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Second Hand Analysis-Part II

by Daragh Thomas |  Published: Mar 02, 2009


Dennis Phillips and Ivan DemidovSo, you may remember from last month's article that we were discussing the big hand that Ivan Demidov and Dennis Phillips played at this year's World Series of Poker final table. Phillips limp-reraised with A-K from under the gun. Demidov, who had raised Phillips limp originally, then four- bet. Phillips called the four-bet out of position. He was investing such a large portion of his stack here, that he should only really be doing it with great hands that he is trapping Demidov with. It's just too big a portion of his stack to consider putting over the line unless he is quite sure he's getting it back with interest. So after Phillips flat calls, the dealer deals the flop.

The flop is J-T-8 rainbow. Phillips then makes his next mistake. He decides to lead out for four million. The pot is already over 17 million chips big, so he is betting less than 25 percent of the pot! This bet is far too small to serve any real purpose, it looks weak and timid. Let's take a step back and see what this bet means.

One of the things I always tell my students is to think ahead to the remaining streets or actions. Before you make a call or a bet, think about where that will leave you on future streets. In this case Phillips should take a look at the board, and see what Demidov's likely reaction to his tiny bet is going to be. This is about as bad a board as you can get with A-K. Firstly, there is no ace or king. Secondly, almost every other broadway holding, or high pair has connected with it. A-J is now top pair. A-T is second pair. A-Q is a double gutshot. A-A, K-K, and Q-Q are overpairs, J-J, 8-8, and T-T are sets. 9-9 has an open ended straight draw. K-J is top pair, K-Q is an open-ended straight draw, T-9 is a pair, and a gutshot, J-T is two pair etc…etc...

Demidov is an aggressive player, and there is no way he is going to simply give up the pot with any of the holdings I just mentioned. At the very least he is going to call since he is being offered such attractive pot odds, but given his style, it is more likely than that he is going to move all in with his entire range, both made hands and draws. All Phillips bet will achieve is forcing Demidov to move all in, and it's costing Phillips another four million (unless he is planning on calling). It would be much better for Phillips to push himself here, because as I'm going to explain, once he donk bets the pot becomes too big to fold given Demidov's likely range.

So Demidov, true to his style, does push. According to ESPN, the pot size goes from 23 to 35 million. So his raise is a mere eight million. The action is now back on Phillips. It seemed clear to me that this is precisely what Phillips didn't want to happen - he didn't want to end up all-in at this stage of the tournament. He certainly didn't want to be forced to call his stack off with ace high because of the odds that he was being offered, but that's what happened. After he calls the bet, the pot would be 43 million chips big. Eight is 18 percent of 43, so he needs 18 percent equity to breakeven on the call. Against a range similar to the one I outlined above, where Demidov is pushing any overpair, top pair, open-ended straight draw, or pair and gutshot, A-K will win about 40 percent of the time. So it's not particularly close. Because the pot is now so big, Phillips surrenders a huge amount of equity by folding.

I can already hear the cry of tournament players now, but what about ICM! For those that don't know what it is, ICM stands for the independent chip model, and is a model that tournament players use to estimate their equity in a variety of circumstances. Because the value of chips in a tournament is not linear, some calls that are positive expected value (+EV) chip wise, are negative expected value (- EV) tournament equity wise. Unfortunately we don't have space for an ICM in this article, but ICM comes into play when the decision is close otherwise. Here there is a huge gap between the equity you have, and the equity you need. Also, you would need to take into account the fact that Phillips is probably the least experienced player at the table, so even if it were close, which it isn't, he shouldn't be looking to pass.

So as you may have surmised, Phillips folded. It's hard to find a hand played so badly on such a big stage (I know I haven't come across one). There's no need to be overly critical of Phillips though, getting to that point was a tremendous achievement, and I have played some hands almost as bad, but I was just careful to not do it in a televised tournament.

I think his biggest problem was that he was caught in two minds during the hand. On the one hand he wanted to be cautious and not risk his tournament life, but on the other he had A-K and didn't want to be bullied. So he ended up taking by far the worst of both worlds, sharply reducing his stack to the point where his tournament life is going to be at risk in later hands anyway, but not getting to a showdown. Had he taken a different line on any street, he would have ended up winning a pretty decent pot, but unfortunately his caution cost him. Qui audet adipiscitur (He who dares wins!)

Daragh Thomas has made a living from poker over the last three years. He also coaches other players and writes extensively on the poker forum, under the name hectorjelly.