In poker you’ll frequently find yourself faced with an all-in holding a good, but not exactly great, hand.
Sometimes, it’s the number of potential outs that affects your decision.
In this week’s featured hand our hero folds top pair and the nut flush draw to a player known to pull off big bluffs.
So the question is – can you really fold this?
Flop to River
This hand took place in a highly fascinating cash game at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Florida.
There are couple of high-profile pros at the table like Mustapha Kanit, Chance Kornuth and Matt Berkey but there are also some affluent amateurs like Bill Perkins and Joey DiPascale.
They're playing $100/$200 but in this hand Berkey straddled to $400. We’ll take the point of view of DiPascale in the hijack, sitting with $72,000 and A A 8 8
He raises it up to $1,400. James Calderaro ($30,000) calls on the button but Kanit ($117,000) 3-bets from the big blind to $6,500.
Berkey ($360,000) calls the raise in the straddle. DiPascale calls and Calderaro calls as well. The pot is $26,275 and the flop falls 8 8 7 7 3 3
Kanit checks and Berkey bets $11,500. DiPascale calls with top pair, Calderaro folds and Kanit gets rid of AK.
There's now $49,275 in the pot and the players have effective stacks of $54,000. The turn is the 7 7
Berkey takes his stack and moves all-in. DiPascale tanks. Eventually he folds and gives the $103,000 pot to Berkey.
Matt Berkey goes on a tour de force and wins a sizable pot while Joey DiPascale probably doesn’t like his play when he watches this hand again.
But let’s be honest and ask ourselves if we’d have acted differently in this situation.
Let’s start before the flop. A hand like a suited A-8 is definitely good enough for a raise, even if there's a bunch of top-class players sitting on your left.
But then Mustapha Kanit 3-bets out of the big blind with A-Ko. If Berkey doesn’t call from the straddle, DiPascale would have to fold his hand as it’s dominated too often.
As it is, though, he only has to pay $5,000 into a pot of $16,000. Plus, there will probably be another call.
But if you play A-8s in a 3-bet pot versus three other players at a loose table, you have to have a pretty good idea of the other players’ ranges or you’ll get crushed after the flop.
You Can't Just Fold Top Pair
The flop gives DiPascale top pair and a backdoor flush draw. But in a four-handed pot this is of course less valuable than it would be heads-up.
So DiPascale has to be very cautious and try to collect more information.
Kanit checks and that allows us to conclude that he’s often holding overcards but not an overpair. Surely, with a hand like pocket jacks, he would have bet into three players.
Berkey’s bet is a lot more difficult to figure out. He called a 3-bet from the straddle which gives him a rather strong range. This range has many high-card hands in it like A-Q but also middle pairs like 7-7, 9-9 or T-T.
When Berkey bets, DiPascale does the right thing. Even though Berkey’s bet looks strong – I mean, the guy bets into three players – you can’t just fold top pair, top kicker.
Let's Go to the Numbers
After DiPascale makes a correct call Calderaro and Kanit get out of the way. The turn 7♣ adds the nut flush draw to DiPascale’s hand but now Berkey quickly moves all-in, slightly over-betting the pot.
We’ll have to look at some numbers before we can decide if we want to call or fold.
There's about $103,000 in the pot after Berkey’s push. DiPascale has to put in $54,000 to play.
He’s getting pot odds of 1.9-1, meaning his call has to be correct 35% of the time to make it profitable.
Now look at Berkey’s range and how DiPascale’s hand plays against it. Berkey’s range has three types of hands in it.
1. Monsters like 8-8, 7-7, 8-7, or 3-3 that have di Pascale drawing dead.
2. Strong hands like J-J, T-T, or 9-9, where di Pascale has 14 outs (nine flush outs, two eights and three aces).
3. Bluffs with six outs max like A-Q or K-Q.
So, now we need to figure out how DiPascale’s hand plays against this range. Versus category 2 above, DiPascale is getting pretty much the right odds to call.
Let's examine the other two categories before we make a decision. There is only one possible 8-8 and 7-7 that Berkey can have – 8♦ 8♣ and 7♥ 7♦. And there are three possible combinations of 3-3.
But because of the pre-flop action we can pretty much rule out this hand as we have to rule out 8-7 – except maybe, maybe 8-7s.
It's realistic to give Berkey five possible hands that have DiPascale drawing dead.
But a player like Berkey always has more than five bluff hands in his range – that’s why he’s so successful.
Although it’s possible that DiPascale has no outs, the chances are so small that they’re almost negligible.
The 7♣ on the turn makes a call a must for DiPascale – this card is just too good for him and, if he’d analyzed his spot correctly, he should have easily come to the correct conclusion.
Matt Berkey fires on DiPascale with all guns blazing and manages to make him fold the better hand plus a draw. Joey DiPascale thought about it for a while but couldn’t figure out Berkey’s range properly – a $100k mistake!
The answer to our question in the beginning, then? “Yes. But you shouldn’t.”