Reck­less call in WSOP Main Event proves costly

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - FRONT PAGE - By Matt Jarvis TRIBUNE CON­TENT AGENCY MANION’S HAND: LABAT’S HAND: ZHU’S HAND: FLOP: TURN: RIVER:

In poker, as in life, tim­ing mat­ters. I found my­self glued to the screen re­cently, watch­ing the World Se­ries of Poker Main Event. It was down to 10 play­ers, with the fi­nal nine mak­ing his­tory and the 10th be­com­ing a “what­ever hap­pened to that guy?”

When I made the fi­nal ta­ble in 2010, I went through the same sit­u­a­tion. We had been play­ing for what felt like an eter­nity, it was the wee hours of the morn­ing, and we were ex­hausted. I’m sure this year’s play­ers felt the same, and it was start­ing to show on their faces and oc­ca­sion­ally in their play.

Nico­las Manion, sit­ting on the fourth-big­gest stack, was un­der the gun with Ac Ah and raised to 1.5 mil­lion. An­toine Labat, with the third-big­gest stack, had Kd Kc and flat-called. And in an in­sane turn of events, Rich Zhu looked down at Ks Kh.

Zhu went all in for 24.7 mil­lion, and Manion called. So now it came down to Labat, and this was where he made, in my opin­ion, a crit­i­cal er­ror.

Re­mem­ber: The de­ci­sion he was fac­ing wasn’t just about this hand. The dif­fer­ence in go­ing out 10th as op­posed to main­tain­ing his po­si­tion in third or fourth at the Main Event is about $2.5 mil­lion in prize money. If I’d been in his po­si­tion, I would have stepped aside and let the other two go at it — even with pocket kings. In­stead, Labat called. I don’t of­ten rec­om­mend fold­ing K-K. You wait all day for a hand like that. But in this sce­nario, Labat wasn’t com­mit­ted to the pot. Yes, he wanted to be the world cham­pion, but he eas­ily could have folded in this spot. He wasn’t go­ing up against just one player; he was fac­ing two. He could have just tossed in his cards and sailed into the fi­nal ta­ble third in chips, in a po­si­tion of strength. No mat­ter what Manion held, fold­ing his kings was the right play for Labat.

An­other thing Labat should have con­sid­ered was Manion’s thought process. With Zhu widely known as a tight player, it seemed un­likely that Manion would put his tour­na­ment life at risk with a sub­par hand.

This is a good ex­am­ple of why you need to think about what the other play­ers’ ranges are based on the money jump in the tour­na­ment you’re play­ing. When there’s a lot of money on the line, play­ers likely aren’t go­ing all in with a weak hand. This is the Main Event fi­nal ta­ble bub­ble. The money, the no­to­ri­ety and ev­ery­thing else that goes with be­ing one of the fi­nal nine play­ers has to fac­tor into your range and your op­po­nent’s hand range.

You have to put your feet in some­one else’s shoes. What they would do in this sce­nario, and what range they would have? What cards are you go­ing all in with? It’s not J-J. It’s not A-Q. It’s a much tighter range than that.

Manion’s aces held up, and he went to the fi­nal ta­ble as the chip leader. Labat also made the fi­nal ta­ble but had the short­est stack, and he fin­ished in ninth place. No doubt Labat will spend a lot of time think­ing about why he didn’t toss in his kings and give him­self a real shot at a life-chang­ing vic­tory. Matt Jarvis is a World Se­ries of Poker bracelet win­ner, WSOP Main Event fi­nal tab­list, World Poker Tour high roller cham­pion and Cana­dian Poker Open cham­pion. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @mat­t­jarvis­poker and on In­sta­gram @mat­t­jarfish.

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