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Final Table Takedown: Russell Crane Shares Bet-Sizing Strategy While Capturing Six-Figure Score

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Mar 19, 2014


Russell Crane, 28, is from Howell, New Jersey and graduated from Rutgers University in 2007. He has been a professional player both online and live since 2003. Crane has an impressive live resume with multiple wins including a first-place finish in the 2011 Borgata Spring Poker Open.  He also took third at a 2009 WSOP $2,500 no-limit hold’em six-handed event. Crane has more than $2.5 million in combined live and online tournament cashes.

Event: 2013 Borgata Fall Poker Open Main Event
Players: 625
Entry: $2,500
First Prize: $361,747
Finish: 1st

Hand No. 1

Key Concepts: Value betting; polarized hand ranges

Crane raises to 45,000 from middle position holding 10Diamond Suit 10Spade Suit. Diaz calls from the cutoff.

Craig Tapscott: Do you have any experience to draw from previous play with Diaz?

Russell Crane: I have never played with him before, as far as I can remember. He seems to be playing aggressive and well.

Flop: JSpade Suit 7Club Suit 2Heart Suit (pot: 141,000)

Crane bets 50,000.

CT: Is this your standard continuation-bet (c-bet) sizing?

RC: On this board, that is a standard c-bet sizing by me of less than half-pot. I want to be betting this board rather than checking for a couple of reasons. Diaz expects me to be betting a dry board almost always, with bluffs as well as big hands. By betting, I am keeping air in my range.  

CT: And what if you had checked to him?

RC: Well I would expect him to be betting the flop a good amount if I check to him, so a check/call would make my hand pretty face up to a pair in my mind. I am also betting to get value out of smaller pairs and a lot of potential floats.

Diaz calls.

Turn: 3Diamond Suit (pot: 241,000)

Crane checks.

CT: Why check now?

RC: I checked the turn rather than betting because I want to get value out of his floats, which I expect to bet the turn here; value that I might be missing by betting the turn and possibly the river again. My hoping to get called by smaller pairs is made up for by the value that is gained from his floats or bluffs. I think betting three streets here would be way too thin and marginal this deep in a big tournament.

Diaz checks.

CT: When he checks, what range are you putting him on as he tries to get to showdown?

RC: His range in my mind becomes weaker jacks, pairs smaller than mine, and maybe A-Q. Mostly smaller pairs though. I wouldn’t expect him to have hands like 10-9 or other gutshots and airy floats. Because like I said earlier, I expect him to bet these hands on the turn. 

River: 5Spade Suit (pot: 241,000)

CT: So time to fire the river for value. How do you determine the right bet sizing?

RC: Well with his range being mostly smaller pairs than mine, I want to make a bigger-sized bet. So I make around a pot-sized bet…

Crane bets 200,000.

CT: How do you think he will interpret this bet sizing?

RC: Diaz and I haven’t played together before, so I’m not sure he knows too much about how I’ll be playing or thinking. I believe that the bigger bet size here will make him think that I am polarized to very strong hands and bluffs. He should expect me to be betting the turn with overpairs, so I feel that he won’t think I have one and be forced to call with any pair. The bigger sizing looks bluffier. If he doesn’t think I’m capable of getting value with a hand like 10-10, 9-9, or weaker jacks, it becomes a must call for him. He could call even if he has a hand like A-Q.

Diaz calls and mucks when he sees Crane’s hand. Crane wins the pot of 641,000.

CT: Can you share some of the thinking you go through when determining bet sizing in various situations versus different types of opponents.

RC: When bet sizing, many variables have to be taken into consideration. Whether I’m bluffing or betting for value, the bet sizing I would use in different spots is going to vary a lot. It is going to be very dependent on the opponent I am up against.

CT: Share an example.

RC: OK. I just raised preflop and am about to c-bet a flop that I missed. The things I would be thinking about are whether I’m going to just be betting the flop and be done with the hand on most turns, or if I’m going to be barreling the turn and possibly the river. Against a player who doesn’t like to fold many flops, I might consider betting smaller on the flop to keep his range wider, making it easier for me to successfully get him to fold to a three barrel. Betting smaller can keep an opponent’s range capped as well.

CT: What do you mean?

