In our section Hand Jam we take a look at exciting or strategically interesting hands in the poker world. In doing so, we shed light on the intricacies of each move and evaluate each move of the players.
This time we take a look at a crazy-looking river bluff that happened in the late stages of the WSOP 2021 Main Event. The protagonists are Dragana Lim and David Coleman.
Here is the hand in writing:
Dragana Lim's crazy WSOP bluff
The blinds are t50k / t100k with a t100k big blind ante.
Dragana Lim (UTG) - t9,640,000: 9 9
David Coleman (UTG+2) - t4,265,000: K J
Preflop: Lim raises to t250k, Coleman re-raises to 750k, Lim calls
Flop (t1,750k): 10 3 2
Lim checks, Coleman bets t575k, Lim calls
Turn (t2,900k): 10
Lim checks, Coleman checks
River (t2,900k): K
Lim checks, Coleman bets t1,150k, Lim raises all-in (effectively 2,900k), Coleman calls
Coleman wins with Two Pair - Kings and Tens
You can watch the hand here:
Preflop: A marginal reraise
Preflop, Dragana Lim raises to 2.5 big blinds with nines from first position. This move is self-evident and should be made (give or take a bit bigger or smaller) 100% of the time.
Just two positions behind her, David Coleman has K J , a hand that looks good but is tricky to play. Against a strong range, this hand is often dominated even if it hits something on the flop. For example, if you hit a very good flop like J-9-2, you are still behind against A-J and JJ or better. All these hands are easily in the opponent's range.
The hands AJ, JJ, QQ , KK and AA already account for 25 different card combinations on this flop - that's quite a lot. In short, even if you hit a good flop and top pair with K-J, you can't feel overly comfortable if your opponent has a rather strong range.
A player who opens from UTG usually has a strong range. That is why K-J (even suited) is a very marginal hand at best.
It would be fatal to call a raise with this hand in this position. There are two reasons for this:
- No initiative: Firstly, you play against a strong range and even though you have position you don't have initiative. In almost two thirds of the cases you will miss the flop and if your opponent bets, you have hardly any better alternatives than to fold. That is not a lucrative prospect.
- Invitation to squeeze: On the other hand, you invite players in later positions to re-raise after a mere flat call. In late stages of a tournament, aggressive re-raises are the order of the day and with K-J (even suited) you have no other option than to fold to any re-raise. That's not a lucrative prospect either.
So there are only two possible plays for Coleman here:
- Fold: A fold is the easiest move in this situation. If you throw away this hand in this situation, you are definitely not making a mistake. If you are not extremely comfortable in marginal situations, you should always lean towards a fold here.
- Raise: If you want to play the hand, you can - as Coleman did - raise. This will dissuade the rest of the players from trying to re-steal and you have a slight chance of winning the pot right before the flop, as you show a lot of strength with a 3-bet to 7.5 big blind from such an early position. If the raiser UTG calls, you still have a decent hand to play with. But Coleman has to be aware that with the raise he isolates himself against better hands. In other words, if Lim calls him, he is almost always behind.
In the hand Coleman raises to 7.5 big blind and Dragana Lim calls. The call with 99 is justifiable. The hand is too good to be given up straight away against an aggressive player, but not strong enough for a pre-flop all-in (which is what a re-raise would most likely lead to). It's important to note that Lim's game plan after the flop must be to get to showdown as often as possible, even if she doesn't hit a set, and to bluff if necessary. Calling in the mere hope of hitting a set is fatal and is basically just burning money.
Flop: Nobody has the intention to win the pot immediately
The play on the flop is not particularly remarkable. With 99 on a T-high flop, Lim has a hand that is good enough to check-call. Coleman bets about a third of the pot, representing TT+ or ace-high.
Coleman's plan with such a small bet, by the way, is not to win the pot immediately. He knows that Lim will not fold a pair here and possibly not ace-high either. His idea is to continue bluffing on a good turn. For example, if any card ten or higher peels off, Coleman can just continue betting, credibly telling the story of a strong hand. Then he can trust Lim to dispose of all her marginal hands.
Turn: Suffocated action
A second ten on the turn foils Coleman's plan of bluffing. If the top card of the flop pairs on the turn, it often has a suffocating effect on the action at the table.
The pair on the turn does not change the possible hand strengths of the players, it just makes it less likely that one of the players has top pair. Lim is now more comfortable with a pair of nines than on the flop and Coleman realises that a bluff is too futile here - after all, what can he represent realistically?
Accordingly, the check of both players is understandable, especially since Coleman only has exactly one pot-sized bet left. Meaning, it is not easy to build up a threat against Lim who has almost twice his stack.
