Attacking limps not a good strategy
Going into Nov. 10, the final day of the World Series of Poker Main Event, I was one of only three players remaining. I was in second place with 40 million in chips, but well behind eventual champion Joe McKeehen’s 139 million.
McKeehen’s massive chip lead — and the fact that the difference between finishing in second place and finishing in third was more than $1 million — made outlasting third-place Josh Beckley (24 million in chips) vital, and it made strategy very important.
A day earlier, McKeehen had consistently raised in the small blind with good hands versus my big blind, and he had limped with most of his weak hands. So, on the final
Neil Blumenfield’s hand day of the tournament, I thought there was an opportunity to attack his limps.
With Qh 8d, a hand that does not play particularly well, I raised to 3 million to try to end the hand. It turned out that McKeehen was near the top of his limping range and called with Kc 10s. It certainly would have been reasonable, and likely preferable, to just check behind him. But trying to steal one here was also a valid option. I thought McKeehen would fold a large percentage of his range to a raise. Instead,
Joe McKeehen’s hand McKeehen called.
The flop came. Given that it was a pretty dry board that was likely to miss everyone, and given that I showed strength preflop, I made a 2.2 million continuation bet. The sizing here, just over one-third of the pot, should have been sufficient if Joe had whiffed the flop, as it would be tough for him to float out of position. McKeehen called again. The turn was the 7d, a good card for me: no overcard, no club, and it gave me a gutshot straight draw.
Flop McKeehen’s range would be a lot of no-pair hands including overcards and clubs. So, after McKeehen’s check, I fired another barrel for 3.5 million — again, about onethird of the pot. He called.
At that point, I knew McKeehen had a hand. He was not floating out of position, and while there were draws on the board, the straight draw was very unlikely, and he would probably lay down the club draw on the turn unless he also had a pair or turned a big combo draw.
So, when the river came 5c, I had to think about what hand I could represent.
If I was betting clubs on the flop and turn, I made a flush. If I was playing something like A-4 or 4-4, I made a straight. But firing on the turn with these hands would not have been likely. And, if I really had what I was representing — an overpair to the board — I most likely would have checked behind on the river. So, the decision to fire again, this time for 7 million, was a mistake, as my range was very bluff-heavy.
And while McKeehen went into the tank for a short time, it was ultimately a pretty easy call for him. He took down the pot with a pair of 10s.
Losing this hand dropped me below 20 million in chips, left mewith just 20 big blinds and put me behind Beckley for the first time that evening. I would never recover and eventually finished in third.