Here's the lead-up to this hand:
The table is playing extremely loose-passive. It was unreal, as we were often getting five- and six-way limped pots, and at least three guys on the table were huge stations with no clue.
My (Tony's) image is TAG (tight-aggressive). I haven't opened a ton of pots, but when I do I always continuation-bet and haven't had to show my cards yet. In the last half hour I raised pre-flop, got called by Joe Hachem, bet out on a 5-A-9-J flop and turn, then check-folded a deuce river.
I also led into three players on a 2-3-9 flop, was called, bet the jack turn and got a fold.
The villain in the hand is 'Scott', a 30-ish guy I've been talking to casually the whole tournament. He seems like a nice guy, and also seems pretty recreational. He has been tight-passive with raises pre-flop, and has been limping behind limpers and calling raises some but not much. I haven't seen him get aggressive much, post-flop.
One hand I did see him play, he raised with K-K pre-flop and was called by the station. The flop came Q-8-4 rainbow, he check-called, and on the turn Q he check-called again, the river came a blank and went check-check. After the guy mucks, Scott says something like "Phew, that Q was no good; I gotta call you on the river though if you bet, though."
The other players in the hand seem really spew-y or calling station-y. Now, here's my perspective on the hand:
I hold on the cutoff. The table is eight-handed.
Other players have ~15K in chips on average.
Pre-flop: UTG limps, UTG+1 limps, UTG+2 raises to 350, then a fold, Scott calls, I call, button folds, blinds fold, and finally both limpers call.
Tony: This seems pretty standard to me. Although my pre-flop call is pretty loose, having position here against a number of bad players with very deep stacks and a chance to hit a big deceptive hand has a huge upside. Online though, I wouldn't be making this call.
Celina: Deep structure with great starting stack makes playing suited connectors very profitable to play in position. It is a hand that is disguised and has the potential to win a big pot; players such as Gus Hansen and Patrik Antonius do this to perfection.
Flop: (Pot 1900)
It's checked to me, I bet 1600, and it's folded around to Scott. Scott thinks for a bit, counts out 1600, and throws it in.
Tony: I've bet a very large portion of the pot in order to make it expensive for draws, and to build a large pot on later streets so I can get a lot of value out of my hand. Checking behind seems really awful here with so many players and potential draws on the board, and betting small keeps the pot small in a situation where we have a very strong hand. I think that if Scott had top two pair or a set here, he'd be leading the flop to protect his hand, or perhaps check-raise me in the case of the set, though that seems less likely. Almost nobody check-calls a set on this kind of flop, especially since he has no reason to believe I'll be betting into so many players.
Celina: The board has come all-spade, making Tony the flush, but at the same time, it is a baby flush. The original preflop raiser hasn't shown any aggression, and it's checked all around to Tony. Tony made the correct play here by betting the flop. A hand with the or may not fold, but they do not get to see another card for free. A bet of 1600 into 1900 is a very good, almost pot-sized bet, giving the villain the incorrect odds to chase a flush. When Scott calls, Tony may put him on a range of hands, Q-J, 4-4, -x, -x, and maybe J-J or Q-Q. A hand like or a small flush would raise/bet the flop to protect a bigger flush draw to hit.
Turn: (Pot 5100)
Scott checks, I bet 3600. This time he tanks a bit longer, counts out the chips and calls.
Tony: When he checks again I'm always betting here. If anything, I think betting slightly larger, say about 4000, would be better in order to set up a more natural river shove. Before my bet I considered what I would do if he check-raised, and I decided that I'd have to fold since very few live players are capable of making an enormous bluff or semi-bluff on this kind of board this early in the tournament. When Scott just calls I know for sure that he can never have a flush outside the nut flush, since he would either lead the flop, check-raise the flop, lead the turn, or check raise the turn in order to protect his hand. Right now I think the most probable hands in his range are the nut flush, -Jx, -Qx, -Kx, or -Kx. He could also possibly have A-Q off with no spade and believe I'm bluffing, but again a flop bet seems more likely.
Celina: The turn came a non-spade; I like the bet here, because most of the time your hand is still best here and because Scott checked as well, it is more likely his hand is on a draw. If Scott check-raises here, I would probably lay the hand down. A live player in a $15,000-buyin tournament most likely isn't check-raising a worse hand here.
River: (Pot 12,300)
Scott checks, I think for about ten seconds, count my chips, and move in.
Tony: Some people have said here that I should be checking behind in case he has a full house. Honestly, I don't believe that's as likely since 4-4 or Q-J would be betting at some point, though Q-J is a possibility. I think shoving here gets value from -Jx, and it's possible that -Kx or -Qx decides I'm bluffing and makes some kind of hero call. I will lose my stack when he has the nut flush or a very badly played set, but I think I gain value more often than I lose the rest of my stack. If I'd change anything about this river, I'd perhaps bet around 3500 and fold to a shove since I might get just as much value but be able to fold 100% of the time I'm behind.
Celina: I like a check-behind here. I probably would've liked a shove here if the board didn't pair. At the same time, a guy who seems to have thought through his hands and called big bets on two streets may have a very strong hand also, and the only flush Tony is beating that may have played this way is 6s7s or 2s3s. If this was the case, I don't think he is getting a call from these hands. I feel that the only hands he is getting called by on the river are hands that beats him. From the earlier hand range we predicted for the Scott (Q-J, 4-4, -x, -x, and maybe J-J or Q-Q), with the repeater on the river, Scott could've made his full house. Having said that, I would expect a live player to lead out on the river when he makes a full house because the player in position may very well check behind. I feel that over the long run, it is a more profitable play to check behind then to shove here, as no worse hand is calling an all-in.
Tony 'Bond 18' Dunst is a professional online poker player living in Australia. Dunst is one of the moderators of the strategy forum at the 2+2 forums, and is noted for his tongue-in-cheek recaps of big stories in the online poker world that he posts on 2+2 and pocketfives. Celina Lin is Tony's girlfriend and a good player in her own right. In fact, Celina has just signed on with PokerStars as a player/endorser, and will represent Team PokerStars at events all over the world. These two spend an incredible amount of time at home discussing poker hands. In each volume of this ongoing column, Dunst and Lin break down a hand and 'discuss' it in a way only a boyfriend and girlfriend can.