Hand of the Week: Kurganov Runs a Monster Into the New Nuts


Thanks to the Global Poker League, we get to watch top-class poker every week now.

The heads-up matches are particularly exciting – albeit sometimes very short.

When the best players in the world clash you can often see fascinating differences and/or similarities in their playing styles.

But what happened a couple of days ago during the heads-up match between Igor Kurganov of the London Royals and George Danzer of the Paris Aviators didn’t take long enough to discern any of these. If you blinked, you missed it.

Flop to River

We’re in Week 3 of the GPL 2016 and it’s the first of three heads-up games between the two German-speaking players.

They haven’t played each other in the GPL before but of course they’ve known each other for years. In the very first hand of their match both players have 50,000 in chips and the blinds are 200/400/40.

Kurganov is in the big blind with     Danzer raises from the button to 1,000 and Kurganov re-raises to 3,600. Danzer calls and the pot is 7,280 chips. The players hold 46,360 chips each.

The flop is       Kurganov leads with a bet of 1,890, which Danzer calls. There's 11,060 in the pot and both players have 44,450 left. The turn is the  

Kurganov bets 6,800; Danzer raises to 15,730 and Kurganov calls. There's 42,520 in the pot and both players have 28,740 left. 

The river is the   Kurganov checks, Danzer moves all-in and Kurganov calls. 

Danzer shows     and busts Kurganov in the first hand of play! Watch the hand at 27:00 in the video.


Of course you always look a little silly if you lose all your chips in the first hand. But let’s see if Kurganov had any chance of avoiding this fate.

George Danzer3
No reason to give up.

Nothing unusual happens pre-flop. Danzer raises the button with a decent hand and Kurganov tries to build the pot with the best possible starting hand.

Despite the re-raise Danzer has no reason to give up his hand. It plays well in position, it has good pot odds, and Kurganov’s re-raising range has a lot of hands in it like A-4, 66 or K-Q.

On the flop Kurganov is almost unhappy about flopping top set because he expects to get no value out of this hand whatsoever. Yet, he c-bets the nuts, because he would do that with all his hands.

If Kurganov were to check his monsters, Danzer could find out and adapt accordingly. Danzer only has a gut shot but Kurganov’s bet is so small – because he wants weaker hands to stay – that he gets the correct pot odds and implied odds to make the call.

Let’s take a quick look at the numbers. The exact pot odds are 4.85 to 1, which aren't quite enough to justify a call with 14% equity (meaning you have to win one in seven times).

But there are also the implied odds (future winnings) that he has to take into account and they make it worth continuing.

The Only Way to Make Money

Indeed Danzer hits the queen on the turn right away and fills up his straight. Kurganov bets bigger now, as his opponent called the first bet, because it’s the only way to make money with his monster hand.

Best case KQ

He’s also hoping that his opponent improved with the queen. Best-case scenario for Kurganov would be the K-Q in Danzer’s hand.

Danzer on the other side of the table also tries to maximize his winnings.

He thinks that if Kurganov has nothing he’ll fold to a raise, and he probably wouldn’t invest any more chips on the river either.

Thus, he decides to raise to enable himself to win Kurganov’s whole stack. Math confirms his play.

If Danzer only calls, the pot will be 24,000 chips with 37,670 stacks still in front of the players.

That means Danzer can only stack Kurganov by getting him to call a big overbet. In this special instance, Kurganov would have obviously called anyway because his hand is so strong, but Danzer has to consider all of Kurganov’s range, of course.

After a raise and call on the turn, however, Kurganov is going to lose his stack as the pot odds are irresistible on the river.

Was a Fold Possible at Any Time?

Having watched this one-hand match, the question is, 'was there any way to not go bust in this spot?'

Igor Kurganov
Fold ever possible here?

Anyone who thinks Kurganov should have folded here should please consider that there are exactly two hands that beat him on the river – J-T and 5-3.

Both these hands – except maybe 5 3 – are rather unlikely. And they also only make up a small part of Danzer’s range.

This range covers a couple of bluffs, naturally, but also strong hands like K-Q, 4-4, A-Q, A-K, and even K-K and Q-Q, which all lose to Kurganov’s aces.

You can’t put your opponent on one specific hand. You can only put him on a range, and a set of aces plays very well against this range.


In a spectacular turn of events, Kurganov hits the nuts on the flop and gets outdrawn by the new nuts on the turn.

Best hand, top set, Kurganov can’t even see it coming. He runs a monster into the only plausible hand that beats his.

However, his play leaves nothing to be criticized.

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