The text below is based on the video above.
Imagine playing a €1 million buy-in tournament with 300 big blinds in your stack.
You raise from late position with pocket queens, get 3-bet from the small blind, and then see a cold 4-bet from the big blind.
Just to spice up this situation a little more: your name is Tom Dwan and this hand is playing out in the Triton Million, the largest buy-in tournament in the history of poker.
What would you do facing the 4-bet? And how would you proceed after the flop if you chose to just call?
Tournament millionaire and Upswing Poker’s newest coach Darren Elias breaks this hand down below.
Player stack sizes and positions:
- Tom Dwan is on the button (961,000 chips)
- Vivek Rajkumar is in the small blind (1,000,000 chips)
- Elton Tsang is in the big blind with (822,000 chips).
Dwan opens to 8,000 on the button with . Rajkumar 3-bets to 35,000 with , Tsang 4-bets to 100,000 with , Dwan calls, and Rajkumar calls.
Dwan’s open is standard, and as Elias points out, top tournament players like to include suited connectors like in a small blind 3-betting range. Tsang is near the top of his range with AK, and makes a standard 4-bet.
With pocket queens, Dwan is faced with a bit of a decision. According to Elias:
We’re 300 big blinds deep. We have a hand toward the top of our opening range. And we have to think about how we’re going to construct a 5-betting range. Do we want pocket queens in this range? What kind of hands would we want in that range? Are we going to play only call?
Elias contends that the context of the tournament plays a big role in Dwan’s decision in this spot. Dwan needs to consider the following questions:
- What tournament are we in?
- What’s the field composition?
- What is our perceived ROI?
- Is it a re-entry tournament?
- How often does a tournament like this come along?
- Considering the above factors, how much risk are we willing to take preflop?
Elias says that in a soft tournament like the WSOP Main Event, he’d be hesitant to put in a 5-bet in this spot, even with pocket kings. His edge in an event like the WSOP Main is big, and getting knocked out at this stage of the tournament is a disaster worth avoiding at all costs.
Like the WSOP Main Event, the Triton Million is a freezeout tournament. Dwan likely perceives that this small-field event is a high-ROI tournament for him, and his call is the right play according to Elias.
Rajkumar’s call is also good here, as his hand has good ability to make straights and flushes.
All three players check.
The flop comes out a very interesting .
Dwan (42% equity) and Rajkumar (40%) have almost identical equity in the pot, while Tsang (18%) still has plenty of ways to win the hand with two overcards and backdoor draw possibilites.
Rajkumar and Tsang both check. Although Tsang could bet in the spot, Elias likes the check. The stack-to-pot ratio has gotten much lower, with 303,000 in the pot and Tsang’s stack at 725,000.
As Elias puts it:
It’s always important to consider your opponent’s ranges, and how they’re affected by the preflop action.
In a 4-bet pot like this, opponent’s ranges aren’t super wide, and we have to be concerned with these middling cards with hands like pocket jacks and pocket nines in both of our villains’ ranges.
So, I think (Tsang’s check) is a prudent check. Betting small is also an option.
Thinking about balance and playing against good players, something we talk a lot about in my upcoming course, I like to put players into different player types, or baskets.
Dwan and Vivek are both strong professional players. We need to balance our range against strong players like this. If we’re checking a hand like on the flop a lot, we also have to check some hands like pocket aces and pocket kings as well.
Dwan holds a strong hand on the button, and facing two checks he’s met with a decision to check or bet. Can Dwan get value from hands like AJ, KJ, and QJ? Rajkumar could have hands like AJs and KJs. He could have QJs, but Dwan’s hand blocks QJ combos.
Does Tsang cold 4-bet a hand like AJ preflop and then check the flop? Probably not all the time according to Elias.
Going back to the tournament context; does Dwan want to play a big pot right now? Or is content to check back and continue to play in position with a strong hand like QQ? All things considered, Elias likes the check from Dwan.
Rajkumar bets 210,000, Tsang folds, Dwan calls.
Rajkumar makes a flush on the turn, and his decision to bet is the right one according to Elias:
When there’s a lot of money in the pot, and you have a good hand, let’s keep it simple and bet here.
I think a lot of players do find themselves getting too tricky in spots like this. It’s always good to get money in with a good hand.
Tsang folds on the turn, despite having the nut flush draw. This makes sense given Rajkumar’s range composition.
Rajkumar isn’t going to have too many offsuit hands in this spot. He3-bet and then called a 4-bet preflop from OOP. So, he should never have hands like AJ-offsuit or KQ-offsuit. He will, however, have a lot of suited hands and a lot of pairs.
When Rajkumar’s bets into two players on the turn, he’s going to have lots of flushes and lots of sets. Tsang likely knows his overcard outs aren’t any good in this spot, and calling 200,000 to win 500,000, with Dwan still behind, isn’t appealing.
Dwan, with , makes the right call. The blocks some possible flushes and he has flush outs himself against much of Rajkumar’s range.
Rajkumar bets 350,000, Dwan folds.
Similar to Tsang’s thought process on the turn, Dwan has to think about Rajkumar’s range from preflop action. If Rajkumar was bluffing on the turn with hand like AK with the , that hand now has Dwan beat.
The only credible bluffs in Rajkumar’s range could be hands like QTs of the non-diamond variety. That’s an outrageously narrow bluffing range, so Dwan folds, which Elias says is the correct play.
Darren Elias joins the Upswing Poker team as one of the most successful poker tournament players in the history of the game.
He holds the record for most World Poker Tour titles (four and counting), and has more than $11 million in live tournament earnings to his name. He’s also fresh off a $313,000 win against the world’s best players at the US Poker Open.
— Darren Elias (@DarrenElias) March 31, 2023
His next video (and accompanying article) comes out next week on this blog and the Upswing Poker YouTube channel.
Elias has teamed up with fellow Upswing Coach and elite tournament pro Nick Petrangelo with their newest course, which is a must-watch for all serious tournament players.
The new course, titled The Road To Victory: The Ultimate Tournament Course, will include learning materials for players of all experience levels, with Elias and Petrangelo providing insights based on years of high-stakes play both live and online.
This course offers something different from the usual solver-heavy poker training materials, focusing more on exploits, the tournament journey from early stages to the final table, ICM, and maximizing profit against the real players at the table.