RC: If you bet small on the flop and turn, it’s much more unlikely for an opponent to have a big hand, as you are keeping the pot smaller. A strong hand would most likely raise you on the flop or turn. So in this way, you can use bet sizing to feel out your opponent’s range a bit. One factor which I think is important when trying to determine bet sizing is trying to think about how your opponent views his own bet sizing.

CT: And how do you go about this?

RC: You might notice that some players might always be betting huge when they have big hands, and smaller when they have weaker value hands. It can be useful to use this against them. Let’s consider what sizing to use for a river value bet. You might not want to hammer the pot against a player that bets big when he has it, as he may see this big bet as strength. Against a player like this, it might be much more profitable to make medium-sized value bets on the river.

CT: What other factors come into play?

RC: History, different board textures, etcetera, should be considered when determining sizing. In contrast to using a smaller sizing in a value spot on the river, you might want to use bigger sizing as I do in this hand. You may want to use bigger sizing against a more thinking player where you can make your hand look polarized, as this can get you more calls. As you develop reads and history with opponents, you will get a better understanding of what sizes might get that call you want or that fold you need. 

Hand No. 2

Key Concepts: Bluffing; capped hand ranges

Russell Crane: I want to talk about this hand because I think I may have misplayed it, or it could be just a spot I missed.

Crane raises to 165,000 from under the gun (UTG) with 7Diamond Suit 6Diamond Suit. Lok Wong calls. Low calls. Silberstein calls.

RC: I think this was the first time that we had a family pot at the table.

Flop: 9Diamond Suit 8Spade Suit 2Heart Suit (pot: 680,000)

Crane bets 240,000.

CT: What is your thinking in this spot? Keep the pot small?

RC: My bet is kind of small. I c-bet a little small, but I don’t think it’s too important what the sizing was here.

CT: Why not?

RC: I don’t want to build the pot all that big, and plus when I do get flatted it keeps the other players’ ranges a bit capped.

Lok Wong calls. Low folds. Silberstein calls.

CT: What ranges of hands do you put these two players on?

RC: At this point I know that their ranges can be fairly wide, with plenty of medium-strength hands, pairs with a good kicker, bad kickers, and weaker pairs lower than nines or eights, and a lot of straight-draw combos. 

Turn: 2Club Suit (pot: 1,160,000)

Silberstein checks. Crane checks.

CT: Could you have continued to barrel?

RC: I could have and maybe should have opted to bet here. But if I do this I’m going to have to three barrel a lot of times. Ken has been playing back at me, like he usually does. I just wasn’t sure either of them would fold a nine to me if I did three barrel.

CT: It sounds like you wanted to fire again?

RC: I definitely could have bet to try and take this down on the turn. A big bet would make them have to worry about their stacks being at risk a bit, and I should have plenty of outs. I also thought that Lok Wong wasn’t going to bet very often if I checked to him. So I decided to take a free card.

Lok Wong checks.

River: 3Spade Suit (pot: 1,160,000)

CT: Brick. Now what?

RC: Well the river card was a pretty insignificant one, which should have helped no one except if Lok Wong peeled with 3-3, which is certainly possible.

Silberstein bets 435,000.

RC: Ken bets kind of small.

CT: What is your read on that sizing?

RC: I think that he can certainly have plenty of missed draws. And for his value range, a pair of nines with strong and weaker kickers, the weakest being 9-6 suited or maybe 9-5 suited. It is also possible for him to have slow played a set or better. I considered raising, just because Ken can have plenty of missed straight draws. I thought a small raise would get him to fold.

CT: What size raise would get the job done?

RC: The pot was pretty big, a little over 1,800,000. Even a raise to 900,000 would only have to take the pot down one-third of the time to be profitable. Ken made a very good-sized bet though. It was so small that it just looked like value, and maybe he wouldn’t necessarily give me credit for all that much anyway. But still, it would be really hard for him to shove all-in over the top of that raise for his tournament life.

CT: It really sounds like you were itching to pull the trigger.

RC: I was. I wanted to raise, but I just didn’t have the stones.

Crane folds. Lok Wong folds. Silberstein wins the pot of 1,160,000 and reveals QDiamond Suit JSpade Suit.

RC: Ken showed the Q-J for a missed straight. I regretted not taking a stab at that one.  ♠