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Hand Review: Failing to Disprove Zeebo's Theorem

Hand Review: Failing to Disprove Zeebo's Theorem

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

This week we're going to look at one final hand I wanted to go over from my unsuccessful run in the $550 RunGood Poker Series Council Bluffs Main Event. Again, I had a very good stack around 80,000 at this point with blinds at 500/1,000/100.

My opponent in this hand was on my immediate right and had been playing pretty tight-passive for the most part. He appeared to be coming in with large preflop raises on his strong hands while limping with his medium-strength stuff. He had a stack around 40,000.

The Action

Everyone folded to the player on my right in the cutoff, and he limped in for 1,000. I raised to 3,200 on the button with {7-Hearts}{7-Diamonds}. Both blinds got out of the way, and the cutoff called.

The flop came {j-Diamonds}{j-Hearts}{3-Hearts}. My opponent checked, then called my bet of 2,800. We both checked the {j-Spades} turn, and the {5-Clubs} arrived on the river.

"All right, might as well bet," my opponent said, throwing out 5,000.

I put in a call, but he turned over {q-Diamonds}{j-Clubs} for quads and took down the pot.

Concept and Analysis

Preflop, I expect to be ahead of my opponent almost always with sevens and make a raise to isolate him with position, hoping to get it heads-up with the blinds out of the way. That's exactly what happened, so I liked where I was at, particularly when the flop came {j-Diamonds}{j-Hearts}{3-Hearts}.

At this point, I made a small value bet since I expected to have the best hand and figured I'd get called by any small pair my opponent held.

When he did call and the turn gave me a full house, I opted to check. At that point, I think it's best to play pot control since my hand isn't really strong enough to go for three streets of value. It's definitely possible for my opponent to have quads as he'd likely limp stuff like {j-}{10-}-suited. Plus, I don't really need to get value out of a flush draw anymore since if he has that he's unlikely to call any bet.

The river is where things get a little weird, as my opponent makes a small bet of 5,000 into a pot of about 15,000. It looks like a bet begging to be called.

It always sets off alarm bells when a quiet, passive player goes into speech mode. He went the "act casual and drop a one-liner" route while betting on a board where he could easily have the nuts.

Even so, I do have one of the stronger hands I'm going to have in this spot. I'd likely check back almost my whole range here on the turn and expect a straightforward opponent to give me a lot of information on the river.

With what sorts of hands can my opponent get to the river? There are certainly a bunch of combos with suited and offsuit jacks and middle cards that he might feel comfortable limping from late position. I wouldn't expect him to have many other better hands, save for perhaps eights or nines.

As far as hands I beat, I could see him having basically any pair under sevens. It's even possible he'd peel on the flop with some ace-high hands. However, would he really bet those on the river? He should expect me to have a good hand pretty often here since any pocket pair gives me a full house.

In the end, I fell into the trap of the old "Zeebo's Theorem" from the classic days of TwoPlusTwo, which says that nobody folds a full house. I had a full house, and indeed, a pretty strong full house. And there were hands I could see my opponent having that were worse than mine, so I called.

However, these passive players just aren't that likely to come out bluffing in this spot. They also usually won't value bet marginal hands like weak pocket pairs on a board like this one. The guy even gave me the speech, and I still didn't fold!

That's just lazy poker, and I should have saved the last bet here for sure.

  • "The guy even gave me the speech, and I still didn't fold!" Mo Nuwwarah analyzes a tournament hand.

  • Consider how you'd have played this tournament hand after making a full house and facing a river bet.

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