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Surviving Coolers In The WSOP Main Event

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Aug 17, 2016


Jonathan LittleAlthough I didn’t win (or even cash) in the 2016 World Series of Poker main event, I am very happy with my play. I made day 2 with a 1.5x average stack of 99,900. Early in day 2, I was fortunate to get a lucky turn card versus a maniac who was happy to bluff me. This catapulted me up to 200,000 chips, a 3x average stack of roughly 200 big blinds.

From there, I lost every significant pot I played throughout the next eight hours. Fortunately, I didn’t go broke in a few situations where I suspect many other players would have. I ran Q-Q into A-A, K-K into A-A, A-K into Q-Q, top pair with a good kicker into top pair with a great kicker, and 7-7 into A-K, all in reraised pots. It is tough to win a poker tournament when your opponent makes the best hand every time lots of money goes into the pot. The K-K versus A-A situation was particularly interesting because I made a play that controlled the size of the pot and my opponent made a blunder that cost him a huge amount of chips.

With blinds at 500-1,000 with a 100 ante, I raised 2,400 out of my 200,000 stack from first position with KHeart Suit KDiamond Suit. The player in third position, a somewhat tight, straightforward player who seemed to be in line, thought for a while, messed around with his chips in an odd way, then reraised to 6,300 out of his 130,000-chip stack. I learned from Zach Elwood’s Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em webinar that when people take a long time then act in a somewhat bizarre manner that they usually have an abnormally strong range. (If you have not already signed up for the free Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em webinars, you can do so at While K-K is certainly a strong value hand, I decided to call, fearing the worst.

The flop came 10Heart Suit 7Club Suit 4Spade Suit. I checked and my opponent checked behind. At this point, I assumed he primarily had A-K, A-Q, and various other unpaired hands. He could have over pairs, but I assumed he could continuation bet those for value. He could have also sets, 10-10 and 7-7, but there are very few combinations of those hands and I thought he would value bet those as well. Some other hands he could check behind include A-10, J-10, and 9-9, although I didn’t think he would make a preflop reraise with those.

The turn was the 8Heart Suit. Because I thought my opponent’s range was mostly worse made hands and unpaired hands, I bet 6,500 into the 14,900 pot for value. Much to my surprise, my opponent quickly raised to 20,000. I assumed this raise was an odd blocking/protection bet. I assumed he was frequently trying to “buy” a free showdown with a hand such as J-J or A-10. I thought he may have also viewed my small turn bet as weak, which of course isn’t the case, because I would make that same turn bet size with all the holdings I wanted to bet. All of this led me to call. Notice reraising the turn has no merit because if I happen to be against A-A or a set, I want to minimize my losses.

The river was the 3Heart Suit. I checked and my opponent immediately checked behind. I assumed I won versus a worse overpair, top pair, or a random bluff, but my opponent proudly tabled A-A after seeing my K-K. If my opponent had bet the river instead of checking, I would have had a difficult time getting away from my hand, mainly because I was wary that my small turn bet may have induced him to bluff.

Especially in tournaments filled with weak players, you will find that a large portion of your win rate comes from your opponents’ poor plays, not your great plays. While I minimized my losses by just calling my opponent’s preflop reraise, my opponent made a huge blunder by not betting every street. I would have been roped into calling him down if he made reasonable bets on all betting rounds. Especially in the WSOP main event, it is important to minimize your losses in cooler situations in order to give your opponents additional opportunities to make errors in the future. ♠

Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $6 million in tournament winnings. Each week, he posts an educational blog and podcast at, where you can get a FREE poker training video that details five things you must master if you want to win at tournament poker. You can also sign up for his FREE Excelling at No Limit Hold’em webinars at