Hand of the Week: Panka Sniffs Out Senft's Sneaky Value Bet

Dominik Panka

Here's another example of what separates the pros from the amateurs.

Our protagonist is Polish shooting star Dominik Panka, who emerged from nowhere at the 2014 PCA to win the main event and $1.4m.

This hand is from a different tournament but the level of play is similarly world-class.

Here Panka sniffs out the value bet of Austrian Maximilian Senft at EPT Barcelona 2014.

Flop to River

We’re already in the money. Blinds are at 4000/8000/1000 and players are positioning themselves to get a share of the big money.

Panka (stack: 428,000; 53.5 bb) raises from middle position to 16,000 with    

Senft (stack: 826,000; 103 bb) calls from the button. The blinds fold.

There's 52,000 in the pot. The flop falls      

Panka checks. Senft bets 22,000 and Panka calls.

There's 96,000 in the pot and they go to the turn  

Panka checks again. Senft bets 44,000 and gets another call. The pot grows to 184,000 chips. River is  

A third check from Panka. Senft fires 55,000 and Panka gets rid of his hand after only a little contemplation.

Rewatch the hand here from 27:30:


Let’s go through this hand step-by-step to find out why Panka did exactly what he did.

Raising from middle position with Q9o is very loose but also typical for a player of his caliber. The bubble has burst and he plays a wide range to accumulate chips.

Maximilian Senft
Max Senft.

Senft’s call on the button represents a good hand, but not necessarily a strong hand. It’s a common spot to call in position with a hand that plays well against several opponents.

Things become interesting on the flop. Panka hits top pair but there aren’t many hands worse than his that he can win money from.

Hands like nines or eights might call one bet but probably not two or three. So a check is the logical move for Panka.

His hand is mediocre but has showdown value. Panka wants to control the pot without making it unnecessarily big.

Senft decides to bet half the pot. This could mean he has a good hand but it can also be an attempt to buy the pot with a hopeless hand.

There aren't many hands that sound realistic and that Panka can still beat – AA, KK, QQ, AQ, KQ, QJ, QT, 55, 54, 44 are all better hands than his – so calling is correct and sticking to the match plan.

History Repeats Itself

History repeats itself on the turn. The 2 doesn’t change much. Panka has no reason to bet because there are still hardly any worse hands that will pay him off.

There is, however, still a chance that his opponent bluffs. So when he gets 3.2-1 pot odds, Panka opts for another call.

They've now made it to the river. Panka continues with a last check and now Senft bets a third time. This time he’s giving the Polish even better pot odds than before.

Dominik Panka
No crying call here.

4.3 to 1 pot odds are an invitation that's tough to refuse. Also, check-calling was apparently Panka’s strategy in this hand. So why would he fold now?

First, he can’t think of a hand in Senft’s range that he can beat except a total bluff. Then he’s asking himself why his opponent is so generously inviting him to call.

Panka wonders what range Senft is giving him. There are certainly middle pairs like JJ, TT, 99 and 88 in it – hands that try to control the pot and want to reach showdown against just one over card.

On the other hand Senft doesn’t really add hands to Panka’s range that are better than his own. AQ, KK and AA would most certainly have bet the flop. KQ is pretty much the only hand that makes sense and beats Senft.

So, Senft is betting for value. He sizes his bet so it looks like it really wants to be called.

Amateurs would usually shrug and call in this spot, or maybe even cry and call. But a top player like Panka manages to find a fold.


Dominik Panka plays a marginal hand with top pair perfectly. He controls the pot and eventually finds a strong fold.

As a loose-aggressive player (LAG), you must be able to make folds like this as you’re often getting yourself into exactly that kind of tricky situation.

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