Hand of the Week: Sam Abernathy Gets Cheeky with 8-High

Sam Abernathy is an adventurer.

She'll travel around the world at the drop of a hat, bike from Las Vegas to LA like it's no big thing and, if push comes to shove, give a slow roller what's coming to him. She's not afraid of running an adventurous bluff at the poker table, either.

Abernathy finished third for $625k at the 2016 Aussie Millions thanks to some of that well-timed aggression and when she appeared on an episode of Poker Night in America last year, nothing had changed. That's particularly clear in our Hand of the Week this week as she pushes the more experienced Mike Dentale off a huge pot.

Flop to River

This is a pretty strong crowd at Poker Night in America. The players at the tables have well-known names like Matt GlantzRep PorterJared BleznickShaun Deeb and Joe McKeehen. The blinds are $25/$50 but Abernathy has just straddled $100 so she can now act last pre-flop. The game is rather loose and players have about $15,000 in front of them, corresponding to 300 big blinds.

After two folds, Mike Dentale limps and behind him Dew Micali calls. Rep Porter now raises to $400. Abernathy calls. Dentale and Micali call as well. There's already $1,675 in the pot. Abernathy checks the flop, Dentale checks, Micali bets $350 and Porter folds. Abernathy calls and Dentale calls behind her. The pot grows to $2,275. Abernathy now leads out for $2,600 on the turn and Dentale calls. Micali lets it go and the pot is now at $7,925.

Abernathy bets $6,200 on the river and sends Dentale deep into the tank. He takes more than 10 minutes to make a decision, but eventually he lets his hand go. Abernathy wins a pot of $14,125 with eight high and shows the bluff. It’s really worth watching this hand again. Go to 14:00 in the video.

Hand Analysis

Abernathy blufft

While both commentators expected Dentale to call quickly he actually took a very long time and then mucked. Let's see if his decision was correct. The pre-flop play is very loose which is something that often happens when all players are very deep. This makes it more difficult further down the hand to determine the ranges of each of the players.

Dentale tries a rather unusual move. He limps with A-K first and, even after Rep Porter tries to steal, he doesn’t re-raise let the cat out of the bag. Instead, he still hides the strength of his hand. To play like this you need to have a high level of post-flop play competence, particularly with the stacks this deep.

Abernathy calls Porter's raise with 8-6o. You might call this call loose, or you might call it bad because there are still players to act behind her and she might (and did) end up with two more opponents who have position on her.

Dentale Stays Invisible

Four players go to the K♠ 9♥ 5♠ flop, which is pretty dry. There is a possible flush draw and there are two gutshot draws, but most of the time the hand now in front will still be on the river. Both Abernathy and Dentale check. Micali bets. Porter gives up his steal attempt but Abernathy comes along. She only has a gutshot and is out of position but her range in the straddle is now very hard to determine so she can represent a lot of hands. We'll soon see just how she exploits that very fact and how cunningly she proceeds. Dentale is the player with top pair, top kicker now. He feels quite safe and tries to somehow stay invisible. From the start he was under-representing his hand and so he again just calls.

Abernathy Grabs the Bull

The turn is the 5♣ which is very likely a brick -- unless, of course, someone has a five. And there you have it. Abernathy bets out and represents nothing but a five, because why would she bet with nines or kings? At the same time she has to plan her action on the river.

Surely, she has identified Dentale as the most dangerous opponent. His overcalls smell of a lot of strength. He probably has either a monster with pocket nines or a flush draw, but most likely he’s sitting there with a strong king.

Dentale isn’t going anywhere. He quickly calls, whereas Micali now understands there's nothing in this hand for him and he folds K-Q (which would have been the best hand on the river). There's now almost $8,000 in the pot and Abernathy realizes that one single move isn't enough to win the hand.

The Numbers Say Call

Living life.

The river is the Q♠ and now Abernathy makes the last step in her plan. She bets again.  She’s still representing a five that wants to get paid by a king. But now, also, she uses the spade card as a threat for a flush. She wouldn’t be the first player to bet a draw on the turn.

By risking $6,200 to win $14,125 she's also keeping her investment in control – she has to be successful with this move 44% of the time to make it profitable. Against hands like K-J or K-T, maybe K-Q and even A-K, this should certainly be possible.

But let’s have a look at Dentale’s experience in this hand. We can now see the flip side of his way to play A-K - you end up in a pot with four players and when you have top, top on the river you still have no idea where you are. A-K in this spot has basically the same value as K-Q, K-J or K-T because Abernathy almost never has a king, considering her bet on the turn. So the questions are:

  • How often does she have a five?
  • How often does she have a flush?
  • How often is she bluffing?

It’s an ugly board, because Dentale’s opponent’s range is so wide, but in a cash game numbers matter the most. And the numbers say “call.” Dentale needs to be right one out of every 3.3 times to play profitably. In other words Abernathy has to be bluffing 30% of the time – and that’s definitely a reasonable number. Therefore: call.


Sam Abernathy takes on macho Mike Dentale and bluffs him cheekily and smartly, because she has a high intimidation factor going for her. If he was a little less flustered Dentale could have gone through with his hand and made the call on the river. The math would have backed it up.

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