Headed for Disaster? Phil Laak Runs Crazy Bluff Against Dan “Jungleman” Cates

Phil Laak

In this week’s strategy hand for PokerNews, we take a trip back in time where Phil Laak decided to take on Dan “Jungleman” Cates in the partypoker Premier League.

Laak is known to be a player who, for the most part, plays good and solid fundamental poker. Every once in a while, though, we have seen him run a crazy bluff and this hand highlights one of those moments.

Cates had a great hand to call with as he blocked potential flushes on the river but can he find that call button? Let’s break it down.

The hand took place in 2012’s partypoker Premier League V, which was played as a series of Sit & Go’s. With the blinds at 15,000/30,000 and four players remaining, Cates limped the small blind holding the A9. When you are playing relatively shallow you can adopt a limp/shove strategy with some of your stronger hands, but here Laak checked his option with the 97, so Cates didn't have the opportunity to lim-shove.

The KAQ flop gave Cates top pair, and the value of having top pair on the flop is that it increases the shallower the effective stack becomes. Given this board was very coordinated, it should incentivize Cates to bet to gain some protection. Indeed, he did bet 40,000.

"Laak is known to generally play solid fundamental poker with the occasional crazy bluff."

The hand should be over, but Laak opted to raise to 97,000. When you are looking to bluff-raise, make sure that you have some backdoor equity, like here maybe at least a club for the backdoor flush draw. Laak doesn’t have many strong hands on this board as most of them would have raised Cates’ preflop limp, so if Cates shoves all in then Laak is going to fold out all of his bluffs.

I don’t really like this bluff by Laak, but that said he is known to generally play solid fundamental poker with the occasional crazy bluff, which is what we saw here. If I was in Jungleman’s shoes, I would just call to keep in all of Laak’s bluffs, which is what he did prior to the A turn.

Cates, who improved to trip aces, checked and for Laak, warning bells had to be going off in his head. Whenever they do, you have to be prepared to sometimes give up on your bluffs, which Laak seemingly did when he checked back. That led to the 6 completing the board on the river.

Dan \"Jungleman\" Cates

Now notice, if Cates is up against another ace, he will be chopping most of the time. Also, it’d be hard for him to get value out of a lesser hand. Given that, I liked it when he checked it here.

Now would be a good time for Laak to continue with his bluff due to the third club landing on the river. He has no showdown value, so if he’s going to win the 254,000 pot he must bluff at it. If he has either an ace, straight, or flush, he would be value betting, so that opened the door for him to bluff more frequently. Laak could get a lot of Jungleman’s range to fold on the river which is why it makes sense to go for a bet.

I like going for a bluff even though it’s probably going to fail. As it happened, with Laak sitting on 672,000 and Cates on 605,000, the former went for it by betting three-fourths of the pot with a bet of 146,000. What would you do in this spot if you were in Cates’ shoes?

I think it’s a really easy call. Cates should be calling here especially as he has the 9 which blocks some potential flushes that Laak could have. This hand really only becomes a fold if we perceive our opponent to be weak, tight, passive and someone who never bluffs.

Maybe that’s what was going through the mind of Cates as he unbelievably sent his cards to the muck. It may have been crazy, but Laak's bluff worked.

For a more thorough breakdown of this hand, check out my thoughts in the following video used with permission from partypoker:

Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and author with over $7,000,000 in live tournament earnings. He writes a weekly educational blog and hosts a podcast at JonathanLittlePoker.com. Sign up to learn poker from Jonathan for free at PokerCoaching.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanLittle.

  • PokerNews Strategy: Jonathan Little examines @PhilLaak's insane bluff against Dan Cates. Did it work?

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