Reckless call in WSOP Main Event proves costly
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.