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Hand Review: A Cold Four-Bet Blows Up

Tom Sundling (left) and Matt Sztamburski (right)


  • Four-betting with a medium pair? Calling a shove? How would you have played this MSPT hand?

  • Mo Nuwwarah shares a Mid-States Poker Tour hand in which he tries a cold four-bet with pocket sixes.

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.

The Scene

Last week, we looked at a hand from the $1,100 Mid-States Poker Tour Grand Falls Main Event. Firing two bullets into the tournament and using a rather aggressive approach allowed me to play a number of noteworthy hands despite my complete failure to give myself a Day 2 sweat, and we'll look at another one today.

This one comes from early on Day 1b after I had almost doubled my 20,000-chip starting stack by flopping trips in a big spot. Looking around my table, Tom Sundling (pictured above, left) had been opening pretty frequently for a couple of orbits. Meanwhile Matt Sztamburski (right) had been playing it snug so far, but my read from past experience with him was that he was capable of making moves, particularly preflop.

The Action

With blinds and antes at 150/300/25, Sundling opened with a raise to 850 from the hijack. Seated in the cutoff, Sztamburski made it 2,275 to go. I then four-bet to 5,600 on the button with {6-Hearts}{6-Clubs}.

The blinds got out, then Sundling went all in for 14,000 total. Sztamburski thought awhile before folding his hand. I then thought about a minute and called.

Sundling had {q-Spades}{q-Clubs} and his hand stayed good on the {a-Hearts}{4-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds}{9-Clubs}{2-Spades} board.

Concept and Analysis

Cold four-betting is a really risky maneuver, as you're usually hazarding a significant chunk of chips against opponents who have shown considerable strength with a raise and a reraise.

That said, I think this was a good spot for it. You usually need a couple of conditions to apply.

For one thing, the opener has to be capable of opening light. I hadn't seen Sundling show down a ton of hands, but given how frequently he had been opening in recent hands, I had to believe at least some of those were less than premium holdings.

Secondly — and more importantly — is the reraiser. Many players are heavily weighted towards strong hands when they three-bet, so you need to attack a player capable of three-betting a little lighter. As an attentive, solid player, I figured Sztamburski was as aware as I was of Sundling's recent aggression, so he likely saw an opportunity to resteal.

My position meant there were only two players left behind me (the blinds), leaving me less exposed to someone waking up with a monster who had yet to act. Also, stacks were deep enough that nobody was committed to the pot yet, meaning I had fold equity.

Finally, there was no value in a flat-call because of stack depth and the possibility of Sundling shoving, so I'm not wasting the equity of a good hand by turning it into a bluff.

But even if my four-bet were profitable, was it correct for me to call Sundling's shove? At the time, I did some quick math and figured since it was 8,400 more to call and the pot was over 20,000, I was probably priced in. Was I right?

Let's review that math. Depending on the exact number of players seated, there was about 22,500 in the pot. Divide that by 8,400, and we know we were getting about 2.7-to-1 on a call.

What hands would Sundling be shoving here? He probably figures he's getting called in at least one spot, but I believe this player would fold {A-}{Q-} here, expecting to be dominated.

If we give him a range of, say, {10-}{10-} and better pairs plus {A-}{K-} and plug that into trusty PokerStove, we find that {6-}{6-} has 31.5 percent equity against that range. So I was probably about a 2.2-to-1 underdog, meaning a call was mathematically correct here.

Looks like the call was justified, so the real question is whether my assessment of the four-betting spot was good or not. What do you think?

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