“What’s Your Play? 2012 WSOP Main Event” River Results and Last Question
by Andrew Brokos | Published: Jul 20, '12
Thanks to everyone who commented on the river action of this street-by-street What’s Your Play?
This spot demonstrates the dangers of wistful thinking at the poker table. You must be rigorous in thinking about your opponents are actually likely to have and do rather than what you would like them to have and do. For example, I think Hero’s options here are betting for value and checking, expecting to win somewhat often when it checks through but planning to fold if Villain bets.
There’s an understandable desire to see showdown when you have a strong hand in a large pot, but that can’t be a substitute for considering your opponents’ ranges before acting. Reading some of the comments here (to be clear, this isn’t directed at everyone who considered checking and calling), I got the sense that some people took for granted that they would be going to showdown and considered only whether to bet or check and call.
Checking and calling makes sense only when you believe that Villain’s bluffing range will be larger than his bluff-catching range. By his bluff-catching range, I mean the hands that will call a bet but will not bet if checked to. These are the hands from which you lose value by checking, so they must be outweighed by the value you gain when Villain bluffs.
Many commenters advocated check-calling, but Alistair is one of the few who made much of an effort to explain how and why Villain could get to the river with a hand that he would want to bluff: “One thing I haven’t seen anyone mention yet is what a great spot the turn is for Villain to float. He may have seen flop check as weakness and the turn bet as just a stab with no diamond, so i think we need to put comeplete air in his range….”
I happen to disagree about the likelihood of a float with air – that’s an awfully fancy play, especially with a third player in the pot, for a guy who so far has been relatively tight and straightforward and doesn’t seem interested in tangling with me unnecessarily – but at least there’s a consistent thought process there. I believe Villain’s turn call represents either a full house draw or a hand with showdown value. Most of the former got there, and most of the latter will continue to play as showdown hands rather than turn into bluffs. In other words, if he calls the turn with top pair, it’s because he thinks it could be good. In my experience, all but the most elite players will opt to take a showdown if they think they have a shot of winning that way rather than turning hands into bluffs, even when it’s a good time to do the latter, as it would be here.
Eric also mentions a number of possibilities, but I think most of them are inconsistent with Villain’s pre-flop action and/or with what I explained above. As Chris says, “If we check then I can’t imagine any hand that he bets that we beat. he surely checks back any smaller flushes, straights, trips or pairs. It also seems highly unlikely that he’s got to this point with a hand he feels he needs to bluff with. Therefore, if we check then I’d say we have to fold to any reasonably-sized bet.”
If you disagree about the likelihood of Villain showing up with air or turning a made hand into a bluff, then by all means check and call, but don’t start by presuming that you’re going to see showdown. If you’re going to check and call, you should be able to enumerate the hands that you expect your opponent to bluff.
At the table, I was a little to quick to put Villain on a lesser flush and discount full houses from his range. My thinking was that he would have bet two-pair or a set on the turn, and I’m a little embarrassed to say that I didn’t take my own advice in thinking through how exactly he could show up with a worse diamond. Several commenters have done a good job of discussing what sorts of hands he would limp-call in early position, and I wish I’d thought more about it at the time.
Kelley makes a good case for why this information argues against value betting:
“Sets could check behind on a suited flop if playing carefully, so the board pairing is not a good sign for us. AA could have tried to trap you pre flop (although most limp raise), and JJ or 88 could easily limp call pre flop to set mine so early in the ME.
Check call if you think he may bluff (unlikley), and check fold it you believe him.
If he checks behind with a worse flush or 2P, you may lose a little value, but you don’t know if he would have called any bet.”
I do think it’s an easy fold if raised. For all the same reasons that I’m not anticipating bluffs if Hero checks, I’m even moreso not anticipating bluff raises. It’s actually quite difficult for Hero to have better than an Ace-high flush here, making it a good time for Villain to turn hands as strong as Td into a bluff, but that’s a move I’d expect only from the absolute trickiest and most fearless opponents. Most people are not bluff-raising rivers for most or all of their chips in the WSOP main event.
I do actually think there’s a little bit of room for Hero to check and decide. This is a spot where many players will give away a lot of information with their bet sizing. In particular, if Villain bets a hand like the Td at all, it’s likely to be a small bet. Because this is live poker, there’s also room to consider physical tells before making a decision. As Mat suggests, I’d probably call bets of up to about 1/3 pot, but with anything bigger I’d give Villain a good staredown with the intention of folding unless his body language gave me a reason not to.
In conclusion, I think cEV-wise it’s awfully close between bet-folding or check-folding (well, check-evaluating, but usually folding). The reason I wish I’d checked is that, as Mat says, “the possible loss of the chips is more concerning than the gain, i.e. losing 4-6k from a ~54k stack is worse than the benefit of gaining 4-6k on 74k stack.” Day 1 of the main event ought to be about avoiding variance once large amounts of chips are stake. That means, among other things, avoiding large, thin value bets.
I bet 8K. Villain called and rolled 88 for a full house. Which brings us to my…
Should Villain have raised? If not, what is the worst hand he should raise?