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.
It’s back to the tournament scene for this week’s hand, and a rather expensive tournament at that. We’re heading across the pond to the European Poker Tour Dublin festival and one of the highest buy-in tournaments ever held on Irish soil — the €25,750 High Roller.
By the time we pick up the action, Jeff Rossiter had just been lost in fifth place and the table had settled into four-handed play with Mustapha Kanit leading the way with just under 7.5 million at Level 21 (50,000/100,000/10,000). Charlie Carrel had about 5 million, Anton Bertilsson 4.3 million, and Chance Kornuth was the short stack with 1.1 million.
There was €501,640 up top and at that point the next eliminated player would get €176,640. Kanit had been running hot according to the commentators on EPT Live, showing several winning hands throughout the day.
Bertilsson opened for a min-raise on the button with . Kanit was in the small blind with and decided to repop to 530,000. Unfazed, the Swede made it a four-bet to 1.18 million. Kanit came along, and the two saw a flop of .
After Kanit checked, Bertilsson bet 700,000, and Kanit called. Both players then checked the turn, and the came on the river to complete the board. Kanit bet 1.75 million. Bertilsson removed his sunglasses, blinked several times, and then after a minute or so of thought decided to fold.
Kanit allowed Carrel to pick one of his cards to show, and it was the .
Concept and Analysis
Bertilsson opens for a min-raise on the button with a premium hand, and the first interesting decision of the hand happens when Kanit elects to three-bet his . It’s certainly not a great hand, particularly when playing out of position against a good player, and it’s best for him to minimize the chances Carrel gets involved.
Stacks are fairly deep with 43 big blinds effective between the two, and Bertilsson knows he needs to get in more money preflop so he can get his stack in as easily as possible postflop. Thus, he four-bets to a relatively small amount.
Kanit is getting pretty terrible implied odds with about 650,000 left to call and just over 3 million back, but he does have one major thing in his favor that may have pushed him to a call here — the leverage of Chance Kornuth’s short stack. Because Kornuth is so short, Kanit likely expects Bertilsson to avoid marginal spots, and Kanit knows he has to pull off some bluffs or this call can never be profitable.
The flop comes incredibly static — we’ve talked about this concept before — meaning the winning hand has most likely already been decided since nothing that comes after an flop is likely to improve anyone to beat the current best hand. In these situations, betting the flop and then checking back the turn is often the standard line taken by many players.
Knowing this, Kanit check-calls the small flop bet that Bertilsson decided on. Bertilsson wouldn’t have much need to bet any bigger with an ace in his hand as he’s unlikely to be beaten by the turn card and he has less than a pot-sized bet left, anyway.
Sure enough, Bertilsson checks back the turn and the door is open for Kanit after the river hits. He selects a great bet size of 1.75 million, because he can fold and save a few chips if Bertilsson shoves, but Bertilsson can’t make the crying call and still have a playable stack of 10+ big blinds if he loses.
The out-of-position float is tricky to pull off, but it’s one way to take advantage of the standard bet flop/check turn line many players use to pot control. Of course, one thing this hand really illustrates is that it’s important for Bertilsson to check back the turn when he has an ace so he can pick these types of bluffs off.
This hand started the downfall of Bertilsson, who fell in fourth, and Kanit played it out from the front and won the tournament, adding further to the Italian’s fast-building legacy.
After the tournament, Kanit spoke with Sasha Salinger about playing the big stack at the final table as well as about his thought process leading up to his bluff versus Bertilsson. Take a look: