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Poker Strategy With Gavin Griffin: Running Well Or Poorly?

Griffin Explains Why The Difference Between Running Well or Poorly Is Subtle


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I had the pleasure of playing in the L.A. Poker Classic main event recently. It was a good tournament in which I feel very happy with how I played overall. I busted very early on day two in an unavoidable spot where I flopped top set in a three-bet pot against someone who had flopped an open-ended straight draw and a flush draw. I was unlucky to lose the pot with 60 percent equity, but my opponent didn’t make any mistake in the hand and neither did I. I felt like, throughout the two days of the tournament, I made only a couple of small mistakes and they didn’t really impact the overall result of my weekend.

I could have had 100,000 more chips at the time my bustout hand went down and it’s unlikely either of us would have played it differently. He would raise, I would three-bet, he would call and we would probably get all the money in on the flop with a stack to pot ratio of 13 instead of 3. I wouldn’t say that I ran well or poorly in that hand.

There certainly was a trend, midway through day one of the tournament, where I was running very well. My big starting hands held up with my opponents having just enough of a hand to call me on a few post-flop streets. I won a hand where I flopped top pair against a flush draw and we got all in. I called a small four-bet after three-betting with A-Q and the flop was A-K-3. I was lucky that my opponent had J-J and not A-K, A-A, or K-K.

Running well in important and obvious spots in tournaments you have done well in sticks out in your mind. For instance, I remember the hand in Monte Carlo 2007 on day two where I flopped a king-high flush versus the naked ace and faded his draw after all of the money went in. The hand at Borgata 2008 where I called a flop bet with J-J on a ten-high board and turned a jack against 10-10. The hand at the World Series of Poker in 2004 where I got it in with A-K versus K-9 for a huge percentage of the chips in play with three tables left.

If I had gone deep in this tournament, there was a hand on day one that would have been very important to that fact, but it was a hand that most likely wouldn’t stick out at all looking back. At the 200-400 with a 50 ante level, the under-the-gun player opened for 1,000. I called with JHeart Suit 10Heart Suit, the player two to my left called, and the button called as well. Then the big blind moved all in for a little more than 10,000 and the under the gun player called. I folded as did the rest of the field. The big blind had A-Q, the under the gun player had 7-7 and the only other person in the pot who had chips that were close to what I had said he folded A-Q. The flop was A-Q-x with two hearts and the board ran out blanks.

I’m not sure I would have been able to get away from my hand before getting all in with the opponent two to my left and I would have lost that pot. If we had played that hand out, I would have felt great about getting it in with two opponents with 44 percent equity in a three-way pot. It’s a great situation and very profitable. I would have missed, but I would have been ok with the situation.

Instead, I got away with only putting in 1,000 chips, slightly more than 1 percent of my stack at the time and I didn’t have to put a much larger percentage of them at risk in a high variance spot.

The ways we can run well or poorly are many, varied, and sometimes very subtle. That hand, had I done well in the tournament could have been very forgettable. I noted it because it was forgettable. I’m hoping for some more forgettable spots where I run well in my next tournament! ♠

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