Hand of the Week: A Daring Idea Pushed to a Brilliant Finish


It's always a privilege to watch two world-class players clash in a big hand.

This week we see what happens when Jason Mercier, recently annointed WSOP POY, meets former GPI #1 Byron Kaverman.

We can tell you it ends with a brilliant finish.

Even better, it happens in one of the most expensive tournaments of the year – the $100,000 High Roller Challenge at the Aussie Millions.

Flop to River

It’s an illustrious group of players that took part in this tournament. Including re-entries there were 41 buy-ins overall. We join the table with 19 players left and it’s the last level with registration still open.

The average stack is 215,800. Jason Mercier is above average with 300,000 as is Byron Kaverman who has 234,000 in front of him. The blinds are 2000/4000/500.

Let's sweat the hand with Kaverman. At the beginning of the hand, his stack corresponds to 58.5 big blinds. It’s folded to Jason Mercier in the hijack. He raises to 8,000 and Kaverman finds     on the button.

He elects to just call. Stephen Chidwick folds his small blind and Martin Jacobson calls in the big. There's 29,000 chips in the pot and three players in the hand. The flop falls      

Jacobson checks, Mercier bets 11,500 and Kaverman calls. Jacobson folds, so there are two players left and 52,000 chips in the pot. The effective stacks are 215,500 at this point.

The turn is the   Mercier slows down and checks. Kaverman bets 15,000 and suddenly Mercier check-raises to 67,500. Kaverman calls.

We now have a pot of 187,000 chips with effective stacks at 147,500. The river is the  

Mercier goes all-in for 147,500. Kaverman uses all his time-bank to get more time to think, but eventually folds his pocket kings. Mercier’s hand was    

Queen high! Watch the hand in the video:


An exciting hand that sees Kaverman make the “wrong” decision in the end. However, there are several aspects in this hand worth a closer look.


Mercier opens with a rather loose raise with Q 7. Kaverman has the second-best starting hand in the game and opts for a call.

This move has three advantages.

  • It could induce a move from one of the blinds.
  • It keeps Mercier in the hand with his complete range – whereas he would fold a lot of weak hands to a re-raise.
  • It hides the strength of Kaverman’s hand.

The disadvantage is that it makes his hand more difficult to assess. Jacobson’s call in the big blind confirms this immediately.

An Ordinary Flop

On a decently draw-heavy board - 6-5-4 rainbow - the hand carries on the way you’d expect it. The big blind checks, the aggressor bets his straight draw and the overpair calls.

Jacobson folds a gutshot draw, which is a success for Kaverman. He just got rid of the big blind with his incalculable range.

Mercier’s range is also not easy to narrow down. He’s a player who could bet into two players with nothing on a board like this.

A Different Kind of Turn

The turn pairs the board. Mercier slows down but when Kaverman bets very small - only about 30% of the pot - Mercier gets creative.


He puts in a big check-raise that tells his opponent two things.

1. I have a monster.

2. I will go all-in on the river.

It’s an interesting spot. Kaverman can’t simply give up his hand here.

The board is inviting a lot of bluffs and semi-bluffs – one-card straight draws and heart flush draws – and Mercier is exactly the kind of player who would exploit this.

Note that Kaverman’s worst move on this turn would be an all-in. It would chase away all the weaker hands and only get called by full houses, straights and trips.

The River Wild

So, Kaverman calls and the river is an interesting A. Amateurs who hold pocket kings usually become very uncomfortable if they see an ace, but for a professional this card isn’t too scary.

Not time to give in yet.

In fact it’s almost a blank. Mercier promptly moves all-in.

It’s possible, of course, that he has a hand like A-5 that has now developed into a monster. But what about other ace-high hands?

Would he really use hands like A-7 or A-3 – busted straight draws – or former bluffs with A-K, A-Q, or A-J for an all-in? Or wouldn’t he rather check?

Kaverman is thinking about these hands as well, although he might consider different ones as even more threatening. 

Mercier has polarized his range to the maximum. It consists of the following sub-ranges:

1. Monsters: 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 6-5, 5-4, 8-7, A-5.

2. Bluffs: Hands with a seven, hands with a three, a couple of heart draws, and combos.

Jason Mercier WSOP
That's why he's got 5 of these.

The 'Wrong' Fold

Nearing the end of his time bank Kaverman makes the “wrong” decision, as he apparently thinks that Mercier can have too many strong holdings.

An important factor in this decision is that there is no upper limit to Mercier’s range. He can still have any of the hands listed under #1 and he’s exploiting that to the fullest.

So, Kaverman decides to say goodbye to a third of his stack and play on with 37 big blinds.

But make no mistake: Jason Mercier played this hand brilliantly. On the turn he had a daring idea and he could push that through thanks to how his range was perceived by his opponent.


Top-notch poker by two world class players. But at the end of the day, Mercier’s bold bluff won the – upper – hand.

Kaverman got under time pressure and folded, but he wasn’t very far away from making a great call.

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