Hand of the Week: No Pot Control, No Future in Main Event

Garshofsky: So sick if you have a 2.

In a big poker tournament, despite the level of skill you'll find at virtually every table, a lot can come down to luck.

In this week's Hand of the Week it looks like the losing player just got really unlucky.

A closer look reveals that there was also some careless play involved.

Flop to River

It’s Day 5 of the 2016 WSOP Main Event and we’re at the feature table where both amateurs and professionals are tangling with each other.

We’ll follow the hand from the point of view of Mitch Garshofsky, a regular participant at the WSOP.

The blinds are 30k/60k/10k so there's 180,000 chips up for grabs in every hand. From middle position Valentin Vornicu (6.2 million chips/103 bb), winner of eight WSOP circuit rings, raises to 135,000.

Garshofsky (2 million, 33 bb) is on the button and finds     The blinds fold and we have 450,000 chips in the pot.

The flop falls       Vornicu checks and Garshofsky bets 200,000. Vornicu calls and now there's 850,000 chips in the pot. The remaining effective stacks are about 1.65 million.

The turn is the   Vornicu check-calls Garshofsky’s second barrel of 325,000. The pot grows to 1.5 million and the effective stacks are down to 1.3 million. 

The river is the   Vornicu leads out with 660,000. Garshofsky thinks it through and eventually calls. Vornicu shows     for a rivered wheel and a pot of 2.82 million.

Garshofsky is left with just 600,000 and busts later in 82nd place. Watch the hand below starting at about 19:00.


When Mitch Garshofsky sees the damage he’s right to bemoan his bad luck. But he didn’t play his hand perfectly, as we’ll see in a minute.

Big stack experiment.

Valentin Vornicu has a mediocre hand for a raise in third position. A-2o is a hand that’s very often dominated and also you almost never have position post-flop.

But Vornicu is one of the big stacks at the table so he can afford to experiment. Garshofsky knows this, of course, and ATo on the button is a hand that plays well against the raiser’s range.

To keep the pot small, a call in position is the correct move for Garshofsky.

No Draws

Both players hit top pair on the flop, but more important is that there are almost no draws.

This is what you call a dry flop and on a dry flop the player ahead is usually still ahead on the river. On a board with a lot of draws it’s much more likely that the winner changes across the streets.

Vornicu deals nicely with the situation. There’s no reason to lead out as his opponent can hardly call with a worse hand than his. And even if he does he’s not going to pay three streets.

dry Flop2

Vornicu is trying to get to showdown cheap while simultaneously inducing a bluff. 

When Vornicu checks, Garshofsky assumes he has the best hand. He bets out to either build the pot or simply take it down.

He could also have checked in this spot because what applies to Vornicu above also applies to Garshofsky.

Missed Check on the Turn

The turn looks like a total blank. Vornicu checks and Garshofsky quickly follows up with another bet. 


He probably should have resisted it as it’s not very convincing for several reasons.

1) Garshofsky’s hand isn’t very big. The rule here is small hand, small pot.

2) Which hand can Vornicu possibly call another two bets with? He’ll fold all his kings and other pairs and there aren’t many weaker aces that can call.

3) Weak hands that might fold the turn possibly call another small bet on the river.

Had he not turned a draw Vornicu might even have folded here because it’s highly unlikely that his opponent is bluffing. But now he decides to take a look at the river.

Fatal River

Indeed the river is Vornicu’s dream three and as Garshofsky has shown a lot of strength with two bets he thinks he can lead out and get called.

Garshofsky gets good pot odds of 3.3-1 and he doesn’t have to risk his tournament life with a call, but he still should fold there.


A bluff from Vornicu seems very unlikely and, although there are only a few hands that have improved significantly on the river, Garshofsky can’t really beat anything anymore.

It’s possible for Vornicu to slow-play A-K, A-Q or A-J and thus have a better kicker. Maybe he thinks that Garshofsky doesn’t have anything anyway and was just bluffing.

The problem for Garshofsky is that it’s very difficult to put Vornicu on a hand as his monster is well hidden. Hence, his mistake in calling is not as big as the one on the turn.

It becomes clear now why it was a mistake to blow up the pot on the turn. It’s not because Garshofsky got unlucky; it’s because losing the hand now also means losing a lot of chips.

Due to his straightforward play Garshofsky loses more than two-thirds of his stack and is left with 10 bb. 

2016 WSOP Valentin Vornicu3

Had he checked the turn his losses would have been about 10 to 12 big blinds or 600,000-700,000 chips.

A lot less, anyway – which would have left him with a decent stack.


Mitch Garshofsky wants too much with his mediocre hand and gets unlucky and punished on the river.

Valentin Vornicu doesn’t only get lucky on the river, he benefits because Garshofsky couldn't resist inflating the pot up on the turn.

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