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Afterthoughts from the WPT Championship -- Part I

The short-stack all-in challenge

by Gus Hansen |  Published: Jun 11, 2008


In the next couple of columns, I will comment on a few of the crucial hands I played during the World Poker Tour Championship.

I finished in second place, and as I am writing this, the disappointment of not winning my fourth WPT title, despite having more than a 5.5-1 chip lead at the beginning of heads-up, is still very fresh in my mind.

I know for some that it might sound a bit pretentious, but at this point, it almost feels as if I lost $1.7 million, even though I actually took down $1.7 million for my second-place finish (the first-place prize was $3.4 million).

Because my book Every Hand Revealed, displaying all of the hands from the last major tournament I won (the 2007 Aussie Millions), was recently released, I can't help but compare my play in the two tournaments. Did I really have loads and loads of big hands or win the vast majority of my coin flips in cruise mode to the final table? The answer is simple: Of course not!

In the WPT Championship, aces did visit me more frequently than during the Aussie Millions, and in general I believe that I did win a couple more hands when I was a 65-35 or 60-40 underdog, but fate would also have it that I lost the final hand against David Chiu when I was about a 2-1 favorite with one card to come, when all of the money went into the pot. That is poker!

The Short-Stack All-In Challenge
In this column, I will focus on the second major hand that I played at the final table, taking out the short stack, Jeff King.

Here is how the hand played out:

We are playing 80,000-160,000 blinds with a 20,000 ante, and I open for 415,000 from first position. David Chiu folds, Tommy Le folds, Cory Carroll calls from the button, Jeff King moves all in from the small blind for 1,855,000, John Roveto folds in the big blind, I call 1,440,000 more, and Cory folds.

Jeff: A Q

Gus: 10 9

The board comes: 8 6 4 K 10; I knock out Jeff King.

So, what happened here? Did I lose my mind? Far from it!

In my book, I have dealt with the challenge of playing against small-stack all-in players. I even created a chart that you should follow in these situations. One of my points is that when you are getting pot odds of 2-1, you must call unless you can convince yourself that you are seriously dominated. You have to have about a 33 percent winning chance to make the call profitable. With Cory in the hand, my pot odds are actually better than 2-1. I have to call 1,440,000 to win 2,965,000 (415,000 + 415,000 + 160,000 + 120,000 + 1,855,000); thus, I need a 32.7 percent winning chance to call.

Let's look at what Jeff King could possibly have:

The pairs even each other out at about 33 percent or 34 percent, and against the rest of the hands, I have, on average, a 40 percent chance, bringing my total average winning chance to at least 35 percent. Inasmuch as I need only 32.7 percent, this is a must-call.

But what about Cory Carroll? Well, my read was that he wasn't particularly strong. When an aggressive player suddenly slows down and just calls, it generally means that he is calling in position with a medium type of hand. Also, don't forget that even if Cory has a good playable hand, what should he suddenly put me on? Raising small from first position and just smooth-calling a squeeze play smells like aces, doesn't it?

Of course, you can never exclude a misread on my part, thus increasing my hand requirements. On the other hand, with Cory in the hand, Jeff's move is more likely to be a so-called squeeze play, putting pressure on me with a guy behind me. The increased likelihood of a squeeze play lowers my calling requirements. So, we are back to square one.

Let's get back to the hand. I call, Cory folds, and I have a little more than a 38 percent winning chance against Jeff, which is comfortably above the calling requirements of 32.7 percent.

I get lucky and hit my 10 on the river, but it should be obvious to everybody that folding in this spot is a bad mistake.
Keep in mind that my strategy is a combination of relentless aggression preflop and necessary adjustments based on opponents' stack sizes, tells, and other psychological factors, such as the prize money structure, and so on. In my view, constant stealing of blinds and antes is the right way to accumulate chips, not doubling up 10 times with pair versus underpair preflop.

There's more to come in my next column.

I would love to read your comments on this subject. Please post them on the forum at

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