Justin Young’s lifetime tournament winnings exceed $2.5 million, with his biggest cash to date being a runner-up finish in the 2008 World Poker Tour Five-Diamond World Poker Classic for $937,000. He’s a regular in all of the big tournament series online and most recently, he competed in the Ultimate Bet Online Championship $1,000 + $50 Main Event. He talks to PokerNews about a big hand he played early in the event.
Start stacks: 10,000
Player Stacks: Hero (Justin Young) 14,000 , Villain (Under-the-gun) 10,000
Concepts: Smooth calling a raise can be an option preflop with big pairs . Think ahead in the hand and have a plan. Remember to be aware of what your own hand looks like to your opponent
Tell us what your table image was like leading up to this hand.
My image was active and splashy. I had to show down some random hands that I cold-called three bets with like suited connectors, etc.
Were you doing so because you were so deep? Or because of the lineup, or both?
We were so deep and most of the table usually doesn’t play super well in deep-stacked situations. Plus, I had position and could represent a big hand if needed.
Preflop Action: Villain raises to 350 from under the gun. Hero flats in the cutfoff with pocket kings. It folds around and the pot is heads up.
Why did you decide not to three-bet here?
The button is super active, and I like smooth calling with big pairs early anyway, so I just call. When everyone is super deep, I like flatting sometimes for lots of reasons. (A) It balances your ranges and makes everyone play a bit more cautious against you when you flat a raise. (B) If you three-bet every time you have a big pair, people get the right implied odds to call and then you’re playing pot control against a random hand. I also don’t really like three-betting light that early in a tourney either, unless it’s an obvious spot. In this situation, I didn’t like it because with under-the-gun raising, my range would be fairly small if I three-bet.
Flop Action: The rainbow. Villain leads for 700 into the pot of 925. Hero calls.
I decided to just smooth call mainly due to the bet sizing. For whatever reason, I took the bigger bet to indicate a good, but not great hand, or air so like aces, ace-king, king-jack, etc. So I didn’t see any value from raising here. He’s either going to fold or call one street and probably give me credit for king-queen and fold.
Would you have considered raising if he had bet smaller like half pot?
Yeah, I think it widens the gap of his range and what he might perceive my range to be. My plan was to call the turn and hopefully raise all-in on the river, pending on turn and river. I felt like he had a hand where he "has" to lead every street for value, and I can pounce whenever, or air, and that he may barrel me.
Turn Action: The turn was an offsuit nine, completing the rainbow. The board is now . Villain bet 1,625 into 2,325 and Hero calls.
How does the turn change things?
I didn’t like the card mainly because I thought it would slow him down, so I was expecting a check call. Instead he bet 1,625 into about 2,300. Now his range is a bit smaller. Most of his bigger hands, he is checking for pot control, but I feel like he leads with ace-king and aces with intentions of folding to a raise. He bets with jack-ten obviously, and air. So I again just call, this time hoping the eight pairs so I can raise the river. At that point, I was beginning to be a bit scared of how not scared he was.
River Action: The river is a seven. The board now reads . Villain bets 4,550 into 5,600.
It was another big bet. I feel like he might blocker-bet like 2,400 if he had a one pair hand. From previous streets, I didn’t think he had a set because with the nine coming, I would think he would try to pot control to guarantee to see a river by either putting in a blocker on the turn or a check-call. I thought it was jack-ten or air with maybe a 10-15 percent chance of king-queen, queens, eights, or nines.
And what was the outcome?
I’d like to say that I folded, and he showed jack-ten, but I only called. He had jack-ten. I thought air was likely though because I played so passive that my hand looks like king-jack, king-ten, queen-jack, or queen-ten — some pair with a gutter combo. I’m not sure if he was, but if he was capable, I thought it would be a good time to barrel.
So this is a situation where his bet on the river is a "nuts or nothing?"
Yeah, for the most part. He could have been terrible and done it with king-jack, but yeah, it’s tough to bet that percentage of your stack without knowing what you will do if you get raised.
You being aware of how your hand looked to him, led you to believe it was more on the nothing side?
Right, if I c-bet the flop and I call, it looks like I have medium king or queen or jack-ten so when the nine hits, he can bet big knowing that he is just going to fold if I raise because I can really only raise with jack-ten there. Then, when I call again, it looks like the nine kind of helped me with a pair/gutterish type hand, so as long as the river isnt a king, queen, jack, or ten, he should fire with air every time.
Looking back, would have done anything different?
I like the way I played it. I had a plan that was altered due to the bet sizing and the board. Most would argue that I should have just three-bet preflop, but I think I lose more that way or he just folds pre, and I win the minimum. I picked the hand because I was proud. It was the happiest I was all day to lose a hand. It was a big spot in a big tourney. I set myself up to bust him, and he wasn’t going to bust me.