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Poker Strategy -- Andrew Chen Analyzes an EPT Grand Final Hand

Chen Signs On As Instructor For Card Player Pro

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Andrew ChenAndrew Chen got his first taste of live tournament success with a fifth-place showing at the 2008 LAPT Costa Rica main event. Just a month later, Chen finished third at EPT Prague earning $323,820.

His first trip to the World Series of Poker in 2009 also proved to be successful when he finished runner-up in a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event for a $412,632 payday. Chen topped all of that, however, when he took fifth at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo last week for €400,000 ($536,013).

Chen already has proven to be a consistent player despite his young career, and he already has amassed over $1.6 million in live and online earnings. Chen was recently signed on as an instructor for Card Player Pro and will be making training videos in the near future.

Here, Chen gives us a glimpse at his analytical skills as he breaks down a key hand that he played at the EPT Grand Final final table against eventual winner Nicolas Chouity.

Event — Blinds/Ante EPT Grand Final 40,000-80,000 with a 5,000 ante
Player Name Andrew Chen Nicolas Chouity
Chip Count 3.4 million 10.1 million
Hand QDiamond Suit JClub Suit ASpade Suit 9Club Suit

Nicolas ChouityThe Hand

Nicolas Chouity raised on the button, and Andrew Chen called in the small blind. The flop came AHeart Suit 7Diamond Suit 2Heart Suit, and Chen checked.

Chouity then bet 250,000, and Chen called. The turn was the 6Heart Suit, and both players checked. The river was the 10Heart Suit putting four hearts on board, and Chen led for 425,000.

Chouity called and showed ASpade Suit 9Club Suit for top pair. Chen mucked, and Chouity increased his stack to 11 million.

The Interview

Julio Rodriguez: Before we get into the hand, I’d like to talk about the final table in general. Most of the players were very tight and looking to move up in the money, letting Nicolas Chouity continue to build on his massive chip lead. I interviewed Chouity after the tournament, and he said that you were his biggest concern to start the day. He conceded that you were his biggest threat at the table, and he wanted to make sure you were handcuffed the entire time. Do you think he accomplished this?

Andrew ChenAndrew Chen: It’s not a knock against him, but I’m not sure it was really anything he did in particular. I was playing really tight and was already pretty handcuffed given the payouts and stack sizes. That being said, I probably would’ve gotten away with opening a lot more when he folded in front of me, especially because my perceived opening range at the table would already be pretty tight, since it would rarely fold to me in the first place.

JR: How would you have attacked that final table with his chip lead and position at the table?

AC: I felt like he did a pretty good job overall, and a much better job as it became clear that people were really playing for the pay jumps. For example, I felt like it was a mistake for Dominykas [Karmazinas] to openly hint at stuff like folding queens to a raise and a three-bet because of the payouts. It was probably not that big of a deal, since Nic is a good enough player to know all of this, anyway. He’s had great results in online tournaments and seems to basically know what he’s doing.

As far as what I would’ve done, I basically would’ve done the same thing, though I would’ve three-bet less. It seemed like Nic wasn’t 100 percent aware of the fact that almost everybody, other than Pepe [Josef Klinger], was playing incredibly tight preflop and probably not planning on raise-folding. The hand where he three-bet called with A-J against Dominykas’ A-K is a good example.

JR: Was there ever any thought about leaving him alone until the table became more short-handed?

AC: That was pretty much my plan, and I felt like I followed it pretty well outside of the hand in question. It just sucked to be so card-dead and never pick up a top-40-percent hand when he folded to me.

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JR: Speaking of the hand, was your motivation for playing the hand to make him back off you a bit in the future?

AC: I still have mixed opinions about this hand, but overall I feel like it was fine. I mean, I would simply say that my motivation was to win some chips, but having him not raise 100 percent of his buttons as a result would’ve been a nice, although unlikely bonus.

JR: Take us through the hand.

AC: My plan was basically to check-call a lot of flops where I had a decent amount of equity and/or he was continuation-betting a ton. I’d played with him a bunch seated to his direct left from 16 players down to eight the day before, and I felt like our history basically consisted of me staying out of his way and pretty much “having it” whenever I put a bet in post-flop.

Granted, a lot of the hands between us the day before hadn’t gone to showdown, but based on the way they played out, there wasn’t really a big reason for him to believe I would get out of line. I felt like given this, plus the fact that he should be aware of how tight I was playing, floating the flop and betting almost all rivers would be pretty profitable. Plus, I can always find some way to make a hand as well.

JR: You decided to float the flop. When the turn comes, were you planning on a check-raise bluff attempt, or were you simply going to call another bet and then perhaps make a stop-and-go play on the river?

Andrew ChenAC: I was probably going to check-fold the turn most of the time. There’s just nothing I can do against a turn bet. I don’t think he’s going to barrel me very often since he really has to put me on top pair a lot of the time for me to flat preflop and then check-call that flop with our history. I was hoping for lower brick-ish cards on the turn and river so I can better rep both an ace and, more importantly, a hand like eights through jacks with a river bet.

Overall, betting the turn is probably better for him when you include the fact that a lot of cards either kill his action or put him behind, but I’m not surprised he decided to check back. I would presume his thought process went something like, “Well, I can’t really get three streets [of value] anyway, so I might as well disguise my hand as one of the many air hands I would continuation-bet on the flop and then just give up on.”

Granted, it’s probably a bit more difficult for him to get me to call with worse on the river after the turn goes check-check, but he doesn’t know that. If the turn goes check-check, the river blanks and he bets when I check to him, I don’t think he’s ever bluffing.

JR: Do you almost have to bet the river? What about your bet-sizing? Do you think a bigger bet, perhaps 600,000-plus would’ve done the trick?

AC: I was most definitely planning on betting the river after we both checked the turn. A lot of people might not think this would work too often, but to all of the small or mid-stakes no-limit hold’em cash players out there, think of how often you defend your blinds (assuming you’re playing a pretty tight-aggressive style) and then check-call an ace-high flop. The turn goes check, check, and you bet the river. How often does he fold? Pretty darn often. Or put yourself in the other guy’s perspective; you open the button, tight guy defends small blind. He check-calls the ace-high flop, turn goes check-check, and he bets the river. How often do you think he’s bluffing? Almost never.

I think my bet-sizing was fine. I felt like Nic was a good enough player to realize that me betting 600,000 probably removes small to medium hearts from my range. For example, why would I bet so big with a hand like pocket eights with the eight of hearts? I’m trying to represent all hearts I could ever have, in hopes of him folding anything that isn’t a flush. I was really surprised he called, especially that quickly, with just an ace.

JR: If you could go back and play this hand differently, what would you have done? What about from Chouity’s perspective? How would you have played against yourself if you were him?

AC: I’d probably play the hand the same, except maybe three-bet or fold preflop. Three-betting preflop is a viable option here since I think we’ve played enough that he must know that I know that I can’t really get it in very light here due to ICM [Independant Chip Model] considerations. Thus, he shouldn’t really think I’m three-betting light ever. However, three-betting preflop is definitely risky and a higher-variance play, since I can’t be 100 percent sure of how he’s going to react. I would expect him to fold all of his trash, but what about a hand like A-4 suited? I can’t be sure he would fold, or defend, or even four-bet bluff. Given all of this, I think all three options preflop are pretty close.

I probably would’ve bet the turn in his spot, and probably fold the river. I would almost rather raise the river before calling the river, to be honest. Despite the fact that the portion of hands in my range that have a heart in them is relatively small, there’s just very little reason for him to believe I’m bluffing.

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