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The Oracle's Corner

Where Pros Analyze the Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Ugly

by The Oracle's Corner |  Published: May 21, 2008


This hand took place at Commerce Casino in Southern California. The game was $50-$100 no-limit hold'em, which is usually played with many of the same players, and is almost like a home game because of that. It is, in fact, my regular game when I am in L.A., so I thought it would be interesting to discuss a real-life high-stakes cash-game situation. Players involved in this hand include Ari Goett -- a well-known high-stakes cash-game player who could best be described as a winning, young, tight, solid player who receives respect from such players as Kenny Tran and Lee Markholt, who are often regulars in the game -- and Julian Hart, whom I have been playing poker with for years and can best be described as loose-passive, but with an aggressive streak that makes him dangerous. Julian will see almost every flop when he is in a game. I know that seems incredible, but I have won many prop bets on how many hands he will play in one lap around the table. In a ninehanded game, I set the over/under at 7.5, take the over, and win almost every time. In fact, during the L.A. Poker Classic, Markholt took the under on that prop bet and was drawing almost dead; hey, if I can't beat him in no-limit hold'em, at least I can get him on a good prop bet.

Facts of the Hand

Ari Goett's Read
This is my regular game, which on this night is a very good game, with a few loose players. My image at the table is tight-aggressive. I limp with 9-8 suited, wanting to see a cheap flop, and either flop big or represent big and outplay my opponents. The player to my left limps and the player to his left makes a small raise to $300; my perception of the raiser is that he is tight, passive, and inexperienced. Julian, on the button, calls; he is a very, very loose and somewhat aggressive player. So, there are six players going to the flop with $1,800 in the pot. I pick up the flush draw and bet $900. The player to my left folds, and the original raiser makes it $1,900, almost a minimum-raise. I think his raise indicates weakness. Now, the action is to Julian on the button, who calls. The blinds fold and it is back to me. The pot is $6,500 and it is $1,000 for me to call. The UTG + 3 player has about $18,000 in front of him, and Julian has about $11,000 left, so I am obviously getting great odds to draw to my flush. I put the UTG + 3 player on A-A, K-K, A-Q, and a small chance that he had a set. Julian, being a very loose player, I put on some sort of a draw, likely a straight or a flush, but hopefully lower than mine. So, getting better than 6.5-to-1, I just call, hoping to improve on the turn. The 8 gives me a pair of eights with my flush draw. I decide to check, the UTG + 3 player bets $2,000 into a $7,500 pot, and Julian calls. At this point, I am able to narrow the range of hands that they both have pretty confidently. I'm virtually certain that Julian is drawing, because if he has a big hand, say two pair or a set, he would have raised by now to protect his hand with all the draws in a three-way pot. Now, the UTG + 3 player's bet on the turn is small, considering the pot size, which confirms that he is afraid and unsure enough not to bet his hand confidently, so I am fairly certain that he has an overpair or A-Q. Since I have Julian beat with a pair of eights, with a substantial raise, the UTG + 3 player will fold and I will be giving Julian the wrong odds to draw to his hand, and if he calls and misses, I will win a big pot. So, my $10,000 raise forces out the UTG + 3 player, who later said he had A-Q offsuit. When Julian showed the A 10, I took the deal and ran.

Roy Winston's Analysis
This is a typical Saturday night at Commerce Casino. The preflop play is fairly typical and straightforward; you play suited connectors to outflop bigger starting hands, and in a six-way pot, there is great value in the hand, so it really makes sense. I agree with Michael Binger that if you can't play these kinds of hands, you don't belong in the game. The flop play was thought out very well and risked a relatively small amount of chips to take down a large pot. On the turn, Ari had the confidence and ability to know where he was in the hand and how his play would be read. I applaud his check-raise on the turn, but once he saw Julian's hand and that he was ahead, with only 13 outs for Julian and only one card to come, he had a big edge, and in the long term, with the quality of his play, he will be a consistent winner. I loved Ari's play right up until he took the deal. Michael's math will tell the story, so I won't repeat it here.

Michael Binger's Analysis
Preflop, sometimes I will raise when coming in with suited connectors, and sometimes I will limp; it really depends on the dynamics at the table. When playing deep-stack cash games, I usually will not fold suited connectors in early position. If you are playing in a game in which folding is correct, you should leave the game.

Anyway, the bet of half of the pot on the flop should win the pot most of the time, and also will make it cheap to draw. After the UTG + 3 player raises to $1,900, Ari is still priced into calling to try to draw. Of course, he has to be wary of Julian's call, which easily could be a higher diamond draw, as was the case here. So, Ari was pretty much drawing dead on the flop, but that doesn't stop great players; he managed to win the pot anyway.

On the turn, Ari explained his play beautifully, and the reasons behind it; very well done, indeed. However, he simply gave away $2,000 by giving Julian the rebate. Let's see the math of this:

Ari's expected value if Julian calls all in on the turn is EV (call) = 31/33 x ($13,500 + $9,800) + 13/44 x (-$9,800) = $13,520. Compare this to the pot of $13,500, which Ari wins if Julian folds, and we see that Julian would have to make a very slightly negative expected value (-$20) call to see the river. Assuming that Ari is not playing with a significant portion of his bankroll (which he isn't), he should not mind if Julian calls or folds. But he should not pay Julian $2,000 to prevent Julian from making a slightly bad call! Put another way, Julian was a 2.385-to-1 dog to hit his draw, but the pot was laying him only 2.378-to-1. Talk about a close decision!

Ari's Rebuttal
I now realize that the deal was not in my best interests, but in the heat of the moment, it seemed smart to take the pot without any more risk.

Pro Conclusions
Binger and Winston concur: Ari played the hand masterfully, right up until he took Julian's deal.