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Final Table Takedown With Ryan Laplante

by Steve Schult |  Published: Jan 01, 2020

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Ryan Laplante is simply a beast when it comes to poker tournaments. The Minnesota-native has cashed for more than $5 million between live and online poker tournaments dating back to 2009. Most of those cashes came in no-limit hold’em, but over the last several years, the Card Player columnist has shown his prowess in pot-limit Omaha as well.

He beat out nearly 2,500 players to win a World Series of Poker bracelet in the 2016 $565 pot-limit Omaha event for $190,328, and most recently took down the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha at Poker Masters last month for $186,000.

Aside from dominating his opposition on the felt, Laplante has successfully dived into the coaching realm as well. He coached dozens of students to successful poker careers before launching his own training website, aptly named Learn Pro Poker. Laplante’s new training course gives a structured breakdown of game theory optimal (GTO) strategy, and when to deviate from those strategies to exploit players at the table.

Laplante sat down with Card Player to break down a hand he played at the final table of the Poker Masters $10,000 pot-limit Omaha event to give readers some insight into the game.

Concepts: Preflop considerations in pot-limit Omaha

The Action: Ryan Laplante raised to 75,000 from the cutoff and Tim McDermott called out of the small blind. On the flop, McDermott checked and Laplante bet 125,000. McDermott check-raised to the size of the pot, 580,000, and Laplante folded.

Steve Schult: I’ve heard people talk about “good aces” and “bad aces” with regards to the other two cards with their pocket aces. What makes aces good or bad and where does your specific hand fall in that category?

Ryan Laplante: These aces are dusty. They’re okay-ish. It’s nice that they are triple connected, but they are the worst kind of triple connected. A-A-2-3 in PLO8 (pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better) is a powerhouse. But in PLO, the low end of straights tend to be pretty bad. At least I have one suit. If I have no suit, these are almost the worst aces. The worst aces would be like A-A-7-2 or something like that with no suits.

That being said, even though they are “bad aces,” bad aces are still good enough to play for stacks if you can get most of your stack in preflop. One thing about PLO in general is that it is very much a postflop game even when you’re pretty short. That being said, the moment you can get 30 percent or more of your stack in preflop, you should pretty much always do it with aces. The only exception would be some ICM (Independent Chip Model) scenarios or things like that.

So even with the worst aces, you’ll still play for stacks assuming you can get most of your stack in preflop. The reason bad aces are called bad aces are because if you can’t get in a significant portion of your stack preflop, they have really bad visibility.

Visibility is a PLO concept that sounds like what it is. It’s how obvious and clear your decisions will be in most situations. Hands like double suited rundowns or strong high suited A-K-X’s have decent visibility. The deeper you are, the more postflop playability matters and the less having a big pair matters more.

SS: Tim has a hand that seems pretty connected with good visibility. Would this be strong enough to three-bet in other situations? Since there were two other players with very short stacks, I’m assuming it was ICM considerations forced him to play it as a call.

RL: Definitely. There are lots of spots where a hand like A-Q-J is a three-bet. The eight being disconnected makes it less good of a three-bet, but I might use this as a three-bet candidate maybe button vs. cutoff, button vs. hijack, button vs. MP2, cutoff vs. hijack, and cutoff vs. MP2. So I wouldn’t use it in many situations, but let’s say you turn that eight into a ten and you add a double suit, then I’m going to three-bet it virtually always, as long as there isn’t some amount of ICM pressure.

Double connected, high rundown broadways are super powerful. Because when you flop a wrap or flop a pair and a straight draw and a flush draw or something like that, you’re generally drawing to the nuts. And you’re drawing to the nuts with all of your outs which makes it much more powerful than just a bare wrap or the bottom end of a wrap, which is much weaker.

SS: The eight is kind of a dangler (a card not connected to the other three) then in this spot?

RL: The eight is kind of a dangler, but if it adds to a double suit, then it is a much better dangler. The fact that it is an eight specifically and not a seven makes it a much better hand in terms of playability. A nine would be much better and a ten would be ridiculous. A-Q-J-10 double suited is just a straight value hand because it’s a hand you can three-bet, get four-bet and peel comfortably.

A lot of how you view PLO hand strength preflop is pretty similar to how you might view hand strength in limit hold’em in that it’s mostly based around strong linear hands. In limit hold’em, there really aren’t three-bet bluffs. There is just the bottom end of your three-bet range.

