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Battling Jake Schindler At A High Roller Final Table: Round 2

by Steve Zolotow |  Published: Nov 17, 2021

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In a previous column I discussed a hand where I made a marginal fold against Jake Schindler while at the final table of a U.S. Poker Open event. From a theoretical point of view, it was a bad fold, although in the reality of that specific situation (the actual cards we held) it was okay.

Jake, of course, is one of the world’s top pros with cashes totaling over $25 million. He was Card Player’s Player of the Year in 2018, and has the record for most final tables in a single year with 31.

My next exciting run-in against him also occurred at the USPO, in event no. 3, which was streamed on PokerGO from the Aria in Las Vegas. Those of you with subscriptions can watch the hand about 29 minutes into the broadcast. (Use the code ‘CardPlayer’ for $20 off an annual subscription.)

This is a final table, so when a player is eliminated, there are reasonably significant pay jumps for those remaining. In these situations, ICM (Independent Chip Model) knowledge is extremely important. For most of the 70 years or so that I’ve played poker, ICM models for tournaments hadn’t been invented. I have also spent a lot of time playing cash or mixed-games where there is no need to understand ICM.

Luckily, I had spent some of my time during the pandemic studying ICM concepts, so I hoped to avoid any complete blunders.

The blinds had just increased to 30,000-60,000 with a 60,000 big blind ante. I was the button, with this year’s high-stakes crusher Ali Imsirovic in the small blind and Jake in the big blind. Both Jake and I had just over 20 big blinds, and Ali had us both covered.

Even though these are two of the best high-limit tournament players on earth, my aim was to make good decisions and not do anything abnormal or extraordinary. It folded around to me, and I looked down at KDiamond Suit 3Diamond Suit. It is pretty routine to open with a suited king on the button, and min-raises had been fairly standard at the table, so I min-raised to 120,000. Ali folded, and Jake defended his big blind.

The flop was 5Club Suit 3Heart Suit 3Club Suit, which was obviously great for me with trips with a king kicker. Jake had already raised me several times, and the last time he did so, I had threatened that I was going to call or reraise if he did it again.

He checked and I led out with a min-bet of one bb. As the button raiser, I have a very wide range, so I expect him to call me with a lot of relatively weak hands. He surprised me by raising to 4 bbs. He now had about one-third of his stack in the pot.

Of course, Jake can also have a very wide range. He might be bluffing with air – perhaps two overcards with a high club. He might have a middle pair, like 6-6 or 7-7. He can have draws like 6-4 offsuit or two clubs. He can even have me totally crushed with a hand like 5-5 or A-3. What is my best play?

I can quickly eliminate folding. I am way ahead of almost all of his range. So, my choices are to call, to make a small reraise to 10 bbs, or to shove. Against a weak player, I would probably just call, and try to trap them later. The big risk in this is I am letting him have a free card. His draws have eight or nine outs, and I really don’t want to guess what to do if the turn is a 7 or a club, and he moves in.

Moving in has several advantages. He may think I have a draw and call with a hand like A-5, for example. Also, he would not be getting a free card to hit his draws.
Additionally, since I threatened to play back if he raised me, he may even think I’m on some weird bluff with a hand like AClub Suit 4Heart Suit.

So, I shoved, and he folded with relatively little thought. The hole card camera later revealed he had the 10Club Suit 8Club Suit.

How would we rate his play? Defending the big blind against a button min-raise with 10-8 suited is automatic. The normal way to defend is to call, but occasionally a raise might work out. He has no reason to think I’m going to fold any reasonable hand in position, therefore calling is fine.

His raise on the flop is more questionable. His two overcards and flush draw have a lot of equity against my range. If I fold, it is a great result for him. If I call, he still has a lot of legitimate equity to hit a winner. He also has some fold equity on the turn or river. Perhaps, I’ll fold to a shove later.

When I shove, he has to feel sick about raising. I can easily have a higher flush draw, a big pair with a club, or even trips. He must fold and abandon whatever equity he has.
I think we each had hard decisions on the flop. His decision to raise makes sense, but he picked the wrong time for a semi-bluff. My shove was also unclear. Maybe I would have had more equity flat calling the raise. In this particular case, I’m not unhappy about depriving him of his flush draw equity, especially when ICM is considered. Poker is tough, even on hands that may look relatively straightforward to those watching at home. ♠

Steve ‘Zee’ Zolotow aka The Bald Eagle or Zebra is a very successful gamesplayer. He has been a full-time gambler for over 40 years. With two WSOP bracelets, over 60 cashes, and a few million in tournament cashes, he is easing into retirement. He currently devotes most of his Vegas gaming time to poker, and can be found in cash games at Aria and Bellagio and at tournaments during the WSOP. When escaping from poker, he spends the spring and the fall in New York City where he hangs out at his bars: Doc Holliday’s, The Library, and DBA.