A Hand From the WSOP with Billy Kopp: When Attempting to Extract Maximum Value Fails
Day 3 of the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event had been going along quite smoothly. Thinking back on it, I thought that Day 1 was beyond exceptional. I was able to more than triple up my stack. My table draw was great, and I was capable of extracting chips from various opponents without much risk. Day 2 topped Day 1 and couldn’t have possibly been better. I was put at a table where I had a stack that was more than double the size of the stack of the other eight players. Everyone seemed to be very passive, which induced me to open virtually every pot when it folded to me preflop. It got to the point where I was opening any two cards and was only looking at them so that the table knew I wasn’t playing 100% blind. I had people comment at the table about their knowledge of my erratic play but not knowing how to defend it because of my bet sizing. Being told that I was very tough to play against is the type of thing that I dream of as a professional poker player. I was what some people call the “table captain.”
There I was on Day 3 with my first somewhat tough table draw. Fortunately, the two younger online players that I was familiar with were both on my right with shorter stacks. I was picking my spots in position to chip up early on and was fairly successful. Online, I tend to play very aggressively at times. In the Main Event, with the structure being so great, I typically play a bit more on the cautious side unless I completely see something where I can capitalize on an edge with even a marginal hand. I had three-bet preflop maybe three or four times in several hours that day. The table was pretty standard and about what I expected. No one had really four-bet preflop until later on Day 3 when I was confronted with a situation that led to my eventual demise in the 2010 Main Event.
The blinds were 1,000/2,000, and I was in the small blind. I believe that the gentleman under the gun or in the two-hole limped in. It folded to middle position who was a middle-aged PokerStars qualifier who made it 7,000 to go. My read on the guy was that he was a pretty average player who didn’t get out of line much. He was essentially just playing his cards and was on a heater over the course of the past few orbits at the time. It folded to me in the small blind, and I peeled out two aces. I looked back to make sure I didn’t have a four or something in there that I misread. I still had two aces. I waited a minute or two so as not to act too quickly and counted out my three-bet raise as I had done a few times earlier in the day. My three-bet sizing is typically larger live than online for various reasons that will have to wait for another article. I made it somewhere around 24,000, which was more than three times the initial raise.
The blinds folded, the limper folded, and without much hesitation or thought, the initial raiser made a min raise to about 41k. At this point, I was very excited yet alarmed. As I said earlier, I had not seen one four-bet at the table from anyone all day. At the start of the hand, we both had around 230,000 and for me to five-bet raise or move all-in would have looked insanely strong. I felt that the guy was capable of hero-folding pocket kings preflop. If he has aces also, we would have chopped. My main concern was that I didn’t want to fold out big hands preflop that I dominated and could get all-in on the flop or turn. I sat calmly thinking about the way that I could extract maximum value from my opponent. A shove would have been awful because he probably folds or should fold most of his range to my big shove. I had seen this player just call raises with a hand like jacks, so in my mind, his range was queens, kings, aces and ace-king. To clarify, the betting was not the reason I assigned this player to basically a range of three hands. After playing with this specific guy for hours and seeing how he played, and from the hands I had seen him show down, this range made the most sense based on prior events. I asked how much more even though I already know the amount and what I’m going to do on future streets then flick in the extra 17k or so, and we saw a flop.
Before the flop came out, I decided to play cautiously if a queen or king fell. Lots of players have a hard time getting away, but I was slow-playing just one pair trying to induce my opponent on the flop. I narrowed his range to queens and kings as a big part of it, so I will probably just have to tread lightly if one of these cards falls. If not, I would certainly get a full double through this player. The flop came . This was a pretty perfect for my hand for several reasons. The player had not four-bet all day, so I could almost immediately eliminate fours, eights or anything with an eight in his hand. Being out of position, I was planning on check-raising small to induce my opponent to stick more chips in the pot. He should be continuation-betting over 80% of the time in this case due to the preflop action. If he had ace-king, I could check-raise and take it down for max value, or if he had queens or kings I could check-raise to get it in for max value, so I checked the flop. After a pretty short time, my opponent checked back and I almost immediately thought he had ace-king. The guy had been playing pots and continuation betting often. He decided to four-bet for the first time when I three-bet out of position over 3x and checked back this flop. I was almost certain that ace-king is what he had to have because checking back queens and kings would be poor because they are vulnerable if an ace hits the turn. There was over 85k in the pot at this point.
The turn brought the putting two clubs on the board. Great card for me, right? I had aces full and could only lose to quad eights. To be honest, I don’t like this card that much if I have his range right, and he checked back queens or kings for whatever reason, than this is what we call an action killer. The ace would slow him down and I wouldn’t be able to extract any extra value. I didn’t care that I had the best hand, I already did, or so I thought. I wanted something like a three to hit the board so we could get it in on the turn. On the turn, if I lead out I was only getting it in versus ace-king, which I could do anyway by check-shoving (because a raise would have shown that the rest of my stack was committed to the pot and look stronger to a weaker opponent), and also by checking if he barreled as a bluff, I would have gotten maximum value. I couldn’t check-call because it would have looked way too strong, so I checked again on the turn looking like I was giving up. Fairly quickly, he bet around 35k. This bet was somewhat odd because it was less than half the pot. It screamed "please call" or it was a fake value bet trying to look stronger than my opponent actually was. As I said, check-calling or check-raising would be poor because of the strength of my hand. I check-shoved all-in for around 190k. I was pretty sure he had ace-king here so often and couldn’t fold. If I didn’t get paid off, I still got maximum value by checking the turn and letting him spew offan extra 35k chips to me
As I pushed my chips toward the middle of the table, I got snap-called. I stood up to flip over my aces full, and my opponent flipped up two eights for quads, and I couldn’t believe it.
That pot was for close to triple the average late on Day 3 with fewer than 2,000 players left, and just like that, I was eliminated from the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event. If I had shoved preflop, he would have folded two eights, but I would have only picked up his 41k. The times that he doesn’t freak out and I can pin his real range based on his play I am able to play for stacks on safe boards. Over the long run, I want players to make mistakes and put themselves in a position where they have tough decisions with marginal hands. I want to disguise my hands, trap my opponents and extract maximum value from these hands. The way I played this hand was well thought out and gave me the best chance to extract maximum value on all streets. In this instance, I was very unfortunate to have lost to his hand on this board. Going through these types of thought processes before the flop and on all streets gives you a plan that will allow you to know what you are going to do in any circumstance.
I just want to know one thing……where was the ace on the river?
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