Hand of the Week: Cantarella Gets Brave, Hits the Wall with 7-2

Martin Kabrhel
Aces pay (this time) for Martin Kabrhel

This week our featured hand is from a cash game involving, among others, Liv Boeree, Igor Kurganov, Max Altergott and Leon Tsoukernik.

The pots are getting big and our hero tries to win with the worst hand at all costs.

Flop to River

The game is €25/€50 No-Limit Hold'em but in our specific hand there's also a €100 straddle.

It starts with Liv Boeree folding under the gun.

UTG+1 Franco “Il Presidente” Cantarella (stack size €28,000) raises to €600 with    

Scott Hanna calls from the hijack. So does Martin Kabrhel on the button and Leon Tsoukernik from the big blind.

The pot is now €2,525 and the flop falls      

Tsourkernik checks and Cantarella bets €2,300. This causes Hanna to fold but Kabrhel to call.

Tsoukernik folds his big blind. There's now €7,125 in the pot with two players left in the hand. The turn is the  

Cantarella bets again, now €5000, and asks how much Kabrhel has behind. Kabrhel calls.

There's now €17,125 in the pot and the river is the  

Cantarella pushes all-in with €20,500, slightly over-betting the pot. Kabrhel gives it some thought but eventually calls with    

Kabrhel wins with a pair of aces against a pair of sevens and takes down an almost €60,000 pot. Watch the hand (starts around 43m) on video below:


It turns out “Il Presidente” actually tried to make the best starting hand in NLHE fold with the worst starting hand.

An audacious attempt, indeed, but also very interesting. Pre-flop Cantarella makes a very loose raise with 7 2.

He gets called in three positions, among them Martin Kabrhel, who obviously could re-raise from the button but probably speculated on someone in the blinds doing the work for him.

Nobody does, though, so they go to the flop with four players. Here Cantarella gets a very good chance to semi-bluff.

Holding a flush draw now a bet goes without saying, otherwise he shouldn’t have played this hand in the first place.

Screen shot 2015 04 12 at 7.57.20 PM

Already a Tricky Board

Of course Kabrhel isn't going anywhere with his pocket aces, although this is already a tricky board for his hand.

Again Kabrhel could put in a raise here but Tsoukernik is still sitting behind him and he could already be beat.

Turns out that Tsoukernik folds and Cantarella has managed to cut the field in half for the benefit of Kabrhel, so things get a lot easier from here.

The turn card is a good one for Cantarella because it gives him additional equity. All diamonds, sevens and deuces would give him the best hand now so he semi-bluffs a second time.

His betting size is already perfectly designed for an all-in on the river. For Kabrhel the board looks even worse now as there are now plenty of hands that have him beat.

On the other hand there are now a lot of possible draws, which makes it more likely for him to still be ahead.

He makes the correct decision and calls again.

Aces Rarely Improve

The 4 on the river isn’t good for Cantarella at all. He didn’t hit any of his outs. Even worse the card is a total blank as it would only improve a very unlikely pair of fours.

So, Cantarella’s chances of scaring Martin out of the pot are a lot worse than they would have been with a 4 or a J, for example.

It's a brave move to turn his pair of sevens into a bluff in this spot as it would almost never be the best hand (except against flush draws that didn’t come in).

But he only needs to win 50% of the time to make it a profitable move.

Screen shot 2015 04 12 at 8.00.00 PM

From Kabrhel’s point of view the river is a good card, but of course he can already be beat by sets or two pairs.

This situation shows very well the typical problems you can run into with the best possible starting hand:

It rarely improves on the board and its relative strength diminishes from street to street.

Yet, Kabrhel followed his plan to call Franco down all the way to 5th street and, as none of the draws have busted, his decision to call the river is logical .

He wins a 60k pot.


Franco Cantarella’s brave play wasn’t rewarded in this hand but it shows how to play No-Limit Hold’em successfully.

You either show the best hand or you make your opponent fold.

Kabrhel undermined Cantarella’s plan with a nearly painless call on the river, but who knows what would have happened with a different river card?

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