Poker Coverage:

Hand 2 Hand Combat: Hougaard The PLO Hero

by Rebecca McAdam |  Published: Nov 01, 2012


Jesper HougaardRebecca McAdam: When the hand we’re about to discuss came about, how were you doing at the table? Did you have an image built up or were they players you would regularly play against?

Jesper Hougaard: All the players at the table are regs [regulars], so we know each other’s games quite well. MrSmits is a Danish pro called Daniel Smits Bertelsen, Isildroon is a Swedish pro called Leo Nordin. I think the main reason cash games are more fascinating than tournaments is that you build up a lot of history and understanding of each other’s games, so there is much more of a mind-game going on.

RM: Less about the cards then…? Is this the kind of hand you like to play with with these guys?

JH: KDiamond Suit 10Club Suit 9Club Suit 6Diamond Suit? That’s a pretty good hand to play in position. Some people three-bet this hand regularly, I prefer a call as it gives me stack depth to play down the streets. If I three-bet, the pot gets bloated and I’m often forced to make a decision on whether or not to play for stacks on the flop. That’s fine in certain cases, but I’d much rather set it up so that we get to make more complex decisions post-flop.

But the cards matter, I wouldn’t be calling raises and three-bets with a hand such as K-7-7-3 rainbow.

RM: Is it purely because there are two clubs and two diamonds including suited connectors or also because you figure you might know the range he is raising with?

JH: In PLO [pot-limit Omaha] you generally want to play hands were all four cards complement each other in some way. This is one of those hands — doublesuited and pretty connected.

UTG [under the gun] folds, Daniel ‘MrSmits’ Smits Bertelsen is UTG +1 and raises to $60, Jesper “KipsterDK” Hougaard calls from the cut-off and it folds around to Leo “ISILDRooN” Nordin on the big blind who three-bets to $250. Bertelsen folds, Hougaard calls $190.

Flop: 10Heart Suit 7Spade Suit 3Heart Suit

RM: Walk me through your thoughts post-flop.

JH: First of all, when Leo [Nordin] three-bets here out of position 100+ big blinds deep versus Daniel [Bertelsen] and I (two winning regs) he is going to have something very good — he will not be doing this with random junky hands. So Daniel folds and I get to close the action and see the flop in position. I flop top pair and a non-nut gutshot, but somewhat uncharacteriscally Leo checks the flop after he three-bets. He bets with a high frequency in these spots, so his check does tell us some things about his range, but more about that later.

I decide to check back for pot control primarily, plus a certain degree of deception if another 10 hits. But if I bet here and get check-raised it would be an awful spot as he’ll have the best hand pretty much always and I’d be forced to bet/fold even though my hand has quite a lot of equity on this board. I hate bet/folding when I have good equity.

Both players check.

Turn: JSpade Suit

Nordin bets $487, Hougaard calls $487.

JH: As the turn comes a jack, completing the 8-9 straight, he fires out a sizeable bet. I’ve picked up a double gutshot and there are plenty of potential bluff cards for me on the river if he checks, given that both flush draws are in my range and potentially some of the straight cards. I also think it’s somewhat unlikely that he has 9-8 or a set at this point, so his range doesn’t look very strong. I think he bets all sets on the flop, I also think he bets 9-8 almost always in this spot. The only 9-8 that might go for a check-call is a completely naked 9-8 and that’s not really an option given our read preflop that his holding was strong. Any 9-8 will be something like K-K-9-8 or J-10-9-8, this is a really good flop for those hands and I’m positive he bets those hands pretty much always.

So we know he doesn’t have 10-10, 7-7, 3-3, or 9-8, the only set possible for now is J-J and even that seems pretty unlikely because only his super premium jacks three-bet preflop, and I think a hand like A-K-J-J double-suited bets the flop more often than not. We can’t completely exclude J-J but it doesn’t seem all that likely either. So I call and the river completes a small straight. He shoves for close to pot-size pretty quickly.

River: 5Club Suit

Nordin moves all in for $1,400 and Hougaard calls.

JH: This made me very suspicious. We’ve already reasoned that he doesn’t have 10-10, 7-7, 3-3, 9-8, and J-J is unlikely and still he goes all in? That’s weird. Could he have the 6-4 straight? Impossible given his strong range preflop. He could have feasibly three-bet a rundown like 7-6-5-4 double suited, but that hand certainly bets the flop when it connects with a disguised wrap. So he doesn’t have any of the top hands that this board offers and he still goes all in? Something doesn’t add up.
I obviously only have a pair of tens, so first I want to make sure that he’s not bluffing with the best hand.

RM: Would you be calling regardless of whatever he bet here because of that thinking or is there an amount that would have put you off?

JH: Given that I just called the turn, my range has a bunch of missed flush and straight draws that contain one pair, so his overpairs and JXXX have a lot of showdown value and he’ll always check these possibly to induce bluffs from me. He wouldn’t bet overpairs here ever.

With regards to betsizes, he has $1,400 left and the pot is $1,600, he practically never bets anything besides all in here. It would be extremely odd for him to do anything but check or shove, so as we go over which hands that make sense, the one hand that pops up is A-K-Q-X — a hand that misses the flop and is ready to give up.

It turns out he had the nut-flush draw and was check-raising all in, hits a nice turn to pick up a wrap and bets it, and on the river has no showdown value, but realises that I almost never have straights or sets either, so he shoves hoping to fold out my one-pair hands. That makes sense and to be honest I actually like his play all the way through. This time he was just unlucky that I figured it out, but most of the time this line will work for him.

RM: Yeah, I can see both sides pretty clearly. It’s very well thought out from both point of views.

JH: Leo is a good player for what it’s worth.

Nordin reveals AHeart Suit KSpade Suit QDiamond Suit 8Heart Suit for ace-high, Hougaard shows KDiamond Suit 10Club Suit 9Club Suit 6Diamond Suit for a pair of tens and wins the pot.

RM: If he had have bet the flop things would have gone differently.

JH: Yeah, that changes things somewhat. I most likely call a c-bet [continuation bet], but get put in a horrible spot when he follows through and shoves the turn. I likely have to just give up at that point.

RM: What does the initial check tell you about his range — as you say he bets a lot in these spots.

JH: It tells me that he has a hand that he is not 100 percent comfortable betting to get all in on the flop, but most importantly it makes it highly unlikely for him to have 9-8 or sets, which puts a significant cap on his range on later streets.

RM: A hero call in its purest form — a very well thought out call which through the process of elimination you found confidence in the story you thought was being told. Well played! ♠

Jesper Hougaard has more than $1.1 million in casino winnings, over $680,000 in online tournament winnings, plus plenty more of the same from cash games. The young Dane famously became the first player to win a World Series of Poker bracelet in both Vegas and London, and did so in the same year, in 2008. Impressively, of the five major titles Hougaard has two are Sunday Million victories.

After investing some time and money on a software project, the young Dane is back at the felt both online and live and is already kicking ass and taking names. He can be found regularly playing $10-$20 and $25-$50 pot-limit Omaha cash games online and is all set to hit the live tournament circuit once again.