Strategy Snapshot: Fast Play Is the New Slow Play

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20 December 2007, Created By: Daniel Skolovy
Strategy Snapshot: Fast Play Is the New Slow Play

In the ongoing Strategy Snapshot series, PL.com looks at a key hand from a major live tournament and breaks it down from a strategy standpoint.

Players: Jonathan Little have been locked in a fierce battle for second place behind local amateur David Cloutier.

The hand begins with Cloutier limping in from the button - an extremely weak play. When you're shorthanded, you should come in raising or not at all. So much of shorthanded play depends on aggression, and coming in for a limp off the button is just the opposite. It tells your opponents you have a hand so weak you can't even raise from the best position at the table.

Clements limps T 6 from the small blind and Little checks his option out of the big blind with 54o.

The flop comes down 8 7 6. Clements checks. Little has flopped the bottom end of the straight. He decides not to slow-play the hand as the board is extremely dangerous. There's a flush draw out there, and any nine has an open-ender to beat him. He decides to bet out $150,000, almost exactly the size of the pot. Cloutier folds on the button.

Clements makes the call. His hand may only be bottom pair but it is a fairly robust holding. His hand currently beats a single nine and a flush draw - both of which his opponent is likely to bet out here. He also has a gut-shot to a ten-high straight and a back door flush draw.

There's now $315,000 in the pot. The turn brings the 3. Clements once again checks the action over to Little. Little bets $400,000, an overbet. Why? He could be doing it for a multitude of reasons - he may be trying to represent a bluff (fast play is the new slow play, after all), or he could be trying to protect his hand against a drawing nine or a flush draw.

Clements now has a tough decision to make. He's picked up a flush draw with the 3 to go with his four gut-shot outs to the straight. Getting less than 2-1 on his money, he doesn't have the required odds he needs to call. He would have to be 100% positive Little will call a big bet on the river to make this call profitable in the long term. There is still a slim chance his pair of sixes are good so he makes the call.

The river comes off and it's the K, a beautiful card for Clements. It gives him the best hand and a way to get Little to call a large bet, because the K does not complete either of the obvious draws - the open-ender with the nine or the heart flush draw on the flop.

Now that both of these draws missed he can represent a bluff. Everyone knows players love to bluff when they miss their draws, so this is an excellent opportunity to play a good hand like a missed draw, almost ensuring a call.

Clements open-pushes for his last $1.1 million. Little quickly calls this river bet and tables his straight. Much to his dismay, Clements turns over his winning flush and drags the $3.6 million pot.

This intriguing hand features one of my favorite tactics: disguising your value bet as a bluff. Such a gambit works extremely well when all obvious draws miss and your hidden draw gets there. Your opponent will read your out-of-position stab as a last-ditch effort to try and win the pot and will call with a much wider range of hands.

Both players played this hand fairly well, though Clements' call on the turn is debatable at best. He calls off almost one-third of his stack with one card to come, getting only 2-1 on his money. Not a play you want to make regularly.

Little can't be faulted for his call on the river. He flopped an extremely strong hand and the way his opponent played it he could not believe Clements had the spade flush. He was hoping Clements would sheepishly turn over a busted draw. You can't blame a guy for going with his read.

Clements, of course, went on to win the WPT North American Poker Championship, taking down $1,387,224 in prize money.

Things didn't work out badly for either of them actually: Despite the loss, Little still took home $680,862 for his troubles, and both pros have now been officially brought on as members of Team Full Tilt.

To hear his thoughts on the big win, check out PL.com's interview with Clements here.

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