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Run it Twice -- Niman Kenkre

'Samoleus' Walks Us Through a No-Limit Hold'em Hand and Analyzes a 6-High River Call


Niman KenkreNiman Kenkre, known as “Samoleus” online, is a professional cash game player who turned $25 into millions. After college, Kenkre took a high-paying job at MIT but soon found that his income from playing part-time online poker quickly overshadowed his salary. In 2006, Kenkre quit to pursue poker and has become well known for analytical approach to the game.

The Game

Type: Six-handed Cash game
Game: No-limit hold'em
Blinds: $10-$20
Note: Bet sizes are approximate

Run it Twice -- Review of the Hand

Preflop Action:
Kenkre raises to $65 from under the gun with pocket sixes. The player immediately to his left calls, and the rest of the table folds. The pot is now $160.

Kristy Arnett: Would you ever recommend any other preflop play with a small to medium pocket pair under the gun other than raising?

Niman Kenkre: No, I wouldn’t, unless for some reason the table was playing so tough and wild that it might be OK to fold the sixes, but I’ve never done that in my life [laugh]. It would take a very, very special circumstance to do that. And I don’t think limping is a good idea in a six-max game, because I think the power of initiative is really important. People defer to the player with the initiative, so I think opening with a raise is pretty much always the right play there.

KA: You were called by the player immediately to your left. What kind of player was he, and what types of hands are you putting him on at this point?

Well, since I raised under the gun, and with him calling me under the gun plus one, he’s going to have a little bit stronger of a range than if I opened in late position and he called behind. At the same time, his range doesn’t have to be that tight, because he knows me as a very loose player who opens a lot of pots with a very wide range of hands. He could call here with any pocket pair, any two Broadway cards, and any decent suited connector. The thing is that it’s not likely that he would have just called preflop with pocket jacks or better. This was the type of player who was almost always three-betting big hands preflop. That actually becomes very important to my thought process throughout the hand.

Flop Action:
The flop comes 9-7-2 rainbow. Kenkre bets $120 into the pot of $160, and his opponent calls. The pot is now $400.

KA: This is a pretty good flop for your hand and a pretty dry board. Are you always continuation-betting here?

NK: I think it is important to reserve your balance. You can’t have the word “always” in your M.O. in these kinds of situations. My default is definitely to continuation-bet here, but I think maybe 15-20 percent of the time, I would check. Like you said, this is a good flop for my hand, but my hand also needs protection. Also, if I’m playing against an opponent who is in a particularly tricky or aggressive mood, I might want to let him do my betting for me, because if I bet and he reacts aggressively, my hand is certainly not good enough to continue with. That would be a deviation from the norm, though. Definitely, my norm would be to bet this flop.

KA: When he just called behind, how are you reevaluating the hand, and what are you thinking going in to the turn?

Well my first thought was, Damn! [laugh] I was hoping to take the pot down right there with my relatively weak hand. When he calls me there, he can do it with a huge range. He knows that I’m going to be continuation-betting on that flop with almost any hand that I open preflop. He’s certainly calling me with any piece — any 9, any 7, any 2, any pocket pair, and hands like 10-8 and 8-6 suited. He would also sometimes call with ace high there, either for value or with the idea of trying to take the pot away from me later, depending on his mood. I would say that pretty much completes his range. I don’t think he’s floating me here with king high or anything like that. One important factor in this hand was that there was no flush draw. That greatly reduces the number of draws he could have. After he called me, I thought that there were a decent number of hands on both sides of my hand, so going in to the turn, I wasn’t sure.

Turn Action: The turn is a 9. The board reads 9-7-2-9. Kenkre checks, as does his opponent. The pot remains $400.

KA: Why did you decide to slow down and check?

NK: The turn card is a terrible one for me to keep firing, because if I’m betting the turn, clearly I want to take the pot down, and I’m not going to get a lot of credit. With the top card on the flop pairing, first of all, it makes it a lot less likely that I have it, and also, there are not a lot of hands that I’m opening with preflop with that have a 9 in them. So, when the 9 pairs, it’s not only less likely that I have it, but it’s also not likely that I would be betting this card with reckless abandon with a hand like pocket jacks. He knows I would probably check a hand like that. I can’t keep barreling this card whether the bet is a bluff or for value. The other thing is, even if he has a straight draw, I’m in a weird position, because if I bet again on the turn and he calls, I wouldn’t be able to keep putting money in the pot on the river. I’d have to check-fold, whether or not he has me beat. I would fire a second time on a lot of turn cards, but an offsuit 9 is definitely not one of them, so I checked.

KA: How does his check behind on the turn narrow his range?

NK: When he checks behind, I get a lot of information about his hand. Now, all of his floats are out of his range, because if he had called on the flop with ace high or an oddball draw like J-10 or something like that, he's going to bet the turn. He is almost certainly going to bet any kind of hand that doesn’t have that much value or that many outs. At the same time, since we started the hand relatively deep with 170 big blinds, he’s going to be betting his big hands too, to build the pot. He’s definitely betting a 9, pocket tens, and any monster of some sort that he decided to slow-play like a set of sevens or a set of twos. Also, with any of his eight-card straight draws, he’d bet the turn a percentage of the time because it looks like he’s going to have a lot of fold equity against me. So, if he has 10-8 or 8-6, he’s going to bet the turn a lot, because if he checks back, he’s going to have less fold equity on the river, because from his vantage point, I just continuation-bet the flop and I’m giving up here on the turn because I got called. When he checks back, I’m putting him on, very squarely, a made hand, but it has to be a made hand that’s not a big hand. Now all of a sudden his hand is greatly reduced to a 7, pocket eights — although I think he would bet the turn with that hand — and fives, fours, threes, and any 2 like A-2, 3-2, 4-2.

