Hand of the Week: Main Event Villain Curtis Rystadt Doesn't See It Coming

The WSOP main event is now airing on ESPN and, as usual, one amateur has taken the early spotlight.

Also as usual, it's somebody who drives the other players at his table nuts.

Curtis Rystadt comes from Portland, Oregon, and for some reason he decided to pick on pro Kyle Keranen over the course of Day 5.

There were several interesting battles between the two players that culminated in this hand that finally closed Rystadt's mouth for good.

Let's look at the hand from Rystadt’s point of view.

You Win

There are exactly 100 players left and blinds are 15k/30k/5k. Rystadt and Keranen both hold around 2m chips and thus are sufficiently deep.

The amateur sits in the big blind and gets

   

Everybody folds to Keranen on the button who raises to 100k. German player Marc Tschirch folds his small blind and Rystadt calls. The flop is

     

Rystadt checks his top pair to the raiser. He carries on with a continuation bet of 80k. Rystadt calls and the turn is the

 

There are 420k chips in the pot. Rystadt checks again and Keranen bets 180k. Now Rystadt raises it up to 400k but Keranen sticks with him and makes the call. Both players have around 1.5 million left and the pot is now 1.22 million. The river:

 

Rystadt rivers a second pair and bets 400k in first position. Keranen thinks about it for a while before finally announcing he's all-in.

Rystadt looks veritably shocked. He ponders for a while about the A and some hollywooding before he eventually calls and sees Keranen’s

   

Rystadt busts in 100th place.

Analysis

On Day 5 of the most important poker tournament of the year, this is some standard action at first. Everyone folds to the button, who then opens with a more than 3x raise -- which seems a little high.

Maybe it was his personal feud with Rystadt that made Keranen play like that, because his hand is pretty strong for a button raise.

Kyle Keranen
Keranen flops the world.

As expected Rystadt doesn’t shy away and calls. This is not a bad play, however, as Keranen’s range on the button is so wide that K 4 might well be the better hand. A fold would be very weak.

The flop is very interesting. Rystadt finds top pair on an all club board with no redraw. He makes a standard move and checks to the raiser.

The aggressor follows up with a c-bet, which Rystadt calls. The turn is a total blank. Rystadt checks again, but then raises Keranen’s bet to 400k.

This is a highly unusual move and it's also a classic beginner’s mistake – he's putting his opponent on one hand (a one-card flush draw) instead of a range.

Also, he ignores that even against that very hand a call would have been the better move as the flush draw has only 20% equity.

In fact, Rystadt didn’t think the hand through. What would he do if Keranen’s pushes all-in at this point? And how is he going to play a blank on the river?

Now Things Get Exciting

Keranen calls, and now things become really exciting. The 4 on the river busts that possible one-card flush draw and also brings Rystadt a second pair.

Suddenly he's in position to beat several of the hands he was behind to before the river – all king-high hands except KQ and K6 – and which might pay him off.

He bets relatively low – only 400k, as he thinks he’s betting for value. It's only a third of the pot, but then things don’t go the way he thought they would.

Keranen pushes all-in and it's fairly obvious that Rystadt didn’t see this coming at all. Let’s look at this a little closer.

curtisrystadt2
Classic rookie mistake gets him in the end.

With Keranen all-in there are 3.1 million chips in the pot. Rystadt needs to pay another 1.1 million to call. He is getting pot odds of almost 3-1.

In general, this is a definite call but this decision is also about Rystadt’s tournament life. If he folds, he still has a million chips which is a decent stack.

Keranen managed to polarize his hand to the maximum. He can basically hold the nuts (at least a flush) or nothing, as a set or a straight with 53 would be nothing more than a bluff catcher at this point.

This makes it particularly difficult for Rystadt to fold because a hand like A-X for Keranen is definitely possible. Rystadt talks himself into a call and out of the tournament.

Apart from the call, his major mistake was the ill-timed check-raise on the turn, because he 1) unnecessarily turned his hand into a bluff and 2) built up a big pot with a hand that was only good for a small one.

If you want to watch this spectacular hand, it starts here around minute 16:


Conclusion

The private duel between Keranen and Rystadt comes to a spectacular end.

The professional flops the world and the amateur completely overplays his hand.

Rystadt loses control and turns his hand into a bluff at the worst possible moment.

The pro makes him pay for this mistake with his tournament life.

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