Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 35: Tilly vs. Brunson in Super High Roller Cash Game Hand

Doyle Brunson

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to live report a prestigious invite-only cash game being held at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas as part of the Super High Roller Series. The game, appropriately called the Super High Roller Cash Game, featured blinds of $400/$800/$200 and required a minimum buy-in of $250,000.

Day 1 of the three-day affair featured a lineup that included Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Antonio Esfandiari, Johnny Chan, Jean-Robert Bellande, Jennifer Tilly, Bob Bright, and Matthew Kirk. I wrote a piece about the five biggest pots from Day 1 of the game, which you can read by clicking here.

I found one of those hands to be particularly interesting and worth exploring further in this week’s Hold’em With Holloway. Before getting to the hand, let me set the stage by saying that I feel this one is demonstrative of cash poker at the highest level. As you read, ask yourself whether or not you could have folded, because some at the table argued it was the right move.

The hand took place about four hours into the game when Tilly raised to $2,500 from middle position and received a call from Chan. Ivey likewise called from the small blind, Brunson came along from the big, and four players took a flop of {6-Clubs}{5-Spades}{4-Hearts}. Two checks saw Tilly continue for $4,000. Chan folded, and Ivey also got out of the way.

Brunson then check-raised to $14,000, Tilly three-bet to $45,000, and Brunson four-bet it to $139,000. Tilly paused for a moment before moving all in for $278,000 total, and Brunson snap-called to create a $569,400 pot.

Tilly: {3-Clubs}{2-Clubs}
Brunson: {8-Hearts}{7-Clubs}

Both players had flopped a straight, but Brunson’s was best. Tilly’s only hope was to hit either running clubs to win or seven-eight to chop. They to agreed to run it three times, but Tilly missed each as the turn and river came: {7-Diamonds}{9-Spades}, {9-Spades}{q-Spades}, and {a-Hearts}{x-}.

The big pot saw Brunson increase his stack to $791,000, while Tilly opted to reload for $250,000.

Now, back to the question — could you have folded if you were Tilly? Esfandiari suggested that she should have gotten away from the hand after Brunson four-bet to $139,000. Meanwhile, Bellande argued the other way, saying there really wasn’t much she could do. I can appreciate both perspectives, but ultimately side with Bellande — here’s why.

Tilly opened the hand with a $2,500 raise, which is certainly a questionable move with {3-Clubs}{2-Clubs}. Still, she did it, and one benefit from it was her hand was well disguised. It appeared she had two big cards or a big pocket pair, and as such, none of her opponents would have expected her to flop a straight.

Tilly’s continuation bet of about half the pot was standard, and Brunson’s check-raise to $14,000 wasn’t that surprising, either. After all, he was in the big blind and that flop connected with a lot of “big blind” hands. It was conceivable Brunson held a pair and straight draw, two pair, or possibly a set. Chances are he wouldn’t have called the preflop raise with {7-}{3-}, which was one of two possible straight hands that had Tilly beat. Of course {8-}{7-} was in his range as well, so that was a legitimate concern.

Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 35: Tilly vs. Brunson in Super High Roller Cash Game Hand 101
Jennifer Tilly

Knowing all this, I think Tilly was wise to three-bet. If she put Brunson on a straight draw or two pair, then there was no reason to give him a free card. If he four-bet, which he did by a hefty $94,000 more, then she was getting even more information. Don’t get me wrong — it was an opportunity for her to get away from the hand, but by no means was it an easy spot.

Would he do that with the nuts? Of course, but he might also do it with a slew of other hands, such as those previously mentioned (e.g., {7-}{6-}, {5-}{5-}, etc.). If you’d played with Brunson before and were confident he’d only make such a move with the nuts — which Esfandiari seemed to be — then a fold would be easy. However, if you weren’t overly familiar with Brunson, and to the best of my knowledge Tilly wasn’t, then finding a fold would be tough.

Given how disguised her hand was and Brunson’s range on such a flop, I think I’d have shoved, too. Even so, I wouldn’t fault her had she folded as Brunson’s four-bet was a warning sign. Fortunately for Tilly, she reloaded and ended up getting close to even by the time the game broke.

What do you think about this hand? Would you have folded or jammed? Let me know on Twitter @ChadAHolloway.

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  • In the latest Hold'em with Holloway, PokerNews' Chad Holloway looks at a big Super High Roller Cash Game hand between Jennifer Tilly and Doyle Brunson.

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