At­tack­ing limps not a good strat­egy

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - POKER - By Neil Blu­men­field

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.

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