River: Value bet followed by a big boom
On the river a king falls. This gives Coleman top pair and some amazing fireworks ensue.
Lim checks again with her nines, but the king is bad news for her. It is quite possible that the king has helped her opponent and she has very little room left to bluff successfully.
Coleman fires a bet of 1,150k chips - just over a third of the pot. That's a very clear value bet looking to get paid off by hands like 99, JJ or QQ. At the same time, he could also bring such a bet with hands like A-J or A-Q (in this case hoping his opponent would fold any small pair). In fact, Coleman should bet most of his range on the river.
Dragana Lim springs into action
Less than ten seconds after Coleman has made his small value bet, Dragana Lim looks briefly at the dealer and icily announces: All-in.
This move signals a lot of strength. On the one hand, it didn't take Lim long to decide to go all-in, and on the other hand, she gives her opponent phenomenal pot odds. Someone in their right mind wouldn't do something like that as a bluff, would they?
Let's take a look at the pot odds. Coleman has to pay t1,790k to win a pot of t8,780,000. That means, purely by pot odds, his hand only has to be good just over 20% of the time for it to be a profitable call (by pot odds).
But is Lim bluffing 20% of the time here?
Coleman must assume that Lim either has a hand here that is miles superior to his, or that she is on a complete air ball.
Let's count cards: Lim doesn't have a strong value range
When considering what hands Dragana Lim would raise here for value, we quickly run out of reasonable combinations. There simply aren't very many very strong hands on the river in her range that she credibly represents.
There can be slowly played KK, TT, possibly ATs and AKs and, with a lot of good will, a strangely played pair of aces. In sum, from Coleman's point of view, these are not many individual combinations:
- KK: 1 combination is possible
- TT: 1 combination is possible
- ATs: 2 combinations are possible
- AKs: 2 combinations are possible
- AA: 6 combinations are possible
(Small pairs like Deuces or Treys she almost certainly would not have played like that before the flop.)
This means that in Lim's entire range there are just 12 realistic combinations that she could hold on the river that beat Coleman. And we're being enormously generous here, because for aces in particular, that would be a very strange line to take.
The problem is that this value range is so small that there are almost always enough bluffs in Lim's range to justify a call given the pot odds.
Lim only has to bluff 20% of the time to justify a call according purely to pot odds. That is, if we find even 3 hand combinations that she check-raises on the river and that are bluffs, a call is correct purely based on pot odds.
In the reasoning above, we assumed Dragana Lim could play aces in such a strange way. Then it is more than justified to also assume that she occasionally arrives on this river with AJs or AQs and tries a check-raise bluff. These two hands alone make up 7 possible combinations (from Coleman's point of view).
This means that in Lim's range there are at best 12 value combinations against at least 7 bluff combinations. In other words, she bluffs in at least 7 out of 19 cases - that would be over 36% of the time.
This means David Coleman has an easy call based on pot odds.
Why Lim's bluff does not work
Lim's bluff is doomed to fail for two reasons:
- Too good odds: She gives her opponent too good odds. If you only have to be ahead 20% of the time, it is rather easy to lean towards a call. If the stacks were bigger, the odds would be worse for Coleman. For example, if he had to have the best hand one-third of the time to call successfully, Lim's bluff would have been much more likely to succeed.
- She represents too few strong hands: On the river, Lim represents an enormously small value range. If you look at the all-in without knowing her cards, you will find few answers to the question "What on earth do you have there?" To put it quite drastically: she basically represents only a bad bluff.
The fact that Coleman nevertheless needed almost 5 minutes to force himself to make a call shows that Lim's bluff almost worked simply because of the surprise factor. But in the end, the move was too outlandish to work against David Coleman.
The better move for Lim on the river would have been a check-call. After Coleman's initial bet of t1,150k, Lim could have simply called. She would only have had to be ahead just over 22% of the time for the call to be profitable (by pot odds). Coleman's range on the river certainly includes a few hands like AQ or AJ that bluff the king and Lim beats those hands.
During the 2021 WSOP Main Event, Dragana Lim was eliminated in 64th place as Last Woman Standing. David Coleman finished minimally better, in 58th place.
Addendum: "Based on Pot Odds" vs ICM
In this article I only looked at the odds and probabilities according to pot odds. But you have to keep in mind that this hand took place at the later stage of a tournament. Here ICM considerations start to come into play. To put it simply: You need better odds to risk your stack than just pot odds. But given the stage of the tournament the difference in correct play according to pot odds and according to ICM is not that big.
You can read more about ICM here: