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Run It Twice -- Eric Liu

Liu Walks Us Through a No-Limit Hold'em Hand Played at Bellagio


Eric Liu, also known as “p3achy_keen” online, has gained respect as both a tournament and cash game player in his short career. At the age of 24, he’s got more than half a million dollars in tournament winnings, and his cash-game winnings eclipse that amount. With the World Series of Poker beginning this week, Liu says that cash games have been picking up steam at Bellagio. He sat down with Card Player to discuss a cash-game hand he played this past weekend.

The Game

Game: No-limit hold’em
Blinds: $25-$50
Table: Nine-handed

Key Concepts

  • Pay attention to timing tells
  • When facing a preflop raise, take into account the other players in the pot when deciding your action
  • In live games, paying attention to detail is much more important, especially when playing deep

Run It Twice — Review of the Hand

Kristy Arnett: Tell me how the game has been going up to this point.

Eric Liu: Well, this hand really goes to show how live deep-stacked poker is different from online poker. In this particular session, all of us are there for this one gentleman in the five-seat. He was playing really, every single hand. He’s lost about $80,000 in the game, in about two days. The game is pretty much revolving around him.

He would limp a lot and people would limp behind him to try and hit flops and get him to stack off light, or bluff off to them because he was really aggressive post flop. If you had a good hand, you would isolate by raising a ton preflop because he’d never really fold.

Preflop Action: Villain 1 limps (loose losing player), Villain 2 limps behind, and Villain 3 (good tight-aggressive player) raises to $500 on the button. Hero calls from the small blind with pocket tens. Villain 1 and 2 call. The pot is now $2,050.

KA: So the player who everyone wants to play with is in the pot (Villain 1). What do you know about Villain 2 and what is your thought process facing a big raise from a good player in position?

EL: I would say that Villain 2 is more of a disadvantaged player in this game, but he also seems to know what he’s doing. He’s a little bit of a calling station too. Normally, in an online cash game, with pocket tens in the small blind, it’s a pretty marginal spot. I’d call sometimes, but against good opponents who made it $500, it’s a pretty easy fold. You only have $25 invested in the pot, and you usually don’t have the odds to call and hit and set. It’s going to be hard to play a lot of flops out of position. In this instance though, Villain 1 who we are all trying to get money from is sitting $40,000 deep and I have him covered. Everyone else in the pot is sitting at least $30,000 deep. So not only do I have odds to flop a set by cold calling the $500, but now I can also call with my hand, look to hit a good flop and maybe win a pretty big pot from the two limpers who are not nearly as good as everyone else.

Flop Action: The flop comes 9-5-3 rainbow. Hero bets $1,300. Villain 1 and Villain 2 calls. Villain 3 folds. The pot is now $5,950.

KA: With this type of flop, what went into your decision making to bet the flop?

El: This is a pretty good flop for me. A lot of times, I would check to the preflop raiser who I would expect to bet, and I would call and expect the other two to fold because we’re facing some pretty heavy action. But since Villain 1 and 2 don’t fold very much, I want to bet. First of all, it will define their hands, and second of all, it will build the pot since I’m assuming my hand is the best. My bet is a pretty big bet, but one that is going to be called by a lot of hands I’m beating.

KA: What are you putting you opponents after calling your bet?

EL: When Villain 1 calls, I’m putting him on any pair and any gutter. The good thing about this guy is that if he does have a hand better than me, he’s always going to be raising. That’s the good thing about Villain 2 as well. He’d definitely raise with a hand better than mine. Villain 3 thought about it for awhile before he folded, so I thought he might have had a hand like A-K or A-Q which is pretty important. They are blockers that might come up, so if an Ace, King, or Queen falls on the turn, I’m going to assume that neither of the two other players have one.

KA: What would you have done if Villain 3 continued his aggression and raised?

EL: I think that would have been a pretty easy laydown because he’s facing three people. He knows that since I cold called the $500 preflop and led into three people, two if which are calling stations, that I have a big hand. There’s also no reason for him to bluff here for the same reasons.

Turn Action: The turn is the 8Heart Suit, putting two hearts on the board. The board now reads 9-5-3-8. Hero bets $4,400. Villain 1 folds and Villain 2 calls. The pot is now $14,750.

EL: This is not the best of turns. It completes a lot of two pairs, makes a lot of gutters, and improves drawing hands like 7-8. My bet on the turn was a much bigger making it a tough bet to raise. Then I know that if I do get raised, it will be pretty easy to toss my hand away. When Villain 1 fold pretty quickly, I put him on something silly like Q-5, middle pair that turned into third pair. Villain 2 tanks and has like $16,000 behind. He takes for about a minute and a half, and finally decides to call.

KA: What are you putting him on now?

EL: I’m putting him squarely on a nine, a pair of nines with no redraws like a straight draw or now a backdoor flush draw since the 8 put two hearts on the board. If he did have some kind of redraw, he would have called much quicker. He had some pretty dependable timing tells.

River Action: The river is a 6. The board is now 9-5-3-8-6 with no flush possibilities. Hero checks and Villain 2 bets $5,000.

KA: This is obviously a pretty scary river, putting a four-card straight on the board.

EL: Yeah, at this point, I’m thinking everything got there with this card. Whatever wasn’t two-pair before has two-pair now, whatever wasn’t a straight is now a straight. That’s pretty much the worse card in the deck besides the 6Heart Suit, so I checked. After I did, he started fidgeting a little. He had a stack of greens [$25 chips] and a bunch of cash behind. He counts out four stacks of greens [$500 a stack], and grabs some cash and bets $5,000. This bet gives me about 3-1 on my call. He’s giving me pretty good odds, but at the same time, it looks like a very “value-y” bet. I thought about how long it took him to call me on the turn, and how fidgety he was when he bet the river. If he had a seven, he would never do that. Also, if he had a seven, I thought he’d be pushing all in because if he was calling on the turn with a straight draw, he was assuming he’d have odds to be able to push all-in and get called on the river. The only thing I’m concerned about is something like 6-9, or something like 2-4. If he had 2-4, he would have been open ended on the flop, not a very good straight draw on the turn, and a straight on the river, but a higher straight is out there. He might be looking to get a call out of any two-pair hand, but is scared of the seven, not knowing I probably would have shoved the river if I had a seven.

KA: So you put him on a nine with no redraws earlier in the hand. After he bet on the river, did you think he was calling you down with a hand that he thought was good and then decided to make a bet to try and fold out better hands like a set or two pair?

EL: I was kind of confused because yeah, I put him on a nine. I was thinking, “Why is he betting?” If he has a nine, he’s basically turning his hand into a bluff. There aren’t too many hands out there that he would want to turn his hand into a bluff with. It was an interesting spot, but since I thought he was a “spewyer” player than most, and based on the timing tells, I decided to call.

Outcome: Hero calls with one pair, pocket tens. Villain 2 shows K-9. Hero wins the pot of $24,750.

EL: Online, timing tells are the only real tell you can use on online besides bet sizing which most players are pretty good at balancing their bet sizing nowadays. When you are playing live, there are just so many other things. Live players maybe know about timing tells, but at the same time, sometimes they don’t have to patience to time every single street perfectly. And, obviously, not everyone is going to be playing their A-game 100 percent of the time. In this hand, the timing of how long he took on the turn, him fidgeting, and the way he counted out his chips, you wouldn’t be able to pick up online, which were crucial to my decision making.