few years now, racking up $8,912,717 in tournament earnings.
Interestingly, Ali was the second member ever of the Upswing Lab training course. He even wrote an article for PokerNews detailing how the Upswing Lab helped him take the first steps on his journey to the highest stakes games in the world.
Let’s get down to business.
The game is $500/$1,000 with a $2,000 straddle and a $200 ante on GG Network.
Xuan opens to $4,278 with 9♦ 7♦ in the Cutoff. Imsirovic makes it $21,000 with A♠ K♠ from the Big Blind and Xuan calls.
Tan should be opening around 32% of all the hands from the cutoff, and 97s definitely makes the cut. His raise size is also appropriate.
Ali should 3-bet with his entire continuing range from this position to avoid giving the straddle a good squeezing opportunity. He should 3-bet with around 12-15% of hands. AKs is obviously a super strong hand that can be 3-bet for value against Tan.
Against this 3-bet, Tan has a marginal call with his hand. All-in-all, well played on both sides.
Note: Want to know how to play every hand in every common preflop situation? Get instant access to extensive preflop charts and lessons (for cash games and tournaments) when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Lock your seat now!
The flop comes 9♠ 5♦ 5♥ and the pot is $45,700.
Ali c-bets $15,425, Tan raises to $53,700 and Ali calls.
Ali should definitely c-bet on this flop. That said, he might be better off using a larger bet size.
Because of how Tan’s range interacts with the board — he will often have missed, but will also have many 2 overcard-type hands — Ali could use a bigger bet size with his whole range. This puts pressure on those overcard-type hands, forcing Tan to make more marginal decisions.
Think of hands such as AJo, KQo, and suited broadways with backdoor flush draws like K♥ T♥ or K♥ J♥. Ali’s range can simply bully those hands due to his equity advantage. To summarize, Ali would likely be slightly better off betting around half pot (with his entire range).
Now, analyzing Tan’s play…
He should indeed raise with his hand at some frequency due to the high stack-to-pot ratio (SPR) and the fact that his hand is vulnerable (pair of nines with an undercard kicker).
Against the 33% pot-sized raise, Ali should mostly call. 3-betting would also be a reasonable play.
The turn comes the J♠, making the board 9♠ 5♦ 5♥ J♠ with the pot now at $153,100.
Ali checks, Tan bets $101,046 and Ali calls.
Ali’s check is mandatory given that he is at a nut disadvantage.
Tan’s bet on the turn is the first big mistake in the hand. His hand has good showdown value, so he should just check back. He can bluff with other hands such as gutshots (K♥ T♥), turned flush draws (A♠ 4♠), or combo draws (K♠ Q♠).
Against this bet, Ali has a very easy call. He has more than enough equity, drawing to top pair or the nut flush.
The river comes 8♠, making the board 9♠ 5♦ 5♥ J♠ 8♠ and the pot is now $355,192.
Ali checks, Tan shoves for $309,719 and Ali quickly calls, scooping the record-breaking $974,631 pot.
Ali’s check is good from a theoretical standpoint as the nutted hands are distributed pretty symmetrically between the two players.
Tan’s shove is not that bad as he is blocking Ali’s combinations of pocket nines. By shoving, he forces Ali to fold almost all of his overpairs — in theory, at least.
In practice, however, if he keeps pulling these kinds of triggers against very good players, they will notice that he is unbalanced in the “over-bluffing” direction. The good players will then start shifting their strategies to counter this aspect of Tan’s game.
Would You Have Played This Hand Differently As Either Player?
Let me know in the comments below.
After scooping the pot, Ali’s friend made him a nice gift:
My friend made me a quilt of my 975k pot🤯😱 pic.twitter.com/91Dsemgy9v
— Ali (@aliImsirovic) September 10, 2020
A huge amount of money swung between these two players in a matter of a minute or so. More money than the vast majority of people on this planet will earn over the course of their entire lifetime. This is why poker is such an amazingly entertaining game to watch and play.
Want more hand analysis from the crazy online games this year? Read TrueTeller Clashes With Tan Xuan’s Pocket Kings for $122,880.
That’s all for now, good luck, grinders!
Note: Learn step-by-step how to become the best player at the table when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Elite pros have been adding new content every week for the past four years, and you get all of it when you join. Learn more now!