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Hand Review: Gamble With a Flush Draw or Fold?

Alan Schein
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  • Consider this key decision made on Day 3 in the PokerStars Championship Bahamas Main Event.

  • Would you put it all in on the flop with a flush draw in this spot? Analyzing a #PSCBahamas hand.

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

Back to beach for another hand from PokerStars Championship Bahamas. This one again comes from the $5,000 Main Event, about midway through Day 3 with just under 60 players remaining in the tournament.

It was Level 18 (4,000/8,000/1,000), and a pot had brewed up between the Argentinian Nacho Barbero, Alan Schein of the United States (pictured above), and Mikko Turtiainen of Finland. The latter appeared to have opened for a raise in middle position and gotten action from both blinds, so we picked up the hand on the flop.

The Action

With {4-Spades}{3-Spades}{3-Diamonds} sitting on the felt, Barbero and Schein both checked from the blinds. Turtiainen bet 38,000, then Barbero moved all in for 210,000. Schein shoved all in as well for 270,000, and Turtiainen folded.

Schein: {k-Spades}{10-Spades}
Barbero: {a-Spades}{5-Spades}

Both players held flush draws, with Barbero additionally having a gutshot straight draw. But Barbero watched as Schein paired up with the {k-Hearts} turn and then eliminated him with a {4-Diamonds} on the river.

Concept and Analysis

This is an interesting hand from Schein's perspective that shows how having one card in your hand can make all the difference when trying to figure out an opponent's range.

Both players in the blinds decide to check their flush draws in hopes of shoving over a continuation bet from Turtiainen on a fairly innocuous-looking board. Since Turtiainen should be betting overpairs for value here to protect his bluffs, it's a safe assumption he's going to fire on this board most of the time.

Hand Review: Gamble With a Flush Draw or Fold? 101
Nacho Barbero

After Turtiainen does make his expected c-bet, Barbero shoves all in, as he should do with a combo draw and an overcard to the board. Even if Barbero is called, he's not in bad shape in most cases, and he will also fold out hands like {a-}{k-} that have good equity against him.

The interesting decision is Schein's. Should he gamble for almost all of his tournament life — remember, he had only about eight big blinds more than Barbero — or fold and wait for a different spot?

In order to decide, we have to figure out what we think Barbero is shoving. Certainly, his most likely hand looks like a flush draw — there's just not much else out there. If he had a nutted hand like {4-}{4-}, he would likely flat and try to keep a third player in as well as string Turtiainen along.

What flush draws could Barbero have, though? Schein having the {10-Spades} in his hand actually makes a world of difference when trying to estimate Barbero's range. It blocks many of the flush draws that he could be flatting a raise with out of the small blind, which means {j-Spades}{10-Spades}, {10-Spades}{9-Spades}, {q-Spades}{10-Spades} and {a-Spades}{10-Spades} are all out the window.

That pretty much only leaves ace-high combos and {q-Spades}{j-Spades}. Maybe also {j-Spades}{9-Spades} or {9-Spades}{8-Spades}, but is Barbero really calling raises with those hands out of the small blind with only about 30 big blinds in his stack?

If we fire up PokerStove and plug in {k-Spades}{10-Spades} against {a-Spades}{x-Spades}, {q-Spades}{j-Spades}, and include {j-Spades}{9-Spades} as well, Schein's equity is only 36 percent. He's getting about 3-to-2 on his money, so he needs 40 percent equity, and the 36 percent comes before accounting for the possibility that Turtiainen gets in the pot as well.

What about overpairs? Barbero would most likely be three-betting jacks or better at the least, but his stack is probably a bit too deep to be shoving mediocre pocket pairs like sixes.

If we include eights through tens in Barbero's range, Schein's equity jumps to 44 percent. But again, there's the chance Turtiainen has a strong overpair and isn't folding. In that case, Schein's equity could plummet further.

All in all, it's a spot where I would lean towards a fold, as much as I like to gamble for a big stack that can help me win a tournament. Having the {10-Spades} makes it too likely my opponent has a nut-flush draw if he's drawing.

Luckily for Schein, it worked out and he binked the card he needed to go on to 13th place for $32,200.

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