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Poker Strategy | Beginner's Poker

A Closer Look At Two Big NLHE Hands From Week One Of The WSOP

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There is a reason no limit is the game of choice for the biggest events in poker. It's the most compelling to watch. Why? There are probably a number of reasons but the biggest one has to be the fact that a player can go broke on any given hand. That implication puts pressure on players from the time they are dealt cards. It makes it a psychologically challenging and emotionally draining game, both for the victors and the losers. The following are two NLHE hands that have taken place over the past two weeks at the WSOP. I'm going to discuss the ins and outs of each hand with you and maybe we can all learn something from it.

Hand #1

This hand took place near the end of Day 1A of the $1,500 WSOP NLHE event. Shane “Shaniac” Schleger raised to 2,400. Gavin Griffin flat called from the cutoff. The big blind, an unknown player, moved all in for 7,875. Schleger called and Griffin did as well. The flop came {10-Diamonds}{9-Spades}{5-Hearts}. Schleger bet 7,500 and Griffin called. The turn was the {10-Clubs}. Schleger checked and Griffin made a bet of 18,000. Schleger check raised all in for 34,325. Griffin called.

Now before I tell you what Schleger and Griffin held, let's look at the hand on each street and try and figure out what each player was thinking.

Flop: Schleger opened first to act. He could be doing this with any two cards with his aggressive tendencies. Griffin flat called in position. Like Schleger, he could be making this play with any two cards as he likes to use position to steal pots post-flop. The big blind moving in changes the likely hands of the players though. If either of them had a big pair or a hand like A-K or A-Q they likely would have re-raised to isolate the short stack. Because they don't do this the range of hands they would have here is probably a small to medium pair or medium to high suited connectors like J-10 suited.

Flop: Schleger leads out with a bet. Considering there is a player all in, this would have to mean that Schleger liked this flop. If I were playing against him I would think a hand between 7's and jack's being his likely holding with 10's and 9's being the least likely of the five hands because Schleger would probably check a set over to Griffin if he flopped one. Griffin calling means one of two things. He's on a draw or he's slow playing a monster. The latter is unlikely, however, as most aggressive players will re-raise a pre-flop aggressor who has bet the flop with a monster (especially on a moderately draw heavy board such as 10-9) because that course of action will often lead to all the chips getting in.

Turn: Schleger checks. This could mean one of two things. He's either ready to give up the hand or he is checking to induce Griffin to bet. Griffin bets. This also could mean one of two things. He could have the best hand and is making a value bet or he is bluffing with the hopes that Schleger will fold. Schleger check raises all in. He is either doing this because he has a made hand or he believes Griffin is bluffing. Because he has such little fold equity here (Griffin will have to call 16K with a 69K pot in the middle), it's easy to believe that Schleger has a made hand. Griffin calling is pretty much automatic with every possible hand he could have except a complete bluff.

The actual hands: Schleger has 8-8. This surprises me because of his lack of fold equity on the turn, I put him on a much stronger hand. The only explanation then is that he must have felt that Griffin was bluffing. Given the pre-flop and flop play, there is some logic to this play. Griffin on the other hand had Q-J of clubs for an open ended straight draw. He called in position on the flop with the draw and when Schleger checked to him on the turn, he made an attempt to pick up the side pot even. When Schleger moved all in, the size of the pot gave him the correct odds to call, although if he had known Schleger had 8's he might not have since those were two of his outs.

The result: An 8 came on the river giving Griffin the nut straight. Unfortunately for him, it also made Schleger a full house.

Hand #2

This hand took place at the end of day two of the $2,000 NLHE event. 24 players remained and they were in the money. Theo Tran opened from under the gun to 24,000 and Scott Montgomery made the call from middle position. The flop came {5-Spades}{5-Hearts}{4-Spades}. Both players checked. The turn was the {2-Spades}. Tran led out for 28K and after some thought, Montgomery flat called. The river was the {3-Spades}. Tran led out for 75,000 and Montgomery took several minutes before saying “This is sick. I'm putting you on a straight flush, but I can't fold.”

Montgomery made the call. The hands were turned over. Theo Tran indeed had a straight flush with pocket aces. Now here is the amazing part. Scott Montgomery had the other two fives in the deck. He had flopped quad fives and lost to runner-runner straight flush. The odds of Montgomery losing this hand were .2%. But how did he not go broke? Did his reasoning on the river have validity? Let's look at the hand from Montgomery's perspective and see if we can figure out why he did what he did.

Pre-flop: Tran is a hyper aggressive player who can and will raise with any hand from any position. Seeing a flop with a small pair against this type of player in position can have some value.

Flop: Flop quads and Theo checks. Scott didn't want to scare Theo away at this point (although he obviously would not have) so he makes a check with a mortal lock of a hand.

Turn: Theo leads out. This could mean a number of things. He could be trying to bluff at the pot or he could have a legitimate hand. There is no reason to raise against an aggressive player like Theo though. You want to give him the chance to make another bet on the river.

River: The river puts four to a straight flush out there in the 2-3-4-5 of spades. Despite this, and despite the fact that Montgomery had called a pre-flop raise and a turn bet, Tran still placed a bet out, and a nice one at that. The question Montgomery is asking himself at this time is if it is possible for Theo to have either the 6 of spades or the ace of spades.

Obviously if the river was any card but the three of spades, Montgomery has an easy play. Raise. That's not the case, however, and Montgomery has to decide if either card is a possible hand Theo would have. Would Theo raise with a hand like pocket 6's or 7-6 suited in early position? Yes. He's not a tight player. Would he raise with an A-x type of hand that contained the ace of spades? Again, the answer is yes. So while on the surface it appears that Montgomery played the river much too cautiously, upon further examination we can see that a flat call on the river actually has a lot of validity to it.

Hope you enjoyed this review of two of the more interesting hands that took place in week one.

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