River Action:
The river is a 7. The board reads 9-7-2-9-7. Kenkre checks, and his opponent bets $390.

I thought about trying to bet that river, but I decided not to because I didn’t have a lot of equity in that. He would call me with most hands that beat me, and if he floated with an ace high or A-2, he’s going to call the river. I wasn’t going to get better hands to fold, so I checked, essentially giving up on the pot. I expected a lot of the time, it would go check-check.

KA: So then when he bet almost pot, what did you think?

NK: Alarm bells started ringing. Something just didn’t seem right. I went through the analysis again. Obviously my first instinct was to fold. I don’t make it a habit of calling with 6 high. [laugh] I thought that if he had ace high, he would certainly check the river, expecting that no hand worse than his would call a bet, and no hand better would fold to a bet. King high is never calling a flop bet, same with queen high. Like I said before, with hands like J-10, 10-8, and 8-6, he probably would have bet the turn. These types of hands are also discounted because he called my raise under the gun plus one. Then there is a 7. A 7 is definitely squarely in his range, because I made it clear that I couldn’t beat a 9 or 7, so he would be betting the river with a 7. I also took pocket eights out of his range, because he would have been betting the turn for protection on a 9-9-7-2 board more often than not. So now, look at all the rest of the hands he could have. It leaves the pocket pairs and twos, which have been counterfeited like my hand. Pocket fives, pocket fours, pocket threes, 3-2, 4-2, possibly 5-2 suited. He would play all these hands this way, which was calling the flop with a piece, checking the turn to try and get to showdown, and after being counterfeited, attempting a desperate bluff. Interestingly enough, as low as my 6 high was, it beat all those other hands. I beat any lower pocket pair and any counterfeited 2 in his preflop call range besides A-2, but remember, he would have checked back an ace high on the river. So, basically, when I looked at that big bet, I thought the only hands that beat me are a seven like 7-6, 8-7, or A-7 suited, and a very steeply discounted pocket eights, 10-8, and 8-6, which are pretty much negligible to me right now. There is actually a bigger range of hands that I beat than that beat me. Plus, I’m getting a 2-1 overlay on my call, so as weird as it was, I thought I could make the call there with pocket sixes.

Result: Kenkre calls and shows two pair, nines and sevens with a 6 kicker. His opponent mucks pocket fours.

KA: How did you decide between making this “hero” call and raising what you think is a bluff?

NK: There are certainly times to raise when you suspect that your opponent may be bluffing with a hand that is better than yours or because you played your hand very weakly and you suspect your opponent is value-betting very lightly. I actually really like the check-raise river-bluff play. I think it’s very artful to balance it and to check-raise with monsters in that spot, as well. In this case, I don’t think it’s a very good spot for that, simply because he’s not folding a 7, so really, my check-raise would only be valuable against 10-8 and 8-6, and maybe pocket eights, but since I’m really discounting those hands, they make up a very small percentage of his range. A 7 makes up a big part of his range, and he’s going to snap-call a check-raise. I don’t need to check-raise, because I get the same value from calling against the hands that I actually do beat.

KA: Do players make the mistake of mentally checking out of hands in situations like this or when scare cards come?

NK: Yes, without question. I like to believe I don’t do that often, but even for me, I kind of did that. The only reason the hand still had my attention was because I considered betting the river myself as a bluff, but I decided not to. Once I just decided to give up on it, I sort of mentally checked out, until I faced a bet from him that didn’t make sense. So, the answer is yes, I think the majority of players would have just been done with this hand and not even thought about it.

And when you are talking about scare cards, a lot of times, when a scare card comes and you face a bet, it actually takes out the medium strength hands from their range which improves the relative strength of your hand. Let’s say the board gets really scary and a card comes that puts a four-card straight and a three-flush on board, and you face a big bet into a pot with some money that was put in on the flop and turn. Well now, if you have a weak hand, you no longer have to worry about your opponent having a medium strength hand. Your decision becomes more polarized. He’s either “got it” or he’s bluffing, and you can make a relatively thin call. I think it behooves you to pay attention at all times. Obviously, most of the time when you have a rotten hand that becomes even worse, like my pocket sixes that turned into 6 high, you are not going to be able to continue, but if you are alert to the times when you can make a play or make a call, you can certainly improve your bottom line. Not to mention, you might get a cool story. This is going to be a hand I tell people about forever.

Kenkre is also a lead instructor for, a subscription based training site where members can get access to in-depth strategy videos by in-house pros. His personal blog is also posted on the website.

Tags: poker beat


12 years ago

this article is a joke. thats a terrible call ..i would say 1 out of 10 times your opponent would have 5 high or less at the long run if you make calls like that you are not a hero, you are a loser