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Getting Lucky at the World Poker Tour Championships

Let's head back to the World Poker Tour Championships held recently in Las Vegas.

On Day Six, with only nine players remaining in the tournament, and with blinds at $15,000/$30,000 plus a $3,000 per player ante, I opened under the gun for $80,000 with J-J.

I'd been anteing off my chips up until this point. But just before getting the jacks, I changed my game. I opened with 6-5 offsuit and everyone folded. On the very next hand, I picked up A-J, opened again, and again, everyone else folded.

Now, with pocket jacks, I opened the pot with a raise for the third hand in a row. Poker pro Nikolay Evdakov, sitting right behind me, made it $200,000 to go. I called.

The flop came Q-9-8. I checked and Evdakov moved all-in.

With $345,000 in chips remaining, I studied for awhile before finally making the call.

Evdakov tabled K-K. I was about a three-to-one underdog, needing a jack for trips or a ten for a straight to win the pot.

An ace fell on the turn. A jack landed on the river!

Let's review the hand.

My $80,000 pre-flop bet was reasonable as it wasn't too far off the standard opening bet of three-times-the-big blind. Yeah, I suppose I could have opened for a bigger raise, something like $90,000 to $120,000. That would have satisfied those who insist that you should open for a minimum of three-times-the-big-blind, or $90,000 in this case.

As a side note, when playing internet poker these days, the standard opening raise is typically a bit smaller, only about two-and-a-half times the big blind. Online players just don't seem to defend their blinds as vigorously as brick-and-mortar players do. That seems justified, however, because the smaller opening bet tends to win just as often as the alternate 3X standard raise does.

So, why would you want to risk more money than necessary to pick up the blinds when the likely outcomes are that everyone else will fold, or that another player will reraise and force you to fold your hand right there?

Evdakov's smallish $120,000 reraise was very inviting to me. It was a reasonable play but I would have raised more, perhaps $160,000, in order to protect my hand.

My $120,000 call pre-flop was acceptable even though it kind of smelled like Evdakov had A-A or K-K. Now, if I had really thought that he had either of those hands, I certainly could have folded before the flop, but the fact that I had raised three hands in a row strongly influenced my decision.

No one ever looks strong when they raise every pot they play. Therefore, I knew I looked weak, and because of that, wondered if Evdakov might have reraised with a hand like 10-10, 9-9, or even A-K.

My check on the flop was a good play. Some players would say that I should have moved all-in instead. Hey, if I'm prepared to call an all-in bet anyway, why not shove all-in right now? Why check and give my opponent a free card to hit his hand?

Well, I wanted to give Evdakov the chance to bluff off all of his chips just in case he did have the kind of inferior hand that I suspected he might have.

Evdakov's all-in move on the flop was standard.

Regarding my call, Evdakov had shown a ton of strength in the hand. It certainly would have been reasonable for me to fold for my remaining $342,000 but I called because I really thought it was possible that he had A-K or a medium pocket pair. And remember, I was also on a straight draw if I was wrong.


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