Hand of the Week: Brunson Check-Raise Puts Hall in Hurt Locker

Todd Brunson.

In her first season playing on the World Poker Tour, Cate Hall almost won the Player of the Year title.

Coming in to the final day of the WPT Championship, Hall needed a third-place finish to win POY.

She almost did it - and became the first female player to win an open WPT title - before busting in ninth.

That allowed Mike Shariati to win the POY crown and dropped Hall to fourth overall - still a very impressive result that boosted her popularity and led to poker show invites.

Appearing on one of those shows, Poker Night in America, she played a hand with Todd Brunson that also saw her get pipped at the post.

Flop to River

The Poker Night in America cash game had blinds of $25/$50 and several poker celebrities at the table including Phil Hellmuth, Alec Torelli and Brunson.

Brunson (stack: $12,800/256bb) is really a Limit specialist but here he raises to $150 from first position. It’s folded around to Hall on the button who finds    

She re-raises to $475. The small blind folds but Roger Sippl in the big blind calls, as does Brunson – hesitatingly. There's $1,450 in the pot.

The flop is      

Sippl and Brunson check and Hall bets $900. Sippl folds and Brunson calls. There's now $3,250 in the pot and the effective stacks are $11,500.

The turn is the   Brunson checks and Hall now bets $2,100. Brunson thinks about it again and calls. There's now $7,450 in the pot and the effective stacks are at $9,350.

The river is the   Brunson checks again and Hall bets another $3,500. Brunson moves all-in. There's $20,200 in the pot and Hall only has to pay another $5,950 to play.

Several minutes later, she decides to call and sees Brunson table     Brunson wins the biggest pot of the week – about $26,000. Watch the hand play out here:


It’s a difficult situation Hall finds herself in. She decides to call for almost $6,000 on the river. Let’s see how the hand unfolded from both players’ sides.

Roger Sippl
The trigger.

Brunson starts out with a pretty loose raise UTG with Q-9s that might get him into a lot of trouble. He’s often dominated and there are quite a few scenarios where he ends up with the second-best hand.

Hall finds the second-best starting hand on the button and consequently re-raises. As she's on the button, the strength of her hand is very well hidden.

Sippl shouldn’t call in the big blind, though. Sandwiched between Hall and Brunson, who's still to act and could put in another raise, he should fold here.

But his call was part of the reason the pot grew so big. Brunson’s now getting 4-1 pot odds so he can’t really fold anything.

Heads-up and out of position against Hall he would’ve probably gotten rid of his marginal hand.

Brunson's Best Move

On a 9-6-5 flop Hall can be pretty sure to have the best hand. Also, her opponents might have hands that pay her off, which is even more important.

Todd Brunson
Brunson goes for it.

When it’s checked to her she puts in a c-bet and finds one client to come along. Now Hall has to put Brunson on a range.

His range has hands like middle pairs – T-T, 8-8, 7-7 – but also hands that have hit and still draw, like T-9s, 9-8s, 9-7s, 7-6s or monsters like 8-7s and sets.

The 2 on the turn is a very safe card for Hall as it doesn’t change anything about the hand values. When Brunson checks, she bets out again.

As Brunson can have worse hands than hers that still pay, her bet is absolutely correct. But, actually, the 2 has opened some new possibilities for Brunson.

He adds a flush draw to his top pair and he could now represent a monster by check-raising big. This would make it more difficult for Hall to continue. Her overpair almost never improves from there and she would have to play for her whole stack.

This might actually have been Brunson’s best move. Even against the overpair he would have had 32% equity, making an all-in a viable option.

Also, Brunson could hold the best hand here and bluffs like A-K or A-Q would fold now. Maybe that’s why he didn’t raise.

The River Taketh Away

The river is Brunson’s dream card. As he’s now pretty sure to have the best hand, it’s all about maximizing the profit.

Cate Hall. (Photo: WPT)

Checking is a very good decision as it looks like Hall has either an overpair or nothing. If Brunson bets, he might get called by the first but the bluffs will fold.

But if Brunson checks, chances are that Hall bets all parts of the deck. And this is exactly what happens.

Hall bets small to make marginal hands like 8-8, 7-7 or T-T pay. The bet gets her in trouble, but it’s still the correct size as there are several hands in Brunson’s range that would pay off exactly that amount.

When Brunson, a player with a rather tight image, suddenly goes all-in Hall could have probably found a fold, though.

Of course it’s possible that Brunson had missed a flush draw (actually, he did), but to think he’d bluff and give his opponent irresistible 3.6-1 pot odds is unrealistic.

Despite the pot odds Hall should have forced herself to fold in this spot, as a nine is definitely in Brunson’s range as are hands like 8-7, 6-6, or 5-5.


A loose call pre-flop by Roger Sippl is the trigger for this spectacular hand between Cate Hall and Todd Brunson.

Hall is in control on every street, but when Brunson unveils a well-executed check-raise she makes an ill-timed hero call.

As usual, everything comes down to range and Brunson’s just doesn’t have any bluffs in it anymore after his last move.

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