Hand of the Week: Blink and Your WSOP Main Event is Over

Valentin Vornicu IMG 8750

To run deep in a tournament like the WSOP Main Event you need to get lucky – and you can’t afford too many mistakes.

Math teacher Valentin Vornicu was having pretty much the perfect tournament.

Then, in more or less just two decisions, it all came crumbling down in no time.

Flop to River

It’s Day 7 of the 2016 WSOP Main Event. 25 players are still in the mix and they all have $269,430 in the bag. The next pay jump is at 18th place and is worth almost $70,000.

The blinds are 100,000/200,000/30,000 which puts 540,000 chips in the pot before any action. From the hijack Kenny Hallaert (13.2 million chips/66 big blinds) raises to 475,000.

Valentin Vornicu (20.9 million/104 bb) finds     on the button. Vornicu – winner of eight WSOP Circuit rings – re-raises to 1.1 million.

The blinds fold but Hallaert calls. There's 2.74 million chips in the pot and effective stacks are at 12.1 million. The flop is      

Hallaert checks, Vornicu bets 1.225 million and gets a call. The pot grows to 5.19 million with the effective stacks now at 10.9 million. The turn is the   

Hallaert checks again and Vornicu fires another bullet - 2.2 million chips - but Hallaert calls again. The pot is now up to 9.59 million and effective stacks are at 8.7 million.

The river is the   Hallaert checks a third time and Vornicu decides to have another go at it. He bets 2.65 million but now Hallaert moves all-in for 8.7 million.

There's 21 million chips in the pot. Vornicu doesn’t give it a lot of thought. He puts in the 6 million he needs to pay.

Hallaert shows     and wins a pot of 27 million chips. Vornicu loses almost two-thirds of his stack and drops to 7.7 million corresponding to 39 bb. Soon after he busts in 23rd place while Hallaert is now waiting to take his seat at the November Nine.

Hand Analysis

At first glance you might think Vornicu just got really unlucky with his big overpair against a well-hidden hand. But the truth is he overplayed his hand massively.

2016 WSOP Valentin Vornicu3

Let’s see how and why. Hallaert raises and Vornicu finds himself in the perfect spot. He’s on the button and holds the third-best hand in Texas Hold’em.

But his range is also so much wider than it would be in any other position at the table. There are plenty of players who re-raise from the button for position or to exploit specific tournament situations.

This is why Hallaert can’t fold to the re-raise, although his starting hand A-T is rather mediocre and he doesn’t have position – plus he’s getting excellent pot odds.

Hallaert’s Big Hit

The flop really couldn’t be much better for Hallaert. His hand just turned into a monster. He checks and Vornicu has no reason to slow down.

He’s almost always ahead and middle pairs like 9-9, 8-8, or 6-6 or even A-X hands will often call the bet. If they don’t he’s successfully protecting his hand.

The turn doesn’t change much. The six fills up 8-9 and 6-6, but these are the only hands that would really improve.

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When Hallaert checks Vornicu bets quickly, which obviously isn’t a big mistake but maybe not the best move either.

Way Ahead or Way Behind

This is a typical case of “way ahead or way behind” and if you’re way behind you don’t have many outs to come back.

More important, however, is the fact that the aforementioned hands like middle pairs and A-X will never pay three streets. They would just have to fold.

But after a check-check on the turn and a brick on the river, they might pay one more bet.

So when Hallaert calls the second bet, it should have set off Vornicu’s alarm bells. Instead, things get even worse.

Disaster On the River

Hallaert checks the river again, almost robbing himself off a very reasonable value bet.

Two calls on the flop and turn have raised the value of Hallaert’s range considerably. It’s now pretty strong and Vornicu should check behind to see if his hand is good.


Let’s face it; which hand worse than jacks can still possibly call another bet on the river?

It looks like the math teacher couldn’t get away from putting the Belgian on nines, eights, or A-X. There’s almost no other way to explain his small river bet.

But his quick call after Hallaert moves all-in is much worse.

A check-raise for six million more chips and Vornicu still doesn’t think it’s necessary to sit back and think about what’s happening.

Vornicu made two bad decisions on that river and they pretty much cost him the Main Event that had been running so well for him.

After that, he didn’t find any more luck and finished in 23rd place. Hallaert used his big stack to move on to the November Nine.


Valentin Vornicu makes a pivotal mistake by not analyzing his opponent’s range properly, or at all, which leads him to overplay his overpair by a mile.

His opponent Kenny Hallaert doesn’t really have to do anything and he’s visibly relieved when he sees Vornicu’s hand. The way he played he could well have had a full house with sixes or sevens, too.

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