Hand of the Week: Decarolis Buzzsawed by Salomon in $820k Pot


New 24h poker channel Poker Central has been slowly doling out footage from the Aria Super High Roller cash game filmed last summer, but it's been worth the wait.

As more and more hands surface we're starting to see how big the game played and just how unique those ultra high-stakes lineups were.

Bill Klein, Rick Salomon, Al Decarolis, John Morgan ... these are not your average high-stakes tourney grinders and naturally look at and play the game from a much different perspective.

Today we'll look at a huge hand entrepreneur Decarolis lost against 1 Night in Paris producer Rick Salomon.

Flop to River

The players at the table are wealthy businessmen like Klein, Morgan, Bill Perkins, Decarolis and Brandon Steven. Bobby Baldwin, Rick Salomon and notorious Vegas cash-game organizer Jean-Robert Bellande are also at the table.

The game is $300/$600 No-Limit Hold'em but Baldwin and Bellande both straddled so it’s $2,400 to play. After Morgan and Klein fold Decarolis (stack: $409,000) finds    

He raises to $8,500. Behind him is loose-aggressive player in Salomon (who has Decarolis covered) on the button. He re-raises to $25,000. Everyone else folds but Decarolis comes along.

There's $54,500 in the pot as the flop falls      

Decarolis checks, Salomon bets $25,000 and Decarolis now check-raises to $75,000. Salomon calls. There's $204,500 in the pot and the effective stacks are at $300,000.

The turn is the   Decarolis checks and Salomon bets $100,000. Decarolis calls and the pot is up to $404,500. Effective stacks are at $200,000. The river is the  

Decarolis checks again and Salomon pushes him all-in. Decarolis thinks about it but then calls. Salomon shows     He takes down an $822,700 pot with trip eights. Watch the hand play down here:


It’s a bitter end for Al Decarolis. He holds top pair, top kicker, but runs into an even stronger hand and loses $400,000 -- equivalent to 680 big blinds.

Rick Salomon
Rick Salomon

How did it come to this? Let’s see.

Before the flop Decarolis does everything right. With A-K he raises from the cut-off to build up a nice pot with a strong hand.

Right behind him Salomon re-raises, and when everyone else folds an interesting thing’s happening.

The question, of course, is how Decarolis should continue as folding is obviously not an option. Salomon has the image of an extremely loose player so Decarolis’s decision to just call is perfectly fine.

Naturally, it’s possible that with this play Decarolis might get bluffed out of the pot by a weaker hand. Or he could run into a monster.

But this is something he has to take into account when he doesn’t put in another raise; this would in most cases end the hand right there and win him the blinds, antes and the $25k from Salomon.

Violating Unwritten Laws

The A-8-8 off-suit flop is as dry as a flop can get. Decarolis finds himself in an archetypal way-ahead-or-way-behind situation.

He’s hidden the strength of his hand successfully pre-flop and he continues correctly with a check. A-K is pretty much the perfect hand on this board to milk a lot of bluffs but it’s not suited to get a lot of money from worse hands.

But that’s exactly what he’s trying to do with his check-raise to $75,000. This move violates several unwritten laws of poker at the same time.

Screen shot 2016 02 26 at 3.06.41 PM
Time to pack it up.

Which hand that’s worse than his can call him here? And why would he drive away all the bluffs?

Everything he’s built up with his tricky pre-flop flat call he’s now tearing down again. And what might be even worse is that he’s building a huge pot now -- way too big for the strength of his hand.

That, as we’ll see, will be his demise.

No Way Out

The mistake on the flop makes it very difficult for Decarolis to continue the hand or get rid of it.

He’s right to switch into check-call mode after Salomon calls his raise, but the pot has grown so big that Salomon can put out two nicely sized bets that give Decarolis 3-1 pot odds each time and put him all-in.

It’s hard to fold in any of the following spots, although Decarolis must know he’s only beating worse and badly played aces and bluffs.

But which bluffs can Salomon even have after he called the raise on the flop?

Considering how much money was going into the middle of the table in this hand, however, Decarolis should, or at least might, have been able to fold on the turn.

What if He Had Just Called the Flop?

Let’s look at how this hand would have played out if Decarolis had only called the flop.

There would have been $104,500 in the pot. Had Salomon bet another half pot there would have been $210,000 in the pot.

Rick Salomon

Decarolis would’ve probably called another bet on the river as this line doesn’t rob Salomon of all his possible bluffs.

Another half-pot bet would have cost Decarolis another $100k and change. All in all he would have lost about $200,000, or half his stack – a lot less than he actually did.

But not only would he have minimized his losses he would also have maintained the chance to get maximum value from all of Salomon’s bluffs.


Here we have another confirmation of one of the basic rules of poker: Don’t raise if a worse hand than yours can’t call or a better hand can’t fold!

Al Decarolis completely ignored this law and it cost him dearly. On the other side of the table, Rick Salomon’s loose-aggressive style pays off to the fullest in this hand.

He hits a well-hidden monster and gets a full payout, thanks to the help of his opponent.

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