Hand of the Week: Thomas Flinches; Obst Shows How It's Done


The play down of the WSOP Main Event on ESPN is upon us.

It’s not just the most important poker tournament in the world -- it’s also the one with the most extensive coverage on television worldwide.

While the road winds down to the November Nine over the next two months we’ve picked out an early hand that has a whole range of interesting elements.

Even so, it turned out to be an incomplete tease in the end.

Flop to River

It’s Day 4 of the World Series of Poker Main Event, which is great for everyone still around as they’re all in the money.

However the pay jumps are still pretty small, so many players take bigger risks to build a stack now and try to go all the way.

Here we're at blinds of 10k/20k/3k and American Tom Thomas (stack: 677,000) raises it up 45k with    

It’s folded to chipleader James Obst. The Australian has 3.5 million chips and calls in the big blind. The pot is now 127k chips and the flop falls      

Obst checks to the raiser who c-bets 60k. Obst calls and there's 247k in the pot. On to the turn   Obst takes over the lead with a bet of 60k, but Thomas raises to 200k.

Obst calls and now we have 627k in the pot. As Thomas only has 372k behind, that is the effective stack. The river is the  

Both players check the river and Obst shows    

The chipleader takes in another pot while Thomas is left with 372k, just 18.5 bb. Watch the hand play out in the video below (hand begins at minute 55).


Tom Thomas is an experienced amateur but here he gets involved with one of Australia’s best players who shows him how the pros do it.


Thomas opens the hand with a rather loose raise. K-Qo from UTG+1 is a rather weak hand that will often be dominated if called.

On the other hand, Thomas has 34 big blinds. He wants action to accumulate chips so his move makes some sense.

He almost gets his raise through but the chipleader holds tens, which he’ll never fold in this spot.

Take into account that Obst’s range is very wide. He gets 4-1 pot odds so there are many hands he can call with.

Thomas’ range on the other hand is a lot smaller. It has mostly high pairs and Broadway cards in it.

A Dry Flop

The flop is 9 6 3. It’s pretty dry, although there are a few possible draws.

But it misses most of Thomas’s range except for hands like A K and A Q. Also, he could have an overpair.

For Obst things are entirely different. His range is wider so it’s much more likely he has hit something.

Yet, Thomas is correct to c-bet the flop. His story is one about an overpair and he continues to tell it. The overpair from early position wants to win a couple of extra chips.

But Obst has an overpair himself and he doesn’t want to give it up. His call is the perfect move as a raise would make all weaker hands except A-Ks and A-Qs fold and would only keep higher pairs than his in.

Smart Move on Turn

The 6 on the turn doesn’t look like it could have helped either player and Obst takes the lead with a small donk bet.

Clever move on turn.

He bets 75k into a pot of 247k, thus denying any hand with over-cards a free card and giving his opponents the wrong pot odds for a call.

Thomas might get 4.3-1 pot odds but his odds to win the hand are 6.6 to 1. But the experienced amateur has a couple of tricks up his sleeve, too.

He raises it to 200k, sticking to his story that he has a big pair and his remaining chips are going into the middle on the river.

But now it’s almost impossible for Obst to fold. With a call he can beat all the bluffs but he knows he might face an all-in on the river because that’s what his opponent is preparing.

No Go on River

By the time we get to the river Obst’s range is pretty clear. He can have a spade draw, some monster hands with a 6 in them, or he has a 9 with some form of connector, sevens, eights, or tens.

James Obst IMG 9273
Almost turned it into Nov. 9.

If he had pocket nines he would probably not have led the turn. All in all, this is a strong range and with a jack on the river, that would only help Thomas if he had A-J.

The amateur now has to ask himself if there’s a realistic chance he can make Obst fold. There's 647k in the pot and Thomas has 372k behind.

If he pushes all-in Obst has to pay 372k to win 1.19 million, which corresponds to 3.2-1 pot odds.

These are good pot odds. Another factor to consider is that should Obst make a wrong call and lose he still sits behind a stack of 2.8 million, so he’s more likely to call than a smaller stack.

At the end of the day Thomas should have stuck to his betting story and pushed all-in. His overpair story is credible. The jack on the river might even have hit him and is more of a scare card for Obst.

The main reason for Thomas to make the final move was the tournament situation, however. After he lost that hand he was left with 18bb and eventually finished in 250th-place for about $36k.

If he had bluffed successfully he would have grown his stack by 50% and would have been a serious contender.


Tom Thomas tells a good story but flinches right before the end and doesn’t manage to pull the trigger.

Although, of course, we don’t know if the bluff would have worked.

Obst, on the other hand, took Thomas's chips all the way to 13th place and a near-miss of the November Nine that paid him $427,930.

Best Poker Sites - Editor`s Pick