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Tournament Hands Part III

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Feb 05, 2014

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Gavin GriffinWe’ve been looking at some hands from a tournament I played in November at the Commerce. The buy-in is $1,650 and the structure, like all Matt Savage tournaments, is very good. The tournament moves quickly enough at first and has lots of play late. The first few hands I broke down in this series were some PokerStove and basic math-heavy situations where I was trying to figure out if I played the river optimally. According to the math, my plays were spot on. Sometimes you get a player at your table that seems to defy all of the rules of math and logic, someone who gives a ton of action but makes your decisions more difficult and forces you out of your comfort zone. Some of these guys can be incredibly successful in a short run of time and have done so on the biggest stages poker has to offer. Guys like Andrew Cimpan or Soheil Shamseddin have had incredible success on the WPT while playing a very unorthodox style. Jamie Gold had the best week of anyone in the history of poker in terms of return on investment and won the biggest first-place prize in history (not counting $1,000,000 buy-in events).

These are all players that are difficult to deal with and single-handedly change the table dynamics. We had one of these players at our table this day and I had already played a big pot with him where we both turned a flush. He had three-bet over my open and another player’s call with 10Heart Suit 4Diamond Suit. I made the nut flush and he made the third-nut flush, and we got our chips in on the turn. I’ve played a significant amount with this player in limit hold’em cash games, tournaments, and no-limit cash games. I’m not 100 percent sure he remembers me that well from our previous encounters, but I definitely remember him. He is the type of player, as evidenced above, that will three-bet with a very wide range of hands if he thinks it’s a good spot, and makes many of his plays based on feel and reads as opposed to having a math-based approach. He will bet a larger portion of the pot than most players and isn’t afraid to three-barrel or raise as a bluff.

We are playing 150-300 blinds with a 50 ante and the under-the-gun (UTG) plus one player, someone relatively new to the table that hasn’t raised too many pots but limps fairly frequently and seems to play a relatively solid game, opens to 1,600 with about 40,000-to-45,000 behind. I call from three off the button with 8-8 for several reasons. First, I have a good hand that plays pretty well against the opener’s range and I can make a fair amount of chips if I flop a set. Second, villain is behind me and really likes to squeeze. This is a good hand to go for a back raise if I get the opportunity because it’s pretty far ahead of his perceived three-betting range. The button is our villain and he makes it 5,100. UTG plus one calls. I have them both covered and villain has about 23,000 behind. Like I said, I’m certain that my hand absolutely smashes his range and I think it’s possible that if I four-bet and he calls or jams, that the original preflop raiser might fold a better hand than mine like nines-through-jacks, or something that I’m a favorite against but would prefer she folded like A-Q or A-K. So, I make it 12,000. I chose this amount because it would leave about a half-pot bet on the flop if he just calls and because it would reopen the betting if he jammed. This makes the original preflop raiser think she has to play for her whole stack if she wants to continue. In reality, if the villian jams and she does as well, I’m folding my hand.

However, I put her pretty squarely on a range of nines-through-jacks, and A-Q-through-A-K when she just flatted his three-bet with me waiting to act behind her. I think she jams with queens plus, so I’m fairly comfortable with my play. Our villain calls (!!) with about 15,000 behind and the original raiser folded. At this point I’m jamming pretty much every flop, though I honestly have very little idea what range to put my opponent on. He could have jacks plus, or 9-8 suited, or 5-5 or I don’t know. The flop was one that I would obviously jam with my whole range but luckily smashed my hand: J-8-6 with two spades. I did jam and he called me so fast I was slightly worried that he had J-J. Instead, he had 4-4 and was drawing almost completely dead. This jumped me up even farther in chips to a pretty healthy stack and left my villain heading out the door.

Everyone plays with these types occasionally and we learn from each time. The main point is to keep a level head, play a solid, math-based strategy, adjust to their craziness, and use logical thought processes to leverage their craziness against the other players at the table to your advantage. ♠


Gavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by HeroPoker.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG