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Poker Hand of the Week: Most Expensive Mistake of the Year?
The poker community is thrilled about the revival of Poker After Dark - and rightly so.
The first couple of episodes featured Tom Dwan, Andrew Robl, Antonio Esfandiari and Daniel Negreanu, among others, and had some downright spectacular hands.
In this week's hand multi-millionaire Bill Klein took on Aussie Matt Kirk and found out just how costly a single mistake can be when you’re swimming in a shark tank.
It was the largest pot since the show’s relaunch.
Flop to River
In this episode Dwan, Robl, Kirk and Jean-Robert Bellande represent the pros while Lauren Roberts and entrepreneur Klein are the added affluent – and poker-savvy – amateurs.
There are six players at the table and the stakes are $200/$400 but straddling and double-straddling has become customary. Such is the case in the following hand.
Matt Kirk put in the first straddle - $800 – and Tom Dwan put in another straddle of $1,600. Roberts (stack: $365,000) opens from first position to $5,000. Robl folds and Klein ($486,000) in the small blind wakes up with
He re-raises to $14,000, which gets Bellande in the big blind out of the way. Kirk ($482,000) calls from the first straddle. Dwan folds but Roberts comes along.
Three players go to the flop with a pot of now $44,400. Klein leads out with a bet of $30,000 and Kirk raises to $75,000. Roberts folds her hand and Klein pops it up again to $175,000. Kirk calls.
There's suddenly $394,000 in the pot and effective stacks are $292,000. Here comes the turn
Klein moves all-in for $292,000 and Kirk snaps him off. The Australian pro shows which proves to be good after the hits the river.
The $980k pot goes to Matt Kirk. Watch the hand unfold in the video below.
“How unlucky can you get?” Bill Klein’s face looks like that’s the question he’s asking himself as the cards get turned over and he sees the mess he’s in.
Surely, many viewers in front of their screens agreed with him.
Indeed, it’s very bad luck (and also very unlikely) that the best starting hand in poker gets overtaken by a dominated hand that hits bulls-eye on the flop.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Klein had to lose his full stack.
If you take a closer look at this hand you might discern the crucial poker mistake that Klein made that cost him a significant amount of money.
One Thing Going for Him
The pre-flop play isn’t really the issue here. Roberts opens and of course Klein should 3-bet here as this is a group of very loose players and Klein doesn’t want them all to call.
Kirk makes the call with A-4s, which is exactly that kind of loose play you can expect here.
But he has one thing going for him: stacks are over 1,000 big blinds deep and that favors hands like suited connectors, suited A-x, Broadway hands and low-to-medium pairs as they have the potential to make monsters.
The 5♠ 4♦ 4♣ flop is what you’d usually call very dry. There are a few flops that are even drier – maybe K-7-2 rainbow – but this flop is one that has helped very few hands.
The best hand now is almost always going to be the best hand at showdown.
Bad for His Win Rate
Klein naturally follows up with a value bet because he can get calls from many worse hands than his, like A-Q or a medium pair. But he’s in for a surprise.
Kirk responds to his bet with a raise to $75,000, which should raise a question in Klein’s mind – what hand would the Australian play like that?
The majority of hands are bluffs and semi-bluffs like A-3 or 7-6, but there’s also a small chance that Kirk is holding 5-5, a 4 and even 4-4.
On the other hand Klein can pretty much rule out hands like T-T or 9-9 as Kirk would never raise with these.
Why, you ask? Because he might be up against Klein’s A-K and he wouldn’t want Klein to fold that. It would be bad for his win rate.
The Dilemma Emerges
Good players don’t play like this. They don’t like to turn their good hands into bluffs, meaning here that only hands better than his would call while all the worse hands would fold.
Let’s dissect Klein’s range to see if this makes sense. After 3-betting the flop it’s roughly limited to pocket pairs 9-9 to A-A, A-K and A-Q, a couple of bluffs.
If Kirk had pocket tens he would force all the bluffs and overcards to fold, making pocket nines almost the only hand that could call.
Instead, Klein comes forward with another raise.
This 3-bet on the flop is so strong that there's now almost no hand that can still continue and is worse than pocket aces – except maybe kings.
When Kirk calls, the dilemma Klein is now in emerges. There's almost $400,000 in the pot, which usually means the rest of the money will go in on any turn or river and the only hands that can come along are better than Klein’s.
Yet, Klein decides to keep the lead and pushes all-in from first position, only to find out how bad the situation really is for him. (By the way: it would have been a slightly better move to just check-call on the flop).
A Different Line
Now let’s look at what would have happened if Klein had played the flop correctly. Had he just called Kirk’s raise, there would’ve “only” been $194,400 in the pot and stacks would've been $392,000 instead of $192,000.
Klein would then check the turn and Kirk would probably bet another $100k or $120k. If Klein calls, there would be $400,000 in the pot and $290,000 left with the players.
Klein would again check on the river and Kirk would go all-in. Now, seriously, what hand can Klein now still beat except an absolutely crazy bluff?
Of course, Klein would have to give Kirk some possible bluffs, but he would still have the option to fold if he feels that he’s behind.
Even more important is this: Had Klein taken this line, he would have kept all the bluffs in the hand and could have won a lot of money. But by re-raising the flop, he’s made all these bluffs fold and can only get called by better hands than his own.
In what’s almost a textbook hand Klein manages to limit his opponent's range to only hands that are better than his by playing an ill-timed 3-bet on the flop – and it costs him dearly.
Matt Kirk, on the other hand, builds up the pot with a raise that makes his hand look like a bluff and gets rewarded generously.