Unique individual situations often arise in the Main Event. Top set in a 3 bet pot….
Since the 2017 Main Event was played a few weeks ago I thought that it would be topical to cover an interesting hand from my journey this year.
First of all the Main Event is a very special tournament. You have probably heard that before but it is the only event at the WSOP with two-hour levels throughout the entire tournament and where the average stack is typically over 75BBs. Also table draw is HUGE. Since there are typically 7000 players in the event you can be playing at a very soft table, sometimes against opponents that have only played poker a few times. Other times, you can be playing against all star, world-class players. And then there are other times where you see a combination of many player types all at the same table.
For me, I had mediocre tables on Day 1 and then when I got knocked out on Day 2. If I was to rank my tables on a scale of one to ten then were both about a five. Not tough in the strict sense of the word but certainly not soft. Players weren’t giving it away. However on the first day I ended up knocking out a player that had satellited in to the championship and he made a pretty large mistake in a hand taking a strange line.
We were in Level 3 of Day 1 and the blinds were $150-$300 with a $25 ante. I had built my stack up to $70k from $50k in the first few levels but my opponent in the hand started with only $25k. In the hand immediately before I had three bet out of the small blind and took the pot down without a flop. This particular hand started with the villain raising to $750 from the cutoff. I looked down at J♣ J♦ on the button and reraised to $2200. All folded back to the cutoff who called quickly. The flop came out J♥ 6♦ 7♠ giving me top set. The cutoff checked and I decided to bet slightly smaller than the preflop three bet, $2100. I thought that this small sizing would be called by a wide range of hands, most likely any pair and even AQ or AK. Much to my delight my opponent called. The turn brought out the 2♣ completing the rainbow. Now, totally unexpectedly, my opponent led for $4600. This was truly bizarre as in a three-bet pot you almost never see a check-call lead out unless, in a multiway pot, someone was waiting for a safe card and then bet for protection.
At this point, I really thought that my opponent had a real hand as he was not the type to reverse float in a 3 bet pot (he was an obvious satellite winner that was playing in his first Main event on day 1). So my thought now was strictly about value. Many people would say that if I was only raising sets here for value that I would be inherently unbalanced. They absolutely would be correct. However I didn’t need to worry about being balanced versus this particular player who I would never see again in my life. It didn’t really matter that I might not raise KK-AA on the turn versus this action I was only concerned about extracting the maximum amount of value in this specific situation.
Also, if you have read my last CardPlayer column that had to do with having the nuts on the turn in position and discussing whether or not to slowplay, you know that I think players commonly make a very large value mistake by just flatting the turn in these situations expecting to raise the river. The problem is they get checked to on the river, so flatting the turn accomplishes nothing. In this spot I was thinking the exact same thing. In fact I thought that the turn was a mandatory raise most importantly to build the size of the pot up and because I did not think in this particular situation my opponent was bluffing, nor would he continue on with a bluff on the river. However, I did not want to scare my opponent away and chose a very small sizing—$11k. My opponent again did not take much time with it and called.
The river brought out the 8♠ and it looked like my opponent was going to pull a “block” type bet again, which of course I would have loved since it would have bloated the pot up even more leading me to what would be an obvious shove. But he ended up sort of pulling a fake bet move (which is usually a reverse tell to try to have the person in my spot not bet) and finally checked after about a minute. I calmly looked back at the board to try and figure out if there was anyway that I did not have the best hand. I quickly realized that the only straights that were possible were 45, 59 and 9T…and then noticed 9T and 59 were gutshots on the flop. And without the possibility of any flush draws either front door or back door appearing it would be impossible for him to arrive at the river with those hands. 45, which was open ended was a very very small possibility but the cutoff would have had to call a three bet preflop from out of position and then lead the turn AND call a raise followed by a check on the river. It was an easy conclusion that I had the best hand with top set close to 100% of the time.
In a cash game I may have gone for absolute maximum value on the river. But here I had to really consider everything about this unique situation and the fact that I was playing against a first timer in the Main Event. The opponent had 15k left, and it was before the dinner break on Day 1. Most people do not want to go out so early on their first time. I did not want him to make any sort of Hero folds but I wanted him to feel like he was priced in on the river. I also thought that his hand was most likely not super strong (although it could be 67) given his line. So with the pot being over $30k, I decided to bet $10k, slightly less than my raise on the turn. This would leave the cutoff with over 15BBs, which is a workable stack in the Main Event and he would not have to be put to the test for all of his chips. After I put the $10k in the pot he quickly called and tabled QQ.
I felt like this hand was a bit of a gift and it got me up to close to $100k in chips before the dinner break. However, I think other players, that try to play an “unexploitative” style may not have made the correct exploits in this hand by raising the turn with the nuts (only) and sizing down on the river. Unfortunately I made a big bluff that did not work after dinner on Day 1 and was knocked out of the Main event in the middle of day 2.