Hand of the Week: Epic Call Leaves Dunst Cast Away on Hero Island


It’s a common phenomenon in poker that ranges become highly polarized on the river.

If a player moves all-in, it usually means (s)he’s either very strong or very weak.

In the final hand of the Aussie Millions Main Event Tony Dunst thought he caught Ari Engel bluffing.

Unfortunately for him, the move didn't pay off and cost him $600,000.

Flop to the River

It’s heads-up in the Aussie Millions Main Event 2016 between Ari Engel and Tony Dunst. Both players have $1m AUD locked up but the winner earns another AU$600,000 plus the honor and glory of a coveted title.

Blinds are 80k/160k. Dunst is on the button with 9.4m in chips (59 bb) and    

He raises to 325,000. Engel is the big blind with 12m chips (75 bb). His hand is    

He re-raises to 925,000. The pot is now 1.85 million and the flop falls      

Engel bets another 825,000 and gets a quick call from Dunst. There's now 3.5m chips in the pot. The turn is the  

Engel leads out with a bet of 1.7 million which Dunst calls again rather quickly. There's 6.9m chips in the pot with the remaining effective stacks about 6m.

The river is the   Now Engel moves all-in. Dunst takes almost two minutes and eventually makes the call. Engel wins the pot and the main event of the Aussie Millions. Watch the hand again here:


Was this a plausible hero-call or did Dunst take too much of a risk with a marginal hand? That’s the question we’ll now try to answer.

Tony Dunst
Starts off strong.

Let’s start at the beginning. Pre-flop Dunst raises with a hand that’s way above average. A4s is a strong hand heads-up as an ace is often good enough to win the hand at showdown.

Engel is the chipleader. He tries to make a move with J7o. It’s a weak hand – in the bottom 50% of the total range – and he could also just have called with it.

Instead the Canadian decides to go for a steal. Folding the J7o to the raise was certainly not an option for Engel, as this would have been too weak of a play given the pot odds and the heads-up situation.

Engel Hits

The problem with Engel’s move soon becomes glaringly obvious. Dunst calls and can now continue the hand in position against a range that includes all the possible bluff hands.

It follows that Engel’s flop bet doesn’t really mean anything. That board usually doesn’t help him and if he isn’t holding a pair or a ten, Dunst still has the best hand.

His call on the flop almost goes without saying.

The turn is a small miracle for Engel. After missing the flop completely he would probably have given up the hand if the turn wouldn’t hit him -- or if it wasn’t a high card, a high card he could represent.

Ari Engel 2
Goes from bluffing to top pair.

But with the turn being a jack Engel suddenly goes from bluffing to playing top pair. Even more important than that was how well concealed Engel’s hand is now.

It’s impossible for Dunst to tell that this card has helped his opponent. Yet, he’s very quick to call.

Engel’s Brilliant All-In

Dunst has now invested more than a third of his stack and is going to get almost irresistible pot odds of 2-1 on the river.

Of course he has to ask himself at this point whether he wants to pay another bet on fifth street. He still also has the option to fold and play on with 6m chips -- still enough to stay in the competition.

The nine on the river is almost always a blank as it’s extremely unlikely that someone here holds KQ or a hand that has a nine in it and also hit a pair on the board.

Ari Engel
Brilliant move from Engel.

Engel thinks about it only for a short while and then moves all-in. His hand with top pair and a bad kicker isn’t even that strong, but the move is still a very strong one.

From how the hand went down, it looks like Dunst has a ten or maybe a pocket pair he can call with. Engel’s hand, on the other hand, is very well hidden.

When Engel’s chips get pushed into the middle of the table his range is highly polarized. And his actual hand is at the bottom of that range.

That’s exactly why this move is so strong. Dunst knows that his opponent either is very strong – holding AA, KK, QQ, AJ, or a set – or has absolutely nothing.

For example Engel wouldn’t play KT or 99 like this as he would turn his hand into a bluff.

Dunst Busts in Style

Every poker player knows how difficult it is to detect when an opponent hits the turn. And that the best concealed hand is a set on the turn.

Dunst is no exception here. Engel doesn’t have that set but the situation is similar and that makes his all-in such a strong move.

Dunst did have a choice. He could have folded and carried on with the next hand. But if his call is successful he would have made a big step towards victory.

It turns out that he risked his tournament life with fourth pair and failed. But that doesn’t mean he made a bad call at all.

Tony Dunst
Goes out in style.


Ari Engel gets a lucky hit on the turn and makes his hand look like a bluff.

With a successful hero-call Dunst would have been almost certain to win the tournament -- and probably would have become a legend.

His opponent, however, held one of the few hands that beat him on that board.

Regardless of the outcome it's a hand that truly shows the beauty of the game.

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