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Venice — Part II

An exciting H.O.R.S.E. event finish

by Todd Brunson |  Published: Jan 08, 2010


It’s day two of the H.O.R.S.E. event (check out my last column, “Venice,” for more background). I oversleep a few minutes and am running late (as usual). I’m a short stack, and I don’t want to be late, as I’ll get blinded/anted off. I can’t decide if I should cough up the €80 for a water taxi or just tale the ferry for which I already have a pass. My cheapness wins out, and I opt for the public transportation. Luckily for me, the Italians are as lackadaisical as I am, and half of the players are later than I am.

I slowly but surely manage to chip up while avoiding any major confrontations. A few hours into play, I find myself in a spot that I absolutely hate. I get into a big pot in stud eight-or-better with split kings. It’s easy to say, “Just don’t get involved in big pots with this hand,” but in order for pots to become big, they have to start out small, and before you know it, you’re involved.

The hand comes down like this: Max Pescatori is the low card, and he brings it in with a deuce. The next player completes the bet with a 9 up. I look down at split kings and make it three bets. Another deuce behind me goes all in for four bets. Now, Dario Alioto cold-calls with a 5 (this is scary, because I know that he has to have a real good hand to do this). Max calls with his duck, and the 9 gets out of the way.

Now do you see how easy it can be to get caught up in a huge pot with a hand like split kings? I mean, I don’t like it, but I can’t exactly fold for one more bet. (If you’re wondering why I don’t like it, you must not play much stud eight-or-better. Split kings don’t do well against three or four players who start with small cards.)

By fifth street, everyone’s board looked like this: Max — 2-Q-9; me — K-5-6; all-in player — 2-8-Q; Dario — 5-A-8. The pot is huge by now, and when Dario bets, I have a tough decision to make. When he calls four bets cold on third street, I know that he not only most likely holds three small cards, but three cards that are somehow connected or contain an ace, giving him high potential for the scoop. So, his board of 5-A-8 means that he has aces (or even aces up) and a low draw, or a completed low with at least a gutshot-straight draw (or even worse, an open-end straight draw).

I know that if I call a big bet here, I’m going to call all the way because the pot is so big. At this point, three big bets will cripple me, so I decide to bite the bullet and release my hand. The two remaining players turn their hands over, and Dario has 7-6 in the hole. That gives him a made low with an open-end straight draw and an ace draw.

All of this makes him about a 2.5-1 favorite over my hand, so even though I had the best high hand when I folded, I know that I did the right thing. Dario immediately hits an ace on sixth street to give him the best high against the all-in player, who now needs to make his 8 low to beat Dario’s 8-7-6-5-A low. He makes an 8-6 on the end, but his celebration is short-lived, as Dario hits a 3, giving him a 7 low to go with his aces for high. A scooper!

With this elimination and two more that quickly follow, we are down to eight players and commence final-table play. That’s great news … well, kind of. You see, they are paying only seven spots, so I have to outlast one more player to make the money. I’m the shortest stack now, but with the blinds and antes as high as they are, no one is really safe and might be the next player to go out.

It doesn’t take long for my final showdown. The game is razz, and I raise with an 8 up and only one baby behind me. The baby (a 3, and the player is real tight) reraises me, and I call. He hits a 4 and I hit a 10. It looks bad, but I know that he most likely has three wheel cards to three-bet me, and a 4 is a wheel card, so it easily could have paired him.

I call and hit a 4, putting me back on track. My opponent pairs his 3; it looks like I’ve caught up, so I bet. He quickly raises, so now I know that he didn’t make a pair and is probably drawing to a wheel or a 6 low. I’m drawing to only an 8, but my 10 gives me a made hand just in case we both catch bricks on the last two streets. I have only a little over three big bets left, so I go ahead and reraise. He reraises, and I go all in, setting up a most exciting finish.

On sixth street, I hit an ace, giving me an 8-6 low; not to be outdone, my opponent hits an 8, giving him an 8 perfect. But I’m not one to bow out gracefully, so I nail a 5 on the end, giving me a 6-5 low. This hand is all but over, and this guy looks sick, but he should have remembered that he was up against me. Whatever my opponents need … and he rolls over a 6, giving him a 6 perfect, beating my 6 and knocking me out of the tournament on the bubble.

I was very disappointed, but what are ya gonna do? I still had the main event to play. The bad news there was that it had been going for like eight hours, and they’d been blinding me off. Oh well, maybe I could redeem myself in it anyway. Spade Suit

Todd Brunson has been a professional poker player for more than 20 years. While primarily a cash-game player, he still has managed to win 18 major tournaments, for more than $3.5 million. He has won one bracelet and cashed 25 times at the World Series of Poker. You can play with Todd online at or live at his tournament, The Todd Brunson Montana Poker Challenge, in Big Fork, Montana. Check his website,, for details.