Covering live poker tournaments for a living affords me the opportunity to see countless thousands of hands played out, many of which offer interesting and potentially valuable insights into how players — both amateurs and professionals — play the game. In this ongoing series, I’ll highlight hands I’ve seen at the tournaments I’ve covered and see if we can glean anything useful from them.
This week, we’re moving away from tournament poker for the moment and back to the cash arena. This hand comes from an event from last summer, the Super High Roller Cash Game at the ARIA. To refresh your memory, this hand was from Day 2 of the game, with blinds of $400/$800 and $200 antes.
During the round when this hand went down, the $1,600 straddle was also on and Aussie grinder Matt Kirk — who had a rough go of it for the most part during the SHR Cash Game but was on a rare upswing at this point — had just returned to the table to his roughly $300,000 stack. Kirk had been perhaps the most loose-aggressive player at the table. Andrew Robl, meanwhile, had been showing a willingness to gamble throughout the game and was sitting with about $1.4 million.
Action folded to Paul Newey in the cutoff, and the British player made it $4,500 to go with . Kirk then reraised to $18,000 from the small blind with , and Robl asked for a count of Kirk’s stack before making it $50,000 from the big blind with . Newey got out, and Kirk came back with $100,000 after action was back on him. Robl called.
The flop came , and Kirk fired a tiny bet of $35,000. Robl called, and they both saw the hit the board. Kirk bet $50,000 this time, and Robl thought a short while before announcing he was all in, putting Kirk to the test for his last $90,200. Kirk snap-folded and Robl showed his rags.
“Oh my God,” Kirk could only say as the rest of the table went wild. “What the f***.” Take a look at the hand here:
Concept and Analysis
Deep-stacked cash game poker is wildly different from tournament poker. This hand showcases the type of multi-level thinking and multiple-street moves that are possible with very deep stacks, as each player had more than 350 big blinds when this went down. That’s just not something you see very often in tournament poker except potentially at the earliest of levels.
Kirk’s preflop three-bet was in keeping with his general aggressive strategy throughout the game. Robl knows Kirk is more than capable of making that move with a light hand, so he comes over the top with a small four-bet in position, knowing if Kirk wants to keep splashing around, Robl will at least have position and a suited hand postflop.
To the surprise of Robl, who said after the hand he figured Kirk had nothing when he reraised, the Aussie made a five-bet to $100,000. Still, if Robl figures Kirk is weak, he’s getting an outstanding price of almost 4-to-1 to see the flop and he knows he might be able to bluff Kirk off if he’s indeed weak, so he sticks around.
The flop of is both very dead and very static — anyone who has a strong hand isn’t likely to be outdrawn, while anyone whose hand is weak is going to have a tough time improving to beat a real hand like , for example. That’s the big key in this hand. Both players think the other is weak, so both know if they represent real hands and they’re right about the other’s weakness, they should take down the pot.
A game of chicken ensues, starting with Kirk vastly underbetting the pot. Robl, knowing there’s still play available due to Kirk’s small bet, calls, opting to see what Kirk does on the turn before making a final decision. When Kirk fires another small bet after the turn, Robl senses his chance. He knows if he waits one more street, Kirk may keep the bluff going and Robl will have to fold.
From Kirk’s perspective, he has to be worried that Robl hit the ace, as he revealed after the hand when he said he was all in on any other card. He knows his tiny flop bet gave Robl correct odds to peel with an ace-high hand, particularly if Robl holds the . Ace-high is a hand that makes sense for Robl, because he put in tons of money preflop and then it would be credible to call on that dead flop against a loose player.
As this wildly entertaining hand shows, aggressive players with deep stacks can find themselves in some crazy scenarios. In those crazy scenarios, sometimes the opportunity to play a little crazy arises.