The year was 2010. It was my second time in Las Vegas, and my first World Series of Poker.
I arrived pretty early in the series, planning to play a short stint of events over a couple of weeks.
I felt great. I had absolutely crushed online in the months leading up to the series, and finished third in a live tournament for around $35,000—my biggest score to date.
But from the first event onwards, everything went as terribly as it could have. After every tournament I came back to the hotel empty-handed, and by the time I was supposed to fly back home I’d spent my entire budget for the series.
Determined to cash in something, I extended my stay by another two weeks. But I continued to brick every event, digging deeper into the hole I was already in.
Eventually, there was just one event left: the $10,000 Main Event. I did what any reasonable gambler would do, and bought in for what was way too much money for my bankroll back then.
This is part 2 in a 2-part tournament hand review series. Click here for part 1.
In the WSOP Main Event, things finally started to fall into place
I finished day one among the chipleaders and maintained a huge stack through day two. Day three didn’t go so well, but I made it to day four with enough chips to reach the money without having to do much.
I knew that a min-cash would be just shy of $20,000, and, to be completely honest, all I cared about was getting there—making the money became my primary goal. That’s not how you’re supposed to think as a poker player, but I was ready to make some big folds after five weeks of not cashing a single tournament.
The Main Event alone had lasted nearly a week with all the different starting days, and I was exhausted. All I knew was that I really, really needed to end the series on a positive note. Then, the following hand happened only a few spots away from the money.
$10,000 WSOP Main Event. Blinds 2,000/4,000 with a 500 ante. 150,000 Effective Stacks.
Hero is dealt 9♠ 9♥ in the CO
folds to co. Hero raises to 10,000. BTN misclick 3-bets to 16,000.
The young kid to my left, on the button, is buried deep inside his hoodie sweatshirt. He’s sporting big headphones and a bigger stack than me. He’s opened pretty much every single pot up to this point.
Shortly after my 10,000 chips hits the felt, the kid says “raise”, and, apparently not noticing my raise, tosses in 8,000. (He had consistently raised to 8,000 when raising first on the button.)
A floorperson is called over, and he rules that since the kid announced ”raise” he must 3-bet the minimum, which was 16,000 total. After he made it 16,000, it folded around to me.
The first thing to do is figure out whether our opponent is angle-shooting or not. The ‘oops, I didn’t see your raise’ raise is the kind of move some angle shooters try with aces or kings.
In this situation, though, I was pretty sure the kid had made an honest mistake—he hadn’t noticed my open, and was trying to make his standard button raise to 8,000 with a range of pretty much any two cards. On this assumption, what should we do?
Folding is obviously out of the question, which leaves us with four possible options:
- 4-bet to something like 45,000 and call a shove
- 4-bet to something like 45,000 and fold to a shove
- Go all-in
- Flat call
4-betting to any non-all-in amount seems like a bad idea. 4-bet/folding would be absolutely terrible given the situation and my opponent’s accidental 3-bet. ICM makes 4-bet/calling very unattractive on a $20,000 bubble, since our opponent might shove with two overcards that he would have folded to our shove.
This means our only options are to flat or go all-in.
If I were any less certain about the possibility that the kid was angleshooting, I’d call all day. Calling is clearly a very +EV play. But there are some downsides to it:
- We can’t comfortably call three barrels on most runouts without a set or better
- Our hand is likely best now, but is very vulnerable
- Our opponent has both the initiative and a great opportunity to bluff us off the best hand because of the bubble
Moreover, I feel like just calling is wasting the hand’s value given how wide our opponent is “opening”.
Remember, based on what I’d seen, my opponent’s button opening range seemed to be close to 100%. But even with some serious leeway, here’s how much a shove makes even if our opponent is (accidentally) 3-betting just 50%, and calling with 88+, AQ+:
Shoving 99 makes 7.5 big blinds. Coincidentally, that adds up to precisely 30,000 chips, which was the starting stack of the Main Event that year.
So, I could basically make ~$10,000 in EV by going all-in. Plus, I’ll only get called around 10 percent of the time, and I’ll often be flipping when that happens.
I might consider passing up a 2 or 3 big blind edge under ICM pressure this heavy, but 7.5 blinds is far too much to leave on the table.
So, what happened?
I shoved, and my opponent went deep into the tank. I have no idea how long he was there, but it felt like 10 minutes at least.
After a couple of minutes, I was almost certain he wasn’t calling, but was rather fake-tanking to appear like he was not just opening with any two. So, when the clock was finally called on him, I was genuinely surprised when he said “call”.
What on earth could he have?
Well, he ended up having the best hand I could have hoped for: 8-8. I was an 82% favorite to have a huge stack on the bubble of the Main Event.
My joy was short-lived, though. Two unlikely eights on the flop sealed the deal.
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Read more from Miikka on UpswingPoker:
- Miikka explains how to set yourself up for the win in There’s Big Money to be Made on the Final Table Bubble
- Step up your tournament game with 7 Tournament Tips for Running Deep More Often
- Learn Miikka’s strategy for How To Open-Raise in MTTs So The Big Blind Doesn’t Crush Your Soul