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Hand of the Week: Josephy’s Fateful Flopped Set of 2s
The most spectacular hand of the 2016 WSOP November Nine was the unlucky set-up that cost Cliff Josephy his chance to go all the way.
Down to just three players left and $8m on the table for first, Josephy ran a flopped set into a higher set and busted soon after.
The question we’re asking ourselves today is, did he just get unlucky? Or did he have a chance to fold?
Flop to River
It's the very last day of the 2016 WSOP Main Event. Just three players are left and the chip stacks are not too different from each other.
They're about to play Hand 171 of the final table with blinds at 600,000/1,200,000/200,000.
Cliff Josephy – 102.7 million (85bb)
Gordon Vayo – 92.9 million (77bb)
Qui Nguyen – 141 million (117.5bb)
Even Vayo with the shortest stack is still very deep and has lots of room for moves. Josephy is on the button/UTG and finds
He raises to 2.5 million. Vayo calls but Nguyen re-raises to 7.7 million. Both Josephy and Vayo call so we already have 23.7 million chips in the pot. Effective stacks are at 75.1 million and the flop falls
Vayo checks. Nguyen bets 9.9 million and again both players call. This brings the pot up to 53.4 million chips. Effective stacks are at 86 million chips. The turn is the
Vayo checks. Nguyen checks and now Josephy leads out with a bet of 21 million. Vayo thinks about it for a while and then moves all-in for 75.1 million.
Nguyen folds and the pot is now at 149.5 million chips, which means Josephy has to pay 54 million out of his remaining 64 million chips to call. He eventually decides to and sees that Vayo has hit a higher set with his FYI, Nguyen held
Josephy did find a double-up after this but he didn’t really recover and busted in third place. Vayo suddenly jumped into the chiplead but couldn’t follow up on it and eventually bowed out to Qui Nguyen. A spectacular hand that you can re-watch in the video below.
According to Dan Harrington, you’ve made a mistake if you don’t manage to get all your chips in the middle with a flopped set.
Commentators Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth both disagreed with this statement and claimed that Josephy had to find a fold.
Let’s have a second look at the hand and see if we can agree with them.
Josephy raises pre-flop from the button which is a textbook move. After Vayo calls Nguyen raises with his strong Broadway hand – again, a standard move.
Nguyen is out of position but he often has the best hand.
Holding a pocket pair you’ll mathematically hit a set one in eight times. As you don’t always get a full payout there's a rule of thumb that says you should have at least 10x the chips you need to call to justify that call.
Josephy (and Vayo) easily have enough chips – Cliff has to pay 5.2 million with about 100 million behind so the implied odds are huge.
A Dry Monster Flop
Josephy couldn’t have found a better flop. He hits the set he was looking for, the board is rainbow and there's a king that could have hit either of his opponents as they both have kings in their range.
Vayo checks in first position and Nguyen continuation-bets to represent the king. Josephy calls.
Certainly, that’s the correct move for Josephy. He has to think he has the best hand and he doesn’t want to drive away any worse hand.
He’s also in position so he can make sure chips will go into the pot in every betting round.
Behind Josephy, Vayo overcalls from the small blind which speaks for a pretty strong hand. To overcall you need a better hand than for a call so we’d expect him to have at least a strong king (K-T, K-J, K-Q).
The Truth is On the Turn
The turn is the 4♦. It doesn’t look like it changes much but it’s still a little inconvenient because an ace or a third diamond could turn the whole hand upside down.
Vayo checks again and Nguyen slams on the brakes correctly as both his opponents have shown a lot of strength. Josephy bets his set to get chips from a king and because he usually has the best hand in this situation.
Vayo takes about two minutes and then moves all-in for over 74 million. Nguyen gives up quickly and Josephy shows signs of feeling insecure. He still makes a relatively quick call.
Josephy really has to ask himself there what Vayo could possibly be playing like that.
We can rule out A-K and K-K because of the pre-flop action. Vayo called Josephy’s raise and then called Nguyen’s raise, too, so 3-3 is immediately on the top of the list.
On the flop Vayo overcalls after a bet and a call, and on the turn he check-raises all-in. Now 3-3 is really the only plausible value hand.
A player as tight as him would never play K-Q or K-J like that. He would just call. On top of that the K♦ is on the board so a semi-bluff worthy hand like top pair with flush draw isn’t possible.
So, the only alternative to 3-3 is a bluff. There are bluffs in every range, even in the range of the tight Vayo. And of course it’s possible that Vayo could use his image exactly in a spot like this to use his image for a monster bluff.
But he still needs to have a reasonable hand to make it to this point. Thing is, there is none.
Vayo can’t be bluffing because of his play on the flop when he overcalled and represented at least a king while he still has Nguyen to act behind him. It's simply impossible that a player like him can pull off such a giant bluff against two players the way this hand went down.
Yes, Cliff Josephy should have been able to find a fold in this hand and saved 54 million chips – half his stack.
Admittedly, this is a very rare incident if you have a set.
The former chipleader just couldn’t let go although the video shows that he did actually realize what his opponent’s hand was.
Once more Gordon Vayo finds the perfect spot. With the luck he had, he should probably be our world champion right now.