There’s no 5-6 suited as a three-bet in limit hold’em. But in limit hold’em, you can three-bet a hand like K-Q because it’s a good playable hand. In limit hold’em, you’re three-betting like A-10 or better, K-J or better, Q-J or better, and pocket tens or better, and then some of those hands play way better against four-bets.

The A-Q-J-10 will play pretty well against four-bets and so will hands like J-10-9-8 double suited. It’s a wonderful three-bet hand because it plays so well even if you get four-bet. You can just flop a pair and a draw and just stack off very comfortably.

SS: Can we just take a second to breakdown what makes a strong preflop hand? Are these double suited rundowns better than bad aces?

RL: It depends on who your opponents are, stack depth, whether there is an ante or not and how aggressively the table is playing. Stuff like that will likely shift hand strength and playability.

For example, if you’re up against a very tight opener, then A-K-X-X is going to make a much better three-bet bluff candidate than some of the double suited rundowns. Because you are more likely to block their four-bets. You block aces and kings. But the better and looser your opponents, then the more linear you can three-bet. You can three-bet some strong connected suited double rundowns or an ace with three rundowns. Those type of hands will matter a lot more from a pure theory standpoint.

One of the main reasons that you will want to three-bet a lot looser in PLO with the double suited rundowns and that type of stuff is because of what your range will look like postflop. You don’t want to just bet pure aces and kings and some high double suited broadways. Because when you do three-bet and it comes a bunch of low middling cards, your opponent can just bluff you all day. So, having good board coverage is very important in PLO.

SS: Moving back to the hand in question, the flop is K-9-3 with two diamonds. McDermott checks and you bet 125,000. A few minutes earlier at the final table, however, you checked an overpair twice and folded to a bet. You had jacks on a ten-high flop. How do you decide when to bet the flop with an overpair in PLO and when to check?

RL: When I had jacks on the ten-high board, jacks there is just not a value hand because if I get raised, jacks are just so awful that it’s just an easy fold. Especially when I double-block their bluff raises. I block Q-J-X, K-Q-J, Q-J-8, J-8-X and that type of stuff. Blocking those hands isn’t a good situation for me.

That being said, let’s say with my jacks, the turn was an eight, Q, or K, then I could start turning my hand into a bluff because I double-block the nuts. If I turned a good card, you would have seen me near pot, near pot. But I didn’t pick up any equity and I didn’t pick up a good bluff card, so my hand essentially doesn’t have much showdown or that much playability just because how disconnected it was.

In PLO, for you to really be willing to put in chips, you need to have barrel equity. You need to be able to pick up equity on lots of different cards. If your hand is too weak to pick up equity on lots of different cards, then your hand is too weak to continue. Unless it’s a pretty rare situation.

With the aces on K-9-X, I can get called by plenty of worse hands that I have good equity against. Essentially with the jacks, if I bet and got called, my hand was going to be in awful shape. At best, I would have about 55 percent and I would probably only have about 35-40 percent equity against his range.

But with the aces, if I bet and get called, I will generally be in very good shape. I’ll probably have about 55-60 percent equity against his range.

SS: But he didn’t call. He decided to check-raise you. What types of hands is he likely to have and how does your hand fare against them?

RL: When I get check-raised, it’s actually a pretty disgusting spot. It’s nice that I don’t block any of the draws that he’s going to do it with, like the exact hand that he had. But that’s probably the hand that I’m in the best shape against in terms of the hands that he is check-raising. He is going to have like a pair and a straight draw, or a pair, straight draw and a flush draw. Or the flush draw with the semi-wrap like Q-J-10.

So, against most of his bluffs, I’m in pretty bad shape, and the fact that I don’t block them doesn’t really matter. If I had A-K-X-X where I unblock the draws, I actually might be a little bit more apt to continue against a check-raise because then I block two pairs and some sets. But with the bare aces where I don’t block any of his value hands, it doesn’t really matter that I don’t block his draws because all of those have so much equity against me, it’s just a fold because of ICM.

Let’s say this wasn’t a final table, then yeah, I probably would have stuck it in and not been happy about it. I’m just not folding unless I think they are that tight.

SS: What hands would you be continuing with against his check-raise in this spot?

RL: Something like A-K with a draw of some kind, I think I would go with. And any two pair or set. ´