Lone Star Poker Series

Jonathan Little Capitalizes Off a BIG Mistake by the Final Table Chip Leader

Jonathan Little

My recent PokerNews strategy articles have been devoted to my August 2019 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Event #15: $2,200 NLH 8-Handed run in which I ultimately topped a 211-entry field to win the tournament for $97,160.

This week, I continue on that topic, though now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty with final table action. In this hand, the action was six-handed when the chip leader raised and soon had the opportunity to put a ton of ICM pressure on me. Fortunately, he didn’t go for the bluff and we won a nice pot at showdown.

It began with the blinds at 10,000/15,000/15,000 when the chip leader, who was sitting with 3 million (197 BBs) raised to 50,000 from the small blind. I was in the big with 485,000 (32 BBs) and looked down at the {6-Clubs}{5-Clubs}. I called hoping to flop a good hand, and I made a pair when it came down {k-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds}{5-Spades}.

My opponent continued small for 40,000 and this is a spot where I am going to call with any pair or any draw. Had my opponent bet bigger, say 100,000, I would’ve folded. Given his chip lead, he needed to bet enough to make it feel as if my stack was at risk, which is what you should do as the big stack. I think him betting so small was a mistake.

I called and the {9-Hearts} turn paired the board. The small blind checked and I have a very clear check behind. I am not going to do anything to get blown off this pot. I’m not trying to protect my equity or anything like that, I’m just trying to get to showdown.

If the river is a blank and my opponent bets, I am going to go ahead and call. The river was the {a-Spades} and my opponent actually checked. Do I ever turn this hand into a bluff to try and get like pocket tens to fold? The answer is no. I have some showdown value, not a lot, but I do beat some hands like queen-jack or a really small pocket pair.

Whenever you beat no hands and have the big stack, you just have to go for it.

I check behind and we beat his {8-Spades}{7-Spades}, which I think was very poorly played. First, I think he needed to bet way bigger on the flop as I mentioned. Second, he should’ve kept the pressure on after the turn. Even with a king, would I call a 100K turn bet and then a jam on the river, knowing the last card is likely to be dirty a lot of the time? Probably not.

I think this is a pot where he has a pretty clear triple barrel. Even if I double up to 60 BBs, he still has a commanding chip lead while the other four players at the table were sitting with 40 BBs or less. Granted, he doesn’t want to double up the guy on his left, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

On the river, I think he made another mistake. Yes, I may have some aces, but I’d have raised big aces preflop and just gotten it in. I’m going to have a lot of kings, fives, and maybe middle pairs like sevens, so this would’ve been a good spot for my opponent to bet big, maybe even all in, that would get me to fold out pretty much my whole range. If he can do that, he’d be printing money. If I had king-queen would I call? No, I wouldn’t call a jam.

Whenever you beat no hands and have the big stack, you just have to go for it. This was a big mistake for my opponent. I proceeded to win most hands after this point and got heads-up against the same player in this hand. Fortunately, things went my way, I ended up winning the tournament and taking home the trophy.

For a more thorough breakdown of this hand, check out my thoughts in the following video:

Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and author with over $7,000,000 in live tournament earnings. He writes a weekly educational blog and hosts a podcast at JonathanLittlePoker.com. Sign up to learn poker from Jonathan for free at PokerCoaching.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanLittle.

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