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Bustout Hand, Or At Least, Close Enough

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Aug 31, 2016


Gavin GriffinOn Day 3 of the main event at this year’s World Series of Poker, only my second day 3 in 12 tries, I had a relatively easy time of it. I went from around 200,000 chips to 900,000 with little stress. I seemed to have very good timing, getting folds and calls when I needed them. In fact, I never made or faced a bet of more than 70,000 until the last level of the night.

My first day 4 didn’t start off quite so well. I quickly got up over a million chips, but then ran into a few tough spots over the next couple hours. After getting down to 500,000 or so at one point, I battled back to have 890,000 at the 5,000-10,000 level. I opened from middle position with ASpade Suit JDiamond Suit to 20,000. I had been making bigger raises in earlier levels, but besides the small blind and the player to my direct left, the other stacks were in the 20-40 big blind range. I wanted to have room to maneuver against those stacks at this level, so I started raising the minimum.

The action folded to the small blind, Michael Gathy, who raised to 60,000 off of a stack of 790,000. This was the third or fourth time he had three-bet me that day, but I felt like four-betting was out of the question, as it folds out a fair portion of his three-betting range that I have dominated. In addition, I have position and plenty of chips to play the rest of the hand out.

As a side note, Gathy was let off the hook earlier in the day when someone shoved for 14 big blinds and was called by someone in middle position. Gathy then jammed from the big blind for roughly 40 big blinds and the flat caller folded A-Q, allowing Gathy to bust the jammer with his K-Q vs K-10, a play that worked out well for him.

Anyway, I call the three-bet with ASpade Suit JDiamond Suit and the flop is Q-J-J with no relevant suits. He checked and I bet 50,000, expecting to get calls from lots of hands that are worse than mine. Incidentally, J-J+ is also in my range here, as I’d often flat those hands as well. Gathy calls the 50,000 with a range that I think looks something like A-10, A-Q, AK-, K-Q, K-10, Q-Q, 10-10, J-10 suited, K-J suited, and Q-J suited.

The turn is an offsuit 6, he checks again and I bet 120,000 into 239,000. I wanted to bet small enough to keep in his two pair hands. He called and I now discounted K-J, J-10, 10-10, A-K, and A-10. I think he would have raised the turn with K-J, J-10, and probably Q-J (though I’m not sure) and folded A-K, A-10, and 10-10.

The river was the AClub Suit. I had planned on checking back almost every card except for an ace because I felt there was a chance he was slow-playing something big like Q-Q or Q-J and that he would fold every worse hand to a third bet. Now though, I beat half of those hands that had me beat on the turn and he’s more likely to call me with A-Q. I also still think he’ll call/jam with an extremely slow-played K-J or J-10. He checked and I bet 200,000. After a little while he jammed for a total of 590,000 and I felt sick. My honest first instinct was to fold and I came close to doing so. After about a 45-second tank I called and he showed me Q-Q.

Logically I know that this was just a total setup hand that I couldn’t really do much to avoid. I also know that the analytical portion of my poker player existence is quite happy with the way I played this hand. However, I had been trusting my instincts for the whole tournament and it had served me quite well. My instincts told me that he had Q-Q or A-A, but mostly that he had Q-Q. I couldn’t tell you why exactly and if this was a friend recounting their big hand to me I would tell that person that they did everything right but just had a poor result. The thing is, there’s something to be said for almost 13 years of live poker playing experience. There’s something to be said for having a read on your opponent. And there’s something to be said for trusting your instincts. Had I trusted my instincts and followed through with my initial thought as soon as he jammed the river, I would have folded and been left with almost 50 big blinds, more than enough chips to play with going forward.

In fact, even after calling and losing I still had a little over 100,000 chips. Three hands later, Gathy opened for 24,000 and I jammed 98,000 from the small blind with A-J. He called with A-5 and made a straight on the turn, ending my run in the main event.
It was definitely the best time I’ve ever had in a tournament that I didn’t win and probably even in any tournament that I’ve ever played. There’s magic in making a run in this tournament and I look forward to doing it again next year. ♠

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 You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG