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Poker Pro Unsure If Epic Fold Was A Smart Play

Ian Steinman Breaks Down Incredible Hand From WPT Final Table


Credit: WPTEveryone loves an epic hero fold, and that’s exactly what California-based poker pro Ian Steinman gave the poker community at a World Poker Tour final table last week.

Steinman had the largest stack at the table with five left out of a starting field of 440 when a huge hand developed between him and fellow poker pro Joe McKeehen, a former World Series of Poker main event champion. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were on the line when Steinman tangled with McKeehen, the second-largest chip stack remaining.

Steinman held KDiamond Suit KSpade Suit, while McKeehen was in there with the QClub Suit 10Diamond Suit. The flop fell AHeart Suit 7Spade Suit 5Heart Suit, which would typically kill the action for both players. However, by the river the final board read AHeart Suit 7Spade Suit 5Heart Suit JClub Suit KClub Suit. Steinman had rivered a powerful set of kings while McKeehen had went runner, runner for a superior, and disguised, straight. Remarkably, Steinman was able to avoid doubling up McKeehen thanks to an incredible decision to muck his cards.

Card Player had the chance to speak to Steinman, who went on to finish second for his largest live score ever, about what was going through his mind when making the decision. McKeehen wound up finishing in third place, while David Larson came back to win the tournament.

Brian Pempus: What was your initial reaction when Joe moved all in?

Ian Steinman: When I bet the river and then he moved all in, my first thought was that Joe is almost never bluffing here. He has too much to consider with pay jumps/ICM and he’s a good enough player that I didn’t think it was a bluff. To a certain extent he is polarized, but he has the nuts a lot more often than he shows up with the rare bluff

BP: How did you feel about the chances of him having A-A for top set versus Q-10 for the straight? Were they equally as likely in your opinion?

IS: I never thought he would show up with A-A here. He almost always three-bets it preflop, and I don’t think he would bet so big on the turn with top set once I shut down.

BP: Some people have commented on how Joe looked when he made the bluff. Did he give off anything based on how comfortable or uncomfortable he looked?

IS: Joe told me he had a terrible flu, plus he had been playing long hours. So, yes he looked miserable but not any more miserable than the rest of the day. He was pretty much sleeping at the table and complaining about it.

BP: Interesting. Did that make a pure bluff seem less likely? Do you think a sophisticated bluff would come less often from someone who is lethargic?

IS: That’s an interesting question. I doubt it with a player of Joe’s caliber, but that didn’t cross my mind at all during the hand.

BP: Gotcha. I saw some people calling this one of the best folds ever recorded. Where do you think it ranks among the best folds in poker history? And is that kind of honor something that you imagined people would be saying after you made the fold?

IS: I’m not the person to answer that first question. I was just trying to reason through the situation and make the correct decision in the spot. That’s all I can ever try to do. But while I was in the tank, and I really thought it was a fold, the thoughts kept going through my head about how ridiculed I would be if I made an incorrect fold here, but I just had to do what was the best decision for me and not worry about anything else. I’m still unsure if it was a fold or call. It’s not a +EV play on paper or in a vacuum. It was the biggest lay down I’ve ever made, but results don’t necessarily make it correct.

BP: So you think he sometimes shows up with smaller sets there?

IS: I think he has to sometimes.

BP: In hindsight, how do you feel about your bet size on the river?

IS: I should have check-raised all in (on the river). I need to let him continue his bluffs and I need to let him value bet all his worse hands that he may only call with when I lead the river.

BP: In terms of Joe having Broadway here, did you think Q-10 off-suit was in his range or did it likely have to be exactly QHeart Suit10Heart Suit in your opinion?

IS: I think he has QHeart Suit10Heart Suit, Q-10 one heart and Q-10 no hearts some percentage of the time. [After the hand] Joe said something like, “if you folded a set there, I got away with murder,” and “you’re gonna regret that fold for a long time.” So I was pretty distraught thinking I basically gave away the tournament. Once I found out he had Q-10, I was just really relieved. Around 30 minutes [after the hand] someone on the rail said he had Q-10.



over 3 years ago

Mathematically its the wrong play, especially how the hand played out. But when you are playing live, you can pick up on things. This is when "mathematically" doesn't hold as much weight. You do have a few truly good players who can put one on a specific hand. So instead of me calling this a good lay down, I prefer to say, good read. Average players only use the words good read when they see someone catch a bluff. When its not always a good read, its that the person is a calling station lol. Then sometimes in tournaments, people are just trying to make the bubble and I hear people say good lay-down to people who basically made a decision that they will not call any all-in bet unless they have the nuts. So its not that they are making a good lay-down, they are just scared to lose. I think this leans towards good read in combination with scared to lose in a tournament. In a cash game this lay-down would be more insane.