Poker Coverage: Poker Tournaments Casino News Sports Betting Poker Strategy

WSOP Strategy -- Raymer Talks About His $40K Demise

World Champ Discusses His Bustout Hand


Greg RaymerWith three players remaining, Greg Raymer had a chance to cement his place in poker immortality. Already with a main-event victory under his belt from 2004, he found himself in contention to take down the new $40,000 no-limit event at the 2009 World Series.

But then, he made a move that had some observers questioning his play.

He shipped his stack of about 50 big blinds all in preflop from the button with pocket fives after he was reraised by Isaac Haxton from the button. Haxton made the call with pocket nines, the board didn’t improve Raymer’s hand, and the world champ was eliminated.

Despite the criticism, Raymer told Card Player that he had no qualms with how he played his hand.

Event – Blinds/Antes Event No. 2, $40,000 NLHE 80,000-160,000 with a 20,000 ante
Player Greg Raymer Isaac Haxton
Chip Count 8,105,000 8,270,000
Hand 5Heart Suit 5Diamond Suit 9Heart Suit 9Diamond Suit

The Hand

Greg Raymer raises to 400,000 (2.5 times the big blind) from the button, Vitaly Lunkin folds in the small blind, and Isaac Haxton reraises from the big blind to 1.4 million. Raymer then pushes all in for 8.105 million. Haxton quickly calls.

The board runs out KClub Suit QDiamond Suit 10Spade Suit 3Heart Suit 3Diamond Suit, and Raymer is eliminated in third place for $774,927.

Greg RaymerThe Interview

Stephen A. Murphy: Had Haxton been three-betting a lot at the final table?

Greg Raymer: Not a lot, but we had caught him three-betting light two or three times at the final table. When he knocked out Dani Stern, he three-bet all in with K-7 when Stern had two fives (Note: Stern was actually crippled by the hand, and eliminated shortly thereafter).

So, Haxton didn’t have to have a big hand there at all, especially three-handed, and I knew that he didn’t have to have a big hand.

So I’m figuring if I reraise all in, he’s folding at least half the time. When he calls, I’m never in good shape. Either he’s got an overpair or two overcards.

Either I’m a small favorite against A-K, A-Q kind of a hand, or he’s got an overpair, because I don’t think he’ll call me with twos, threes, or fours. It’s not like I’m looking to get called, but if he calls me and has two overcards, then I’m just going to have to take my chances.

I was just in a really bad spot.

SM: Did you consider folding?

GR: If I fold, that’s just way too weak, because he’s three-betting there with so many things. If I’m going to fold there, how can I even raise anymore? Now I need what, pocket sevens or better to raise the button?

SM: So pocket fives is definitely ahead of your normal range there?

GR: Well, yes and no. It just kind of depends how you rank the hands. Which is better, J-9 or two fives? It just depends on what your opponent has. If your J-9 misses the flop, well then you have crap. If your two fives miss the flop, you still might have the best hand, but you’ll really have to make tough decisions.

SM: Can you explain why you didn’t call with the pocket fives?

GR: If I call with the fives, I’m calling like 15 percent of my stack, give or take, and that’s just too much. What do I do when the flop misses me? Seven out of eight times, I’m not going to flop a set, and I’ll have no clue in the world what to do — any card on the board could’ve hit him.

It’s going to be so hard to play him unless he’s going to be super, super easy to read (post-flop). He’s a good enough player where I knew I wasn’t going to read him with a high degree of certainty. I felt like I had some tells on him, but they weren’t 100 percent reliable, and they weren’t there all of the time.

SM: Looking back, are you completely comfortable with your decision to push all in preflop?

GR: Yeah. I talked to some other players just in case, and basically everyone who I’ve talked to who I think is a fundamentally strong player were like, ‘Ew, yuck,’ when he raises. Folding is bad, calling is bad, shoving is bad. Shoving sucks less than the other two — that’s really what it comes down to.

And those are the hardest decisions in poker and in life. Every time every option is bad and you have to pick the least bad option, it really sucks. When you have to pick between a good decision and a bad decision, people have no trouble. You’re going to be able to make that decision pretty well.

But when it’s like: do you want me to take $2,000 from you, beat you with a whip, or kill your dog, people are really bad at that choice.

When all decisions are bad, people don’t really make decisions very well. I think I did make the best decision of three bad choices. You’re going to find yourself in spots like that in poker all of the time. I made the best choice, he happened to have too good of a hand to fold, and my hand against his didn’t have much chance of winning.



almost 13 years ago

i completely agree. folding still leaves, what, 47 BBs in play for raymer? saying that there is luck in poker has become a disease because everyone wants it to be legalized. there's a reason "any hand can win"! the day i can practice hitting a set or flush draw is the day skill becomes prevalent. its also why PROFESSIONALS go broke. furthermore, 2 players can have AA dealt to each other in 2 seperate ring games at similar stakes 10,000 times over and their results WILL NOT be anywhere similar. one person may be a $100,000 winner while the other a $10,000 loser. there are skills involved, but its not a game of skill. and its DEFINITELY not a sport!


almost 13 years ago guys must be a couple of donks cause poker is one of the most skilled games ever. AND Fweiss PROFESSIONALS go broke when the over extend them and play aboue there means.You two give a bad name to poker players.


almost 13 years ago

Poker is indeed a game of skill. This is true even at the lowest stakes. I have charted every tounament I have played since starting. At this point I have played in 2400 tournaments. Most of these games were for less than $5. I have won $2000 and the graph shows a steady trend line going up over time. If poker was only luck, then it would be nearly impossible to overcome the rake and make money over time.


almost 13 years ago

i am an older player. iwas playing at the shoe when there was no world series.benny was a marketing genius.
i played in the road games when things could get somewhat sticky.we had several problems at some times.first we had to have a secure place to play...
next we had to win the money! then we had to find a way to get out with the money.highjacking in those days was likely to get you more money than knocking off a bank.
now i come to the net scams of today.i give my thanks to the on-line officers who took steps to stop these people who take unfair advantage of tournaments.
perhaps we should elect these greedy players to national offices.the senate perhaps.
these players have demonstrated their talents to fit
right in.thank you for allowing me this rant .help protect this wonderful game and good cards to those who have the integrity and ethics to deserve them.


almost 13 years ago

I agree with miller and harvey. Some professionals dont have adequate bankroll management which can be more important than playing the game itself. As long as there are people that believe the game is all luck, the game will remain profitable for those who are skilled at the game. Read the Harrington on Hold'em books and then try and tell me if the game is majority skill oriented, if you can comprehend whats in the book to begin with.


almost 13 years ago

majority luck oriented*


almost 13 years ago

Greg shows once again he is one of the best players. Made it deep in another big event. Congrats Greg. About 2/3 times or maybe more in a spot like that, the player has two overcards, and about 1/3rd the time, it's an over pair. I guess if these guys were willing to play post flop vs. the raise, reraise allin preflop style, the skill vs. luck factor would be more of any issue as they could have played smaller pots for an hour or two. Greg had good reasons for his move, and the bank roll to make that play. 2nd or 3rd likely mean the same to Greg, he was playing for 1st, and if he wins the race he thought he'd be in about 2/3rds of the time, he likely would have won the event. Poker is definately a skill game, otherwise I would have won a major tournament by now :)


almost 13 years ago

Poker is definately a skill game , otherwise I would have won a major tournament by now....that has to be one of the greatest lines I have ever read, LOL ancordraw that is GREAT!