Hand of the Week: Igor Kurganov Makes Fold of the Year

Igor Kurganov
Igor Kurganov

It’s great winning a big pot in poker, but sometimes the hands where you simply don’t lose as much as you could have are even more interesting.

Today we’re going to take a look at a hand from a $100,000 buy-in Super High Roller tournament that climaxes in a very unusual manner.

In the end, Germany's Igor Kurganov makes a surprising decision that surely deserves a closer look.

Flop to River

So we’re at the $100,000 buy-in Super High Roller event at the PCA in the Bahamas. It’s Day 1 of the event and it’s folded around to Kurganov in the small blind.

He completes the small blind and then the big blind, Sorel Mizzi, raises it to 13,000. Kurganov calls and there are 29,000 chips in the pot.

Kurganov started the hand with 383,000 chips while Mizzi had 379,000. Now to the flop      

Both players check and the turn is the  

Kurganov checks again and now Mizzi leads out with 17,500. Kurganov calls and there's now 64,000 chips in the pot. The river is the  

Kurganov checks, Mizzi bets 40,000, Kurganov check-raises to 155,000 and Mizzi pushes all-in with 350,000. Kurganov open-folds    

The second nuts!


It really is an incredible fold and we’re obviously going to take a closer look at it. What could possibly make Kurganov fold the second nuts?

Let’s go through the hand again and watch the different moves to put Mizzi on a range.

Sorel Mizzi
Sorel Mizzi

Kurganov finds K 2 and just completes, then calls the raise from Mizzi in the big blind.

The Q 5 3 flop is checked around but on the turn Kurganov check-calls a bet with third pair and the second-nut-flush draw.

The board completes a runner-runner flush draw. Kurganov plays a check-raise and then folds to an all-in.

One of Two Possible Hands

Going through the hand it becomes fairly obvious that Sorel Mizzi, who is a world class top player, can only have one of two possible hands.

Either he holds the nuts with Ahxh or he holds the A with a different card but knows his opponent can’t have the nuts as he has the ace blocker.

This fits his play perfectly. Pre-flop Mizzi raises, which he would do with an ace in his hand and playing in position.

A-Q is very unlikely because he would have bet that on the flop but all other hands with an ace are still in his range.

Now there is this interesting bet on the turn. This makes his hand look like A4o or A5o, but there is also the possibility of a flush draw with Ahxh, which would be perfect for a semi-bluff, as Kurganov has shown no strength whatsoever.

The Nuts and the Nuts Only

When the flush hits on the river Mizzi will definitely bet again if he has it. He also would with A4o, but probably not anymore with A5o because this hand has showdown value.

Igor Kurganov

With the all-in push Mizzi is representing the nuts and the nuts only. According to our analysis, he might very well have it.

Kurganov gets 3-1 pot odds on the call, which means he’s got to be right in 30 percent of the cases.

Mizzi’s possible nuts hands are A T, A 9, A 8. A 7, A 6 and A 4. That’s six different hands.

Now the crucial question is: which and how many hands would Mizzi bluff with? If Kurganov adds hands like A K or A T to Mizzi’s range a call would be correct but it’s hard to say if Mizzi would really take the risk even though he knows Kurganov can’t have the nuts.

At the end of the day, Kurganov decided to lay it down spectacularly — partly because he also showed a lot of strength when he check-raised the river.

By the way, Sorel Mizzi didn’t disclose what hand he had. He only made a sibylline comment that he’d been playing a lot of Omaha lately where the naked ace as a blocker is of essential importance!


After not too much tanking Kurganov makes a sensational fold when his opponent is unmistakably representing the nuts.

Mizzi didn’t tell anyone what he had but it could only have been the nuts or a very elaborate bluff.

No matter what Mizzi had, Kurganov’s fold is exceptional and world-class poker.

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Colin 2015-03-27 12:36:05

Wow that's an incredible fold. Feels like a spot where most players would just make the call and say, "If I'm beat then so be it!" What is the point of open-folding like that though? Seems like he's telling the rest of the table he's bluffable if he doesn't have the nuts?

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