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Final Table Takedown: Galen Hall Shares Blind-Versus-Blind Metagame Dynamics and Overbetting — Part I

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Apr 29, 2011

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Galen Hall is a 25-year-old online player who grew up in Pasadena, California. He graduated from UC Berkeley in 2008 and will be headed to Stanford Graduate School of Business this fall. In 2010, he cashed for more than $1 million in online tournaments. In the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event, he came from behind to win after starting heads-up play at a 5-1 chip deficit against Chris Oliver.

Event: 2011 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event
Players in the Event: 1,560
Buy-in: $10,000
First Prize: $2,300,000
Finish: First

Key Concepts: Using overbetting to confuse an opponent; adapting to changing board textures; blind-versus-blind play

Craig Tapscott: Sometimes, the metagame dynamics that a player sets up during the early stages of a tournament pay off in huge dividends during the later stages. In Part I of this Final-Table Takedown, Galen Hall breaks down the blind-versus-blind dynamics against Ty Reiman. In Part II next time, we will examine how Hall takes advantage of the dynamics that he set up with Reiman soon after this hand occurred.
Reiman raises to 3,450 from the small blind. Hall calls from the big blind with the 7♠ 5♣.

CT: Set up the metagame between you and Reiman before this hand occurred.

Galen Hall: We were pretty deep-stacked, and I had been winning a lot of pots against Ty in position. I could sense that he was starting to get a bit frustrated, so I defended against his small open-raise.

Flop: K♥ 9♠ 6♦ (pot: 8,700)

Reiman bets 3,750.
CT: An expected continuation-bet.

GH: Yes. I think he’s going to continuation-bet almost 100 percent of his range on this flop. When he completely misses, he’s c-betting to try to take the pot down. When he has some medium equity — A-Q, A-J, A-10, any king, any medium pocket pair or a pair of nines or sixes, gutshots, gutshots and Broadway cards like Q-J, J-10, or Q-10 — he’s going to bet this amount to keep the lead and define his hand a bit. And when he smashes the board — K-Q, A-K, K-9, 9-6, and sets — he’s going to c-bet to balance all of his other c-bets and to start building a pot.

Hall calls.

CT: So, you think that you can take the pot away from him on a later street?
GH: Yes. The fact that I have a gutshot is nice. But I’m floating here mostly because I think that given the dynamics we had going, there aren’t going to be a lot of multi-street bluffs in his range. He will play his hand pretty straightforwardly out of position, and I will be able to take it away a lot on later streets. Air is a large percentage of his range, and there are lots of turns and rivers that I can use to bluff his medium-strength hands. I had been relentlessly three-betting him preflop and winning lots of pots, so I had a lot of momentum, which is important in these types of spots.

Turn: Q♥ (pot: 16,200)

Reiman checks.

CT: Why do you think he slowed down here?

GH: A second Broadway card that will also connect with a gutshot (J-10) is a great card for him to double-barrel if he had air and was bluffing on the flop. If I called the flop with a pair of nines or sixes, I probably have to give up on this card, since I know that he can continue to apply a lot of pressure on a lot of rivers. Also, if he smashed the flop with A-K, K-Q, two pair, or a set, he needs to double-barrel here in order to get value from draws that I may have turned, or pairs that I may have turned with Q-J or Q-10. A weak player might have some strong hands in his range when he checks here, because he’s pot-controlling or is scared. But I felt like Ty would always be double-barreling his really strong hands here for value.

CT: So, what hand range do you put him on?

GH: I determined that he would bet this pretty frequently with air, and almost always with strong value, so when he checked, I felt like most of his range was going to be weak made hands trying to pot-control and get to showdown. That would be hands like 9-7, 9-8, 10-9, J-9, and A-9, or 6-4, 6-5, 7-6, 8-6, and A-6, or 4-4, 5-5, 7-7, 8-8, and 10-10, or maybe even Q-8 or Q-10, and Q-J or J-J at the strongest.

CT: So, it’s time for you to fire a bet and take away the pot?

GH: Yes. I felt like I could get him off a lot of these hands (and, obviously, a naked 10 or jack) with a bet on the turn, and even if he called, his hand was going to become really obvious by the river.

Hall bets 6,400.

CT: Many players struggle when determining bet-sizing. So, what’s your thinking here?

GH: I don’t have to make a huge bet on the turn here, since a big part of my bet is the threat of a second bet on the river.

Reiman tanks, and calls.

CT: This call has to significantly narrow his range.

GH: I narrowed down his range to one-pair hands between sevens and jacks, and maybe a weak queen that c-bet and bluffed the flop, then pot-controlled the turn when it hit. I feel that if he has a strong combination draw or two pair plus, I am getting double-barreled frequently. And even if he checks those hands, he’s going to check-raise to put a ton of pressure on me instead of just weakly check-calling and having to play out of position on the river.

River: A♥ (pot: 29,000)

CT: Is that a good card or bad card for your plan?

GH: This is an awesome river card for me.

CT: How so?

GH: Because it almost never hits him unless he has exactly A-9. He almost never has A-K or A-Q, and the only other random ace he would have is the A♥ X♥. But since this is the A♥, he can’t have that. So, all of the hands that I’d value-bet on the turn, I can continue to value-bet with impunity, and the A♥ also smashes my semibluffing range if I am betting the turn with J-10 or a flush draw.

CT: So, how do you choose your bet-sizing in this spot to bluff the river and get a fold?

GH: I felt like he could hero-call me a reasonable amount of the time if I made a standard value-bet of 45 percent to 60 percent of the pot size. That bluff-sizing here is still extremely profitable, but I had his range so narrowly pegged to weak made one-pair hands that I felt like it would be even more profitable to bluff really big, because I thought it would really kill his ability to hero-call.

CT: Do you plan to overbet the pot?

GH: Well, overbetting is usually a dynamic that needs to be set up over time. But I generally feel that the consensus among good online players is that when someone overbets you in a live tournament on a river that is super wet, he almost always has it. I felt like it would be a much better value to make a slightly larger than pot-sized bet here.

CT: Is there any other reason you feel an overbet will succeed here that made you go in that direction?

GH: Ty’s stack size. He has around 82,000 left, so if he calls a 16,000 bet and is wrong, he’s left with 66,000. That’s still a very workable 33 big blinds at the 1,000-2,000 level, which we are about to enter. But if he calls a 33,000 bet and is wrong, he’s left with 49,000 (only 24 big blinds), which will really cut down on the skill edge that he is able to exert over the weaker players at the table in the next level. Then, he would be forced to play tighter and more straightforwardly.

Hall bets 33,200.

GH: Before I pushed out the bet, I tanked for a really long time to make him think about what his stack size would be if he called me. I wanted him to think about all of the different semibluff combos with which I could have gotten there. And I wanted him to realize that I knew how infrequently the ace hit his range, so I could definitely be going for value with two-pair hands.

Reiman tanks, then folds. Hall wins the pot of 29,000.
GH: The fact that he didn’t fold instantly made me feel pretty good about my decision to overbet. It’s a spot where I think he might have been ready to call a normal-size value-bet, and I would have lost. ♠