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Poker Hand Matchup: Aleksejs Ponakovs vs. Shankar Pillai

Swords T 5 5

Aleksejs Ponakovs

Win Pre-Flop Win Post-Flop Win Post-Turn

Starting Stack: 3,833,951


31.82 %

20.3 %

20.3 %

Shankar Pillai

Win Pre-Flop Win Post-Flop Win Post-Turn

Starting Stack: 6,000,234


67.73 %

79.7 %

79.7 %


Posted On: Sep 16, 2020


Preflop, with nine players remaining and blinds of 100,000-200,000 and an ante of 25,000, Aleksejs Ponakovs raised to 400,000 from under the gun. Shankar Pillai called from the button. On the flop Ponakovs checked. Pillai bet 400,000. Ponakovs check-raised to 1,000,000. Pillai folded.


In this hand two-time World Series of Poker gold bracelet winner Shankar Pillai demonstrates just how cautious top players tend to be when they’re among the larger medium stacks at a final table with a few short stacks. When the hand was dealt there were two players situated as the clear short stacks, with Brazil’s Bruno Botteon sitting with 11 big blinds and Paulius Plausinaitis only slightly ahead of that with 11.5 big blinds. Aleksejs Ponakovs opened as the first to act preflop, min-raising off of his stack of 19 big blinds with K-10 suited. Pillai picked up pocket jacks on the button and decided to just flat call. Pillai might have been looking to under-represent his big pocket pair with the move or perhaps was hoping to control the size of the pot by forgoing a three-bet, given that Ponakovs might be opening a tighter range than normal under-the-gun given the stack dynamic. The flop brought the 10® 5© 5® to give Ponakovs top pair with a king kicker. He checked and Pillai bet 400,000 into the pot of 1,325,000. Ponakovs went for the check-raise to 1,000,000 with his top pair, likely trying to extract value from medium pocket pairs, 10-X with kickers worse than his king and also to deny equity to live overcards his opponent might hold. Pillai was left in a tough spot with his under-represented overpair. If he were to call the 600,000 more to see the turn the pot would balloon to over 3.3 million while Ponakovs would be left with roughly 2.4 million remaining, which would be very likely to get all-in on a lot of turns. As a result, Ponakov’s check-raise of only 600,000 effectively leveraged his entire stack without having to actually put it all at risk on the flop. Pillai ultimately folded. While he laid down the best hand, the cautious approach preserved his 25 big blind stack, which was the third largest at the table at the time. He went on to place third in the event for $979,138, the biggest payday of his tournament career.

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