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Run it Twice -- Brian Rast

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


Brian "tsarrast" Rast is a professional cash-game player who regularly competes in the highest hold’em and pot-limit Omaha (PLO) games online. Rast sat down with Card Player to talk about an interesting pot-limit hold’em hand he played at a mixed $500-$1,000 table.Brian Rast at the 2009 WPT Championship

The Game

Date: 03-19-09

Type: Cash games

Game: Pot-limit hold’em

Blinds:  $500-$1,000

The Lineup

Gus Hansen: $40,000 (Big blind)

Brian Rast: $74,998 (Small blind/button)

Key Concepts

  • Consider a player’s reraising range out of position before calling with hands that could be dominated
  • Be aware of bet sizing and the percentage of a player’s stack he or she is committing
  • Look for situations in which you can turn hands with showdown value into bluffs

Run it Twice — Review of the Hand

Preflop Action: Rast raises to $2,500 with A Q J 5, and Gus reraises to $7,500. Rast calls. The pot is now $15,000.

Kristy Arnett: Gus is known to be a pretty aggressive player, so when he reraised you, is it safe to say you didn’t really think about folding?

Brian Rast: Gus loves to reraise against everyone, in general, but especially against me. Against tighter reraisers, I might consider folding this hand, just because it plays bad against hands people usually reraise with. Tight reraisers are usually doing it with good aces or good kings, or four big cards, and sometimes double-suited connected hands. This hand obviously plays OK against the double-suited connected hands, but against the rest of a tight reraiser’s range, I’m dominated. Maybe you flop two pair, but maybe they do, too, and they have a straight draw with it. You can get into trouble where you are all in against a freeroll. A bunch of problems can come up with a hand like this.

But against a player like Gus, he’s just out of line with reraises against me out of position, so I’m not folding this hand because he’ll show up with random hands that aren’t necessarily terrible, but they are not really good. This hand is probably a slight equity favorite against Gus, so I just can’t fold this hand.

Flop Action:
The flop comes 5 3 3. Hansen bets $7,000 and Rast calls. The pot is now $29,000.

KA: He bets quite small into you, about half pot. What are you thinking when you just call?

BR: When I called here, I wasn’t really calling because I have a pair of fives. My pair of fives might be the best hand, but it’s not the same as in hold’em. In hold’em, if I have A-5 and I think my pair of fives is good, it matters. If my fives are good and he has two overs, he only has six outs to beat me. In Omaha, if my fives are good, he almost for sure has four overcards, in which case he’s probably a favorite to hit a bigger pair with two cards to come. In this situation, I’m calling because I felt like he didn’t have anything.

Was reraising an option here?

BR: The thing is, if I reraise here, I’m not going to fold if he shoves. So, like if I raise to $20,000, then he’ll have $13,000 left after my raise. If I raise, I don’t think Gus is really going to think I have a 3 very often. He’ll probably think I have a straight draw or flush draw, or maybe like kings or queens. If I’m beat, I don’t think Gus will fold. I just feel like if I do that, Gus is extremely likely to ship. It’s not like he necessarily thinks I’m strong if I just call, either, but I commit less money and I get to make a decision on a future street. Whereas if I raise on the flop, I think it’s a lot more likely that Gus will ship [go all-in] and I’ll just be gambling. In this hand, I have a positional advantage, and I wanted to take advantage of it. Basically, my plan was to float and to take the pot away. Also, I was thinking that if I had a 3, I would just call there.

Turn Action: The turn is the 3. The board now reads 5 3 3 3. Hansen bets $13,000, and Rast calls. The pot is now $55,000.

KA: How does the turn card change the dynamic of the hand?


BR: The turn was interesting because now straight draws and flush draws don’t matter, since any pocket pair makes a full house. It defines the hand a lot more. As of right now, it seems as if Gus is the only one who could have a big full house, because if I had aces preflop, I would have reraised him again and got him committed. It’s pretty natural for him to continue betting here both for value if he has aces, and as a bluff.

I didn’t buy the story he was telling, both because of the flow of the match, and the bet-sizing on both the flop and turn. When he bets less than half the pot on the turn, I felt comfortable enough that I’m right enough times for it to be profitable to call. If I’m right one in three times, my call is barely profitable. I thought there was a much better than a one-in-three chance that he was bluffing this time. I thought it was more like 50-50.

KA: You mentioned the bet-sizing on the flop. Do you think you would have believed him more if he had bet the pot instead of $7,000?

BR: Yeah, I think in this situation with Gus, if he potted the flop, I probably would have believed him more because it’s really unlikely that with a $40,000 stack that he would bet $15,000 and fold. There are just not that many hands that he could think about doing that with, because once he puts in $15,000 on the flop, if I shove, he’s getting better than a 3-to-1 to call me. I’m going to shove any club draw, any wrap draw, any hand with a 3, I might shove a lot of big pairs, and once he puts in half his stack, there aren’t many hands of his he can fold. So, when he bets half pot on the flop, he could have had a big hand, but he could also have air and not want to bet-call the flop because he inflated the pot too much. It is really kind of a weird thing, because in no-limit hold’em, sometimes you have hands with no equity, and you can kind of bet whatever you want as a bluff and that will be what you bet, but in PLO, because you have four cards, sometimes you have enough equity that you can’t bet too much because you price yourself in to make a call with no hand. I felt like this is one of those situations for Gus, so that’s what made his bet look fishy.

River Action: The river is the 4. The board now reads 5 3 3 3 4. Hansen checks, and Rast goes all in. Hansen folds, and Rast wins the pot of $55,000.

KA: On the river, were you turning your hand into a bluff?

Yes. Had he shoved into me on the river, I most likely would have folded, especially with the 4. But when he checked to me, I was thinking that I might have the best hand, it’s possible, but I felt like I couldn’t just check it down. At this point, I’ve basically been representing a full house at the very minimum, or maybe even quads. I figured that if he had a straight or a flush, which beats me, he might fold to a shove. If he had aces, kings, or quads, he would have just bet the river for value. When he checked the river with only $12,000 left, I felt like he was just giving up, and even though I might have the best hand, I knew I could get him to fold a few hands that beat me.