Poker Hand of the Week: Boika’s Bluff Nuts > Karlsson’s Bravery

Top-class players have shown us over and over again how to expose bluffs even with weak holdings.

Aliaksei Boika from Belarus topped off his main event championship performance at EPT Malta with a hero call and a tournament win.

His call was worth an extra €100,000 - and we’ll show you how it happened.

Flop to River

It’s the heads-up of the EPT Malta 2016. Out of 468 players only Aliaksei Boika from Belarus and the 59-year old Swede Mats Karlsson are left.

Both players will win €260,000 but one of them will jump one step higher and win €355,000. Boika has grinded his opponent down and leads by 10.2 million chips (128bb) to 3.7 million (46bb).

He’s in the big blind now and holds  A spades A J hearts J

With the blinds at 40k/80k/10k, Karlsson raises to 200,000 and Boika re-pops it to 625,000. Karlsson gices it a little thought but eventually calls. There's now 1.27 million chips in the pot and effective stacks are at 3.1 million.

The flop falls  Q hearts Q 8 spades 8 2 spades 2 Boika checks. Karlsson bets 550,000 and Boika calls. There's 2.37 million in the pot and effective stacks are down to 2.55 million.

The turn is K diamonds K the Both players check so the pot remains the same. The river is the  7 diamonds 7

Boika checks again and Karlsson takes some time again before he moves all-in for 2.55 million. Boika goes into the tank.

For almost five minutes he goes back and forth through the hand before he decides to call with ace high. However Karlsson shows  A diamonds A 4 diamonds 4  and Boika wins. 

Watch the hand in the video below starting at 5h45 min.

Hand Analysis

Obviously, it looks impressive when someone makes such a hero call and is right, so it’s worth taking a closer look.

Aliaksei Boika

Pre-flop, Karlsson uses a better than average hand to raise. This move is perfectly fine.

Karlsson would have the better hand here most of the time and he’s also in position.

Boika on the other side of the table has A-J, which is a very strong hand heads-up. He’s also chipleader so he wants to exert pressure from the start.

He doesn’t care about position. He still wants to build a pot as his hand is often dominating and his opponent has to worry about the pot becoming so big he gets committed to it.

The situation isn’t easy for Karlsson. His hand is good but not great. It’s certainly not good enough to induce an all-in with another raise.

He also can’t push his own stack into the middle because he would only get called by a better hand. Still, folding would be a little too careful in this spot so a call is probably the best move for him.Qualify for the EPT Now!

Boika’s Pot Control

The flop Q-8-2 with two spades is very dry. It would rarely help either player. Consequently, Boika doesn’t see a reason to c-bet as there are only a few weaker hands that can call – flush draws and a few unlikely straight draws.

On the flip side, trying to get to showdown cheap makes his hand vulnerable to bluffs and immediately Karlsson bets out.

Boika had put in a 3-bet pre-flop so it’s unlikely that he would fold to a single flop bet. There are both strong aces and high pocket pairs in his range.

Karlsson is also implying that he will play for all his money on the river as the Swede only has a little more than a pot bet left.

Missed Chance on the Turn

When Boika checked the king on the turn, Karlsson should indeed have pushed all-in. But he didn't. Karlsson surely has K-Q or 8-8 in his range and he would have told a consistent story that would have made even stronger hands like 9-9, 7-7, or A-T fold.


If he checks, however, it’ll be a lot more difficult to pull off a bluff because the board is now much juicier. There are quite a few hands that would love to bring their chips in against a draw.

The 7♦ on the river almost certainly changes nothing. Boika stays in line and checks again, still trying to get to showdown.

Karlsson takes some more time to think and then decides to go all-in. He probably suspects that Boika has the better hand so he tries to get out with the ultimate move.

If the bluff gets through he builds his stack up to 5 million and he closes in on his opponent. However, his move would have been much more credible on fourth street.

Boika in Doubt

The experienced Belorussian pro knows this as well and that’s why it immediately made him think.

The issue here is that Karlsson can only have very few hands that play like this. K-Q and 8-8 are two of them, but even they would have been expected to bet the turn.

Boika is left with what you might call the “bluff nuts,” meaning that he can beat all the bluffs except something rare like pocket fives.

Boika is also tempted to call because if he’s right, the tournament is over. If he loses both players are almost even in chips.

boika winner ept malta 2016 main event 4


Mats Karlsson is brave in his last hand of the tournament but not brave enough.

When he just moves all-in on an inconspicuous river, he raises suspicions in his opponent.

Aliaksei Boika, on the other hand, outs his opponent to a test. He even makes him say a couple of words.

Maybe they were the reason for this spectacular and very lucrative call.

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