Alec Torelli’s “Hand of the Day”: The (Second) Best Fold of All Time

Alec Torelli is a poker professional originally from California, but travels the world full time with his wife, Ambra. Torelli has over \$1.5 million in live tournament earnings (including two World Series of Poker final tables and two World Poker Tour final tables) as well as over \$500,000 in online tournament earnings. Outside of poker he and his wife manage a million-dollar online business which travels the world with them.

In Torelli’s “Hand of the Day” series he analyzes hands played by him and submitted to him by others. Today he examines a cash game hand he played on Poker Night in America in which he was able to make a correct fold.

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Okay, I don’t really think this is the second best fold of all time. Maybe not even in the top 20. But what made this hand so sweet is not the merit of the fold, but rather the speed at which it was done.

It's another hand from the cash game I played on Poker Night in America at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. Take a look:

Although I wish my brain were some super-computer which processed algorithms and crunches numbers like IBM’s Watson, it’s not. (Yet.)

I was able to process this information so fast because while my opponent was betting I observed him and his intentions. I used what no super-computer in the world can — sheer, raw instinct.

I have an internal dialogue, which I ask myself before each and every time I make a decision. “What is my opponent’s intention?” (I ask.) And in this hand, while watching him formulate his bet, I realized something.

This man wanted to get paid.

It didn’t matter that he had bluffed off several times before, or that he was stuck, frustrated, and perhaps playing too many hands. My read was that he wanted to get unstuck and this was his hand to do it.

If that were true, then I could only beat a bluff. Any hand that he value bets for \$3,000 into a \$2,400 pot has me beat. And since he’s not bluffing, it means I’m beat.

I didn’t let the noise from the past distract me. Nor did I talk myself into some (in this case) useless game theory optimal call. I just made the right decision in the moment, and folded.

People often ask me if the math or instinct is more important. They’re missing the true essence of what it means to make decisions at live poker. How can I separate two things, which are intrinsically connected?

The truth is both are equally important, because they are one in the same. Instinct (or your reads) affect the math, because the read you get in any given moment skews the range of hands your opponent could have.

First, I used my instinct to make a read. This narrowed down my opponent’s range dramatically. Then I used math. Given that I didn’t think he was bluffing, my decision was rather simple. Against his value-betting range — 9xXx, sets, and straights — I beat 0% of hands, therefore I folded. It’s only if he’s bluffing or value betting worse can I mathematically justify calling.

~Alec

Want to be featured on future episodes of “Hand of the Day”? Simply submit your hands to Alec here.