The following is an early-tourney hand from young player Michael 'Timex' McDonald at PokerStars EPT Dortmund. After a fine Aussie Millions showing, McDonald went on to win the Dortmund main event. This hand has generated a lot of discussion in online discussion groups and is truly a difficult spot that illustrates the differences between live and online poker. Here's his original post about the hand, slightly altered, as he doesn't give his hand in the thread but instead asks how big of hands other players are folding.
Stacks: Timex: ~34k; Villain: ~15k
Blinds: 100/200 with no ante
As McDonald describes it, the "villain" has been fairly tight. He is the type of player who rarely folds when he has committed money, though he has never limp-folded, and he defends his blinds a little lighter than most. The one big pot he was involved in, he had J-10 on a K-Q-9 flop, which held up against Q-9. He has also been typically betting similar sizes on the flop and turn, but those hands haven't really been shown down. He is about 40-45, American, and is wearing a PokerStars shirt and sunglasses. McDonald holds A-K offsuit.
Preflop action: Villain limps UTG, McDonald raises to 800 from UTG+1, and Villain calls.
Tony: Preflop is, of course, a very standard street. The villain open-limps from under the gun, which could mean any number of things, Timex makes an obvious 4x raise, and the rest fold out before Villain gets to call.
Celina: Villain's limp here may be a little suspicious; experience has shown me that many players choose to limp all pairs, A-x suited, A-10 A-J, A-Q,and even A-K. Timex makes a standard 4x raise against a limper, with A-K, as an isolation play.
Flop (Pot: 1,900):
Action: Villain bets 500, McDonald calls
Celina: The bet on the flop is weird. The villain only bets one fourth the pot, a weak bet. This can be interpreted in two ways. The villain may be super strong, and seeing there are no draws out, doesn't mind giving a free card; these hands include A-4, A-9, 9-9, 4-4. The other reason for this size of bet is that the villain is weak with just a pair of aces, such as A-10, A-J, A-Q, or K-9s, and maybe A-K, even K-K. Timex would have probably decided to let him keeping betting into the pot and continue calling him down at this point, figuring that he should have the best hand. While live players differ greatly compared to online players in how they interpret a call, live players would, in most cases, see Timex's call on the flop as weakness. The villain expects Timex to raise with a good ace or two pair.
Turn (Pot: 2,900):
Action: Villain bets 3,000, and McDonald calls.
Tony: Timex now turns top two pair. The villain bets 3,000 and he just calls. This is fine again, since the pot will be a little smaller than the size of the villain's remaining stack, and raising will normally scare out all worse hands. Timex is in no risk of getting sucked out here, so again I like his flat-call.
Celina: This is the street that would have made Timex pause and question the motives of the player involved. The turn makes Timex top two pair, which is a very strong hand on a rainbow board with no straight or flush possibilities. Villain now makes a pot size bet, I personally don't see him as the type of player to bet so strong with 9-9, 4-4 or even A-A or K-K, he would probably bet around 1,500-2,000 with a set. The villain's range is mostly likely A-9, A-10, A-J, A-Q, K-9s, and he is pretty convinced he has the best hand at this point with Timex not showing any strength on the flop.
River (Pot 8,900): 7
Villain goes all in for 10,500 and seems, according to McDonald, quite confident. McDonald folds.
Tony: The seven on the river is a complete blank and the villain now confidently shoves 10,500, an over-pot bet. To be honest, I think this is perhaps the toughest spot in these articles so far. I think if the UTG player is the type to limp-call stuff like A-4s, A-9s or A-Q, I don't think you can really call here. Timex is only folding in fear of a set of fours, aces or nines. In my experience live players don't normally play their sets this fast, which to me is the key factor here. Most players flopping a set in this spot, who aren't the preflop aggressor, would instead check-raise the flop or the turn. That the UTG player took a line of bet-bet-bet makes me think his hand isn't quite that huge. I think I want to call here but I don't particularly hate Timex's fold.
Celina: Interestingly, the villain once again overbets the pot on the river. This could be a desperate shove with K-9s, A-9, A-10, A-J or A-Q realizing that his pair might not be good here, and trying to bluff Timex from calling with a better ace, higher kicker or split pot. Villain may take this line with a set too, but he would have to put Timex on at least two pair to make the river call. Overall, from Timex's view, there are four or five likely losing hands and only two likely winning hands in Villain's range, from past observations. I feel like a call should be made here.
Please feel free to write to us with hand that you would like to see discussed, from live poker or online forums. You can contact me via celinalin.com or via email at email@example.com
Tony 'Bond18' Dunst is a professional online poker player living in Australia. Dunst is one of the moderators of the strategy forum at 2+2, and is noted for his tongue-in-cheek recaps of big stories in the online poker world that he posts there and at 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.