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The Craziest Hand in Televised Poker History

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Aug 15, 2018


With one table of ten people left in the second largest World Series of Poker main event in history, one of the most improbable tournament hands that has ever been televised took place. The closest one I can think of is when Connor Drinan lost with aces to the other two aces all-in preflop in the 2014 $1 million buy-in Big One For One Drop. In case you haven’t seen it, I’m going to recap the action and then talk about some of my thoughts regarding it in the next few paragraphs.

Nic Manion raises from under the gun at a ten-handed table to 1.5 million at 300,000-600,000 blinds with pocket aces. Let’s just stop there. He has been one of the tightest players on this day and just the day before he folded kings preflop after significant action. He’s under the gun at a ten-handed table and opens. That’s quite a bit of strength already, especially considering the big blind is someone who has shown a willingness to mix it up and he’s opening into the chip leader who has been very aggressive. Zobian, Dyer, and Cada fold, and Antoine Labat calls with pocket kings. He’s not calling to trap in my opinion, he’s calling to be cautious for the exact reasons I laid out above. He knows that Manion has been tight and this is a very strong open.

In the next seat is Yueqi Zhu. He has 24.7 million chips. We’ve seen him flat raises with A-K suited and be content to not try to win the pot when he flopped a flush draw and two overcards that hand as well. Zhu, who won a bracelet in mixed Omaha this year, is a tight player who gains chips by making hands and getting paid off.

He moves all-in with pocket kings. This is a gigantic shove, but one that he’s made already since they got ten-handed, also with pocket kings. Usually, you only see people make a shove this big over a 2.5x open with hands they don’t want to play post flop. The most likely hands I’ve seen this done with are J-J and K-K. In this super-high stress situation, I think it’s completely fair to put Zhu on a range of K-K+. I think he calls with 8-8+, A-J suited+, and A-K and only jams with kings or better.

Now the action is back on Manion and he goes all-in for 43.1 million. That’s almost 72 big blinds. With ten people left in the main event. After he raised from under the gun at a ten-handed table and was called by someone who covers him and the tightest player at the table went all in for 41 big blinds. Labat thinks for a while and eventually calls.

I’ve folded kings in a tournament exactly once in my life. I three-bet an early position opener and someone cold four-bet all in and the EP opener jammed over the top. I was half right, the cold four-better had aces and the other guy had queens. I would have broken even in the pot. It was also in a small buy-in tournament with basically nothing on the line.

I know the reasons not to fold kings here. Labat is insanely under-repped. It’s pretty easy for Manion to think he has a range of 8-8 through J-J, A-J suited+, A-Q, J-10 suited, 10-9 suited or so. It’s usually really bad to fold a hand when you have a much bigger hand than it looks like you should have. In addition, he has the second best possible hand in all of poker and if he wins the hand he busts two people and is the chip leader of the main event with eight left.

I’ve laid out many of the reasons I think it’s a fold above. Namely, you’re against the two tightest guys at the table who have shown massive amounts of strength and have made it clear through past actions that their hands are relatively face up. Manion by folding kings preflop in a five-bet pot and Zhu by having flatted at the final table previously with very strong hands and jamming in a similar spot with kings. Labat, of course, should have all of this information because he will have had someone relaying televised hands to him after the delay is up. If we take that into account to figure out our opponents’ ranges, we can pretty safely put Zhu on K-K+ and if we’re incredibly loose with Manion’s range we can say he has J-J+, A-K suited. Equity calculations in three way pots are weird as we can lose the main pot and win the side pot, making a profit in the process, but I have limited space so I’m just going with this dirtier calculation of a straight three-handed all in for same stacks. Kings against those two ranges has 18 percent equity. I think J-J+, A-K suited is much wider than Manion jams with. I think it’s probably Q-Q+ in which case Labat has 17 percent equity.

Even if we give both opponents Q-Q+, A-K suited which I think is absolutely crazy considering how they’ve both played so far, we get to 27 percent equity. There is 71.2 million in the pot and it costs 41.6 to call. That means the pot is laying us 1.7-1. We need about 37 percent equity to call in this situation just to be profitable in chips. In a best case scenario, we’re 10 percent short of that equity and 20 percent short in the more likely scenarios. That’s also not factoring in ICM considerations.

I don’t know if I could fold kings in this situation. It’s obviously incredibly hard to do. It’s a crazy situation to even be in with all of the pressure of the final table bubble and being on ESPN. I think, given a cold analysis of the situation from a distance, that Labat should have folded kings but I fully understand why he didn’t and I don’t blame him for it. It took one of the craziest hands in televised poker history for it to be probably right to fold kings preflop. So it’s definitely not something he could have prepared for. He should have folded, or maybe not. ♠

Gavin GriffinGavin 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



almost 3 years ago

He should of folded kk, no doubt in my mind


almost 3 years ago

Should of folded kk, no doubt