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Poker Hand of the Week: Smart Jungleman Outsmarted

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Dan Cates turned his online nickname, "jungleman12," into a full-on poker brand when he clearly dominated poker whiz kid Tom Dwan in the second durrrr challenge.

Since then Cates has become renowned as one of the best cash game players around.

When he came to play on the new Poker after Dark he had to face players like Ike Haxton, Doug Polk, Jason Koon and Brian Rast and it proved to be a tough test.

One of the most exciting hands of the episode was, however, a hand between Cates and Matt Berkey. It didn’t go exactly to Cates’ plan.

A Little $300/$600 Among Friends

The game is $300/$600 No-Limit Hold’em and Berkey just put in a straddle of $1,200. Cates is in first position. He sits with $321,000 – way over 500 bb – and finds    

Cates raises to $3,000. Haxton gets out of the way and Rast ($71,000) calls from the button. Polk and Koon fold and Berkey ($355,000) calls from the straddle.

There'd $10,500 in the pot and they go to a       flop.

Berkey checks and Cates bets $5,000. Rast calls and Berkey raises to $25,000.

Cates calls and Rast folds. There's $60,500 in the pot and effective stacks are $296,000.

The turn is the  

Berkey takes the lead and bets $30,000. Cates calls. There's now $120,500 in the pot and effective stacks are $266,000.

The river is the  

Berkey slows down and checks. Cates bets $97,000 and Berkey thinks about it for several minutes. Evntually, he calls reluctantly and shows    

Berkey wins a pot of $314,500.

Analysis

What a hand! The run-out is quite different depending on the perspective you take. We’ll take both.

Pre-flop, Cates opens with the second best hand in NLHE. His raise is standard and exactly 2.5 straddles.

He gets two callers: Brian Rast has pocket tens but Matt Berkey’s call with Q-5o is on the loose side of calling here.

Yes, Berkey gets great pot odds. And because of the deep stacks he has the chance to take down a huge pot with a hidden monster – if he flops trips fives, for example.

It takes a lot of chutzpah to call out of position with such a poor hand like Q-5 when you’re up against Brian Rast and Dan Cates. But there are even more astounding things to come in this hand as we’ll soon see.

Betting is the Obvious Play

The flop Q-9-7 might be rainbow but it opens up several straight draws. Berkey checks his top pair to the initial aggressor, who doesn’t need long to c-bet his overpair.

Betting is the obvious play for Cates here. He wants to get money from every queen and straight draw as well as from a hand like Rast’s tens.

Rast calls indeed and now Berkey goes for a surprising move. He check-raises top pair, which is a move usually a weaker player would make. Why does he do that?

It’s a dubious move as Berkey is basically turning his hand into a bluff. There really aren’t many hands that call his raise and don’t beat top pair, weak kicker.

On the other side, the board is draw-heavy and goes very well with his perceived drawing range. So he’s putting himself in a position where he might be able to represent a straight and make better hands fold by the time they get to the river.

But maybe his predominant motivation here is to balance his check-raising range for this spot, so that he doesn’t only raise with monsters like sets or with semi-bluffs like J-T, but also with top pairs.

Holding an overpair to the board, Cates is unwilling to go away. So he doesn’t only call the flop-raise but also the turn bet.

The Donkey End of the Straight

The 6 doesn’t change much except one reasonable draw has come in – T-8 – while 8-5 can be excluded here with almost certainty.

Berkey bets half the pot, but he has so many bluffs in his range that Cates can’t lay down his pocket kings.

Already here on fourth street you can see how fierce high stakes games are but the river turns everything on its head again.

Berkey finds himself at the donkey end of a straight -- meaning he has the low end to a four-card straight on the board.

Would you check or bet? Many weaker players would lead out here but Berkey is smart enough to do the right thing, which is check.

It’s highly unlikely that a weaker hand like a queen or an overpair would call him here but Cates might well have a hand like J-T, so Berkey would be crushed.

Brilliance denied.

The Brilliant River Bluff

Cates bets 80% of the pot and that move is nothing short of brilliant.

With the action that's happened he’s aware that his kings might not be good anymore, but he sees the chance to represent something much bigger – big enough to make two pair and even sets fold.

Let’s compare Berkey’s range and how it plays against Cates’ bluff bet on the river. Remember he still holds a pair of kings.

  • top pair hands worse than his are going to fold
  • two pair hands like 9-7 or Q-9 as well as sets with 7-7 or 9-9 better than his will fold more often than they call
  • hands with a 5 better than Cates’ kings will fold some of the times

Overall, the bet clearly gives Cates positive expectations about the outcome. Also, by checking the river, Berkey has capped his range as he would certainly bet a ten or better.

Cates’ bet makes a lot of hands better than his fold. Look at how difficult it is for Berkey to even call with a 5. He takes ages to make the decision.

How did he finally make that call, you ask?

Cates’ body language might be one factor, as it’s not very confident. But the main point is certainly that Berkey believes Cates is good enough for a bluff like that. He’d probably have folded to a weaker player.

Conclusion

Now we know why Matt Berkey can call a pre-flop raise out of position with Q-5. His post-flop game is good enough to make it profitable. Dan Cates played the hand beautifully. He just tried to bluff the wrong guy.

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