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Conserving My Stack In The WSOP Main Event

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Jun 17, 2020


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Jonathan LittleThis interesting hand took place in the 2019 $10,000 buy-in World Series of Poker main event in Las Vegas. Around half of the players who started the tournament remained in contention. The blinds were 500-1,000 with a 150 ante. Everyone folded around to me in the hijack seat. I raised with ASpade Suit JDiamond Suit to 2,250 out of my 60,000 stack.

The cutoff, a loose aggressive kid, and the bid blind, a splashy, straight-forward player who seemed to overvalue his marginal made hands, called.

My raise with a strong high card hand is completely standard. I would certainly raise many weaker hands as well. When my opponents called, I assumed I was in good shape heading to the flop because most players would three-bet most better high card hands.
The flop came AClub Suit 8Heart Suit 8Spade Suit. The big blind appeared to be interested, then checked. I checked behind, as did the cutoff.

While I would almost always make a continuation bet of around 35 percent of the size of the pot, or around 3,200, I decided to check because I picked up the read that the big blind liked his hand. I knew him to be the type of player who would check-raise the flop with a wide range of hands he thought to be strong. Since I am in marginal shape against his probable check-raising range of an ace or an eight, and I did not want to risk my entire stack with what would be a marginal bluff catcher if a lot of money goes into the pot, I checked behind to control the size of the pot. In exchange for missing out on winning a large pot when I am against a worse top pair, I make it nearly impossible to lose a huge pot when I am against trips.

The turn was the 2Diamond Suit. The big blind bet 6,000 into the 8,600 pot. I called and the cutoff folded.

Since I am in reasonable shape against the big blind’s probable range, which I thought consisted of entirely aces and eights, combined with my excellent pot odds, folding is not a viable option. However, raising for value makes no sense because my opponent will usually only continue against a raise with trips or better, which crushes my top pair.

The river was the 7Diamond Suit. The big blind bet 8,300 into the 20,600 pot.

If I knew the big blind would bet the river with this bet size with any ace or better made hand, calling would be viable because I would win about half of the time. If I thought he would only bet with strong top pairs and better made hands, then folding becomes reasonable, given I lose to stronger top pairs and all the trips.

When I do not know my opponent’s strategy, and I am getting excellent pot odds (in this case, I only need to win more than 8,300/(20,600 + 8,300 + 8,300) = 23 percent to break even), I tend to make the call.

I called and lost to 9Heart Suit 8Diamond Suit.

Although I lost this hand, it is important to realize that I could have easily lost many more chips if I failed to pick up on the fact that my opponent thought he had a good hand on the flop. If I made a standard continuation bet, I would have likely faced a check-raise that would have put my entire stack at risk by the river. By checking behind, I conserved my stack and remained in contention. ♠

Jonathan Little Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and best-selling poker author with over $7,000,000 in live tournament earnings. If you want to learn how to play fundamentally sound poker and increase your win rate, check out Click here to try for free.