Hand of the Week: Galen Hall Finds World-Class Way Out on River

GalenHallUSA2
2011 PCA champ Galen Hall

This week we’re revisiting another great fold.

This is a much revered hand in poker history and if you've yet to come across it you're in for a treat.

In the heads-up of the 2011 PCA main event Galen Hall hits his straight on the river but then something happens that makes him think.

How Hall found a way out of this difficult situation is a true sign of a world-class poker player.

Flop to River

It’s the year 2011 and the PCA is coming to a close. The last two players are fighting for the main event title. They are Galen Hall and Chris Oliver.

Both have $1.8 million already locked up but they’re of course both looking for the title – and another half a million dollars. Oliver has a massive chip lead. With 33.9 million chips he holds almost three times as many as his opponent.

Hall has 12.6 million chips in front of him but the blinds have reached 100k/200k/20k and he’s under constant pressure. On the button Hall finds    

He raises to 450,000. Oliver calls from the big blind and there are now 940,000 chips in the pot. The flop is      

Oliver checks and Hall bets 575,000. Call from Oliver, 2.09 million chips in the middle. The turn is the   The action goes check-check. The pot is still 2.09 million. The river is the  

Oliver checks again and now Hall bets 2 million. Oliver thinks about it for half a minute and then moves all-in. This brings the pot up to an effective 15.6 million chips. Hall has to call all-in with his last 9.5 million if he wants to see Oliver’s hand.

After several minutes of pondering Hall decides to fold his hand and give Oliver the pot. As it turned out Oliver was holding A 2 for a full house. He won this pot and held 79% of the chips but this was still a blow to his self-esteem and, in the end, it was Hall who won the tournament.

Watch the hand again in the video below:

Analysis

In a very difficult situation where his tournament life was on the line Hall finds a fold you don’t see every day. Let’s look closer at what happened.

Chris Oliver
Bet sizing Oliver's demise.

Pre-flop Hall raises with a very weak hand. Building a pot with 8 4 is very loose, and let’s say a little questionable. Oliver has an ace and comes along. The flop is shaping up in a way that both players sort of hit it.

Oliver has hit bottom pair and a gut shot and checks. Hall is now open-ended and follows up with a c-bet. Oliver makes the call and the turn gives him trips, which is almost certainly the best hand (in case he didn’t have that already on the flop).

This time Hall checks back for pot control and to take the free river card. He intends to bluff at it again if the river is a good card for it.

Perfect Card for Both Players

The river is the perfect card for both players. Oliver has a perfectly hidden full house and he checks to his opponent again.

Hall has finally hit his straight. Thinking over the betting line he assumes that his opponent has a good hand and will pay a big bet on the river.

With two million chips he bets almost pot size, expecting to get paid. However his opponent doesn’t act the way Hall expects him to. He doesn’t call but moves all-in.

Oliver has now polarized his range. There is absolutely no possible hand between total air and a very strong hand that would him allow to make this move.

The pot odds are not very good for Hall – roughly 1.6 to 1 – as Oliver bets 12 million onto a pot of only four million.

Hall’s tournament life is now on the line and somehow he doesn’t suspect his opponent to bluff.

A check-raise all-in is one of the strongest moves there is in poker and there are actually a couple of hands Oliver would play like this.

Galen Hall
Instincts pay off.

In retrospect Oliver should have opted for a smaller raise. Had he for example raised to six million Hall would have had 2.5 to 1 pot odds and it would have been much harder for him to fold.

But the way it was he managed to get rid of his straight and then went on to win the whole thing.

Conclusion

In what was maybe the most critical spot of the tournament Galen Hall responds correctly to an over-the-top move of his opponent.

Oliver tries everything he can to make his push look like a bluff, but with no success.

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