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Run it Twice -- Phil Galfond

OMGClayAiken Talks Us Through a Pot-Limit Hold'em Hand


Phil GalfondIn this new series, Card Player sits down with high stakes pros to take a second look at a particular cash-game hand.

At the young age of 24, Phil Galfond kills the highest-staked cash games on the Internet, regularly playing the $500-$1,000 mixed half pot-limit hold'em/half pot-limit Omaha on Full Tilt under the handle "OMGClayAiken." Galfond sat down with Card Player to discuss an interesting hand that came up during a pot-limit hold'em round.

The Game

Date: Jan. 19, 2009
Type: Cash game (Half pot-limit hol'd'em/half pot-limit Omaha)
Game: Pot-limit Hold'em
Table: Hansen Blender
Blinds: $500-$1,000

The Lineup

Seat 1: world1969 ($17,571)
Seat 2: rafiboy ($24,742.50) --- button
Seat 3: Ziigmund ($100,500) --- small blind
Seat 4: OMGClayAiken ($348,051) --- big blind
Seat 5: Gus Hansen ($45,733.50)
Seat 6: David Benefield ($19,997)
Seat 8: LarsLuzak ($263,263)
Seat 9: Phil Ivey ($197,479)

Run it Twice -- Review of the Hand

Preflop Action: LarsLuzak raises to $3,500 in early position, and Phil Ivey calls behind. Galfond reraises to $14,500 with K K. LarsLuzak and Ivey call $11,000 more. The pot is now $44,000.

Kristy Arnett: First of all, how is your image up to this point either in this session, or in general? What kind of range can they put you on with a reraise preflop out of position?

Phil Galfond: This session, I’ve been pretty active. On one hand, I think both Phil and Lars think I’ll be more confident and ready to make more moves since I have a big stack and have been winning. On the other hand, they know that I don’t like to three-bet much out of position with stacks this deep. I’d expect Phil to put me on a narrow range of mostly premium hands given what I think he thinks of me. I’d expect Lars to know that I’m capable of mixing it up quite a bit.

KA: They both call your reraise, was that surprising?

PG: Not really. We’re 200 big blinds deep, 250 for Lars and me. I actually expected them both to call. Lars raised in early position in a nine-handed game, which means he has maybe top 12 to 15 percent of hands. Phil called next to act, which means he likely has a strong range, too. With position being so valuable when stacks are this deep, I’d expect them to know they are behind my range but call anyway, planning on making up for it with post-flop positional advantage.
Flop Action: The flop comes K 9 9. Galfond bets out $16,400. Ivey folds, and LarsLuzak calls. The pot is now $76,800.
KA: You flop the second nuts. Why did you decide to bet the flop, and what went into your decision to bet $16,400, a relatively small bet in comparison to the pot?

PG: The two things I’m thinking about here are 1) my range and 2) what I want them to do with their range of hands, now and on future streets. Against weaker players, I should worry more about No. 2. Basically, I’d figure out how to get the most out of each possible hand in their range and weigh all of that to come up with a decision.

Against Phil and Lars, literally two of the top few no-limit hold'em players in the world, I need to be much more concerned with No. 1. That means I need to worry about playing in a way that disguises my hand as much as possible and keeps my range balanced. Even though this has the potential to become a massive pot, it would be bad for my overall game to play this hand in a way that I wouldn’t play any other hands.

With regard to the bet size, this is the size I’d bet with my entire range of hands including A-A, A-K, 7-6 suited, et cetera.  A board this dry, I don’t need to protect against draws with my legitamate hands, and I want to give myself a good price on a bluff. I need to keep in mind that disguising my hand and my range will be very beneficial to me on later streets.  A simplistic view of this hand would be: “I’ll bet 38K on the flop. Either of them will call with any decent pocket pair or K, and probably wouldn’t call a smaller bet with other hands, anyway.”

While this might be mostly true, it’s really short-sighted. I’d likely make more money on the flop with a larger bet, but look at the long term. In the near future, the turn and river, they’ll likely put me on a stronger hand if I continue betting, since they’ve shown a lot of strength by calling the flop. I might get pocket tens to fold the turn, where they may have called one or two more times had I bet smaller on the flop. In the very long term, meaning future hands, if they know that I bet larger with my strong hands, they’ll destroy me. Or, if I decide to balance my range by betting larger with my bluffs too, my future continuation-bets with air will cost me more. That adds up long term.
KA: When LarsLuzak calls your flop bet, what kind of hand are you putting him on and why?

Lars is extremely tricky and very smart. His most likely hands are pocket nines through pocket queens, A-K through K-T, J-10, Q-J, Q-10, or 9-X, but he’s capable of showing up with anything if he feels the spot is right. It wouldn’t shock me to see him call with A-4 or 7-5 suited. I think that a lot of his 9-X hands would raise the flop. Not most, but maybe 30 percent, so that makes 9-X a little bit less likely.

Turn Action: The turn is the 6. The board reads K 9 9 6. Galfond bets $52,400, and LarsLuzak calls. The pot is now $181,600.
KA: You continued your aggression on the turn and bet a hefty amount. Why did you decide to do that?

On the turn, I’m mostly thinking about what I’m representing. I decide to "represent" pocket aces. The reason I put that in quotes is because I’m not only trying to represent A-A, I’m trying to represent either A-A or a bluff that wants to look like A-A.  I’m hoping that he either decides to call down with a hand like 10-10, thinking I’m bluffing, or occasionally try to bluff me off of A-A. Lars is very capable of making a small turn raise here to rep a 9 and try to scare me off of a hand like aces. Or the river could be the case king, and he may decide to double float with a hand like Q-J.  On a river king, I’d check to induce a value-bet from 9-X or a bluff from double floats, or even a 10-10 that puts me on A-A.  Also, I get the most value from 9-X or 10-10 by just betting three times. If I check, I have to check-call probably, as a check-raise looks ridiculously strong, and is hard to balance. My sizing sets the pot up for just about one pot-size bet left on the river.
River Action: The river is the 6. The board reads K 9 9 6 6. Galfond bet $181,600, and LarsLuzak calls $179,963 and is all in. Galfond shows K K for a full-house, kings full of nines. LarsLuzak shows 10 9 for a lower full house, nines full of sixes. Galfond wins the pot of $541,523.
The river is obviously a great card. Why did you decide to go all in?

PG: If I think he’s double floating with Q-J, Q-10, J-10 enough, I could check here. I actually considered checking for a long time. I think that if he has a 9, he shoves anyway, so I don’t lose much against that hand. The question is basically, how often does he call with a hand like pocket jacks versus how often does he bluff when I check? I still think it’s a close decision, but I decided he wasn’t double floating me enough, so I just shoved. He ended up having a 9, which he can’t fold. Just a super cooler for him, and a nice pot for me.
KA: Do you think this is a spot where players miss value by betting too small on the river, afraid that a big bet won't get them paid off?

PG: Yes and no. It depends on your opponent. I know some people often worry about scaring people off with big hands like this when they should really just be thinking about how to maximize value. Against some weaker players, betting smaller makes it much more likely that you’ll get a call from hands like 10-10 here. Against tougher players, that often isn’t true. It’s all about knowing your opponent and understanding how he’ll react to different bets with all of his hands. Obviously this specific hand was a huge cooler, and the money was getting in no matter what, but it's important to maximize your expectation versus the entire range of hands your opponent can have.

In late 2008, Galfond launched, a subscription based training site where members can get access to in-depth strategy videos by in-house pros. Galfond is the lead instructor and contributes four to six videos a month. His personal blog is also posted on the website.



over 12 years ago

The turn bets and pot size don't add up as stated.