Hand of the Week: Kassouf’s “Nine High Like a Boss” Moment

William Kassouf Elimination 2016 Main Event2

Will Kassouf quite simply stole the show at the 2016 WSOP Main Event.

There’s an argument to be made that Kassouf will end up more memorable than most of the actual November Nine (although we’ll have to wait until the final table to say for sure).

Not everyone enjoyed Kassouf’s signature “speech play” but it can’t be denied that he certainly has developed his own style.

This week we’ll take a look at one of Kassouf’s most memorable hands during the Main Event.

Flop to River

We pick up the action with 57 players left out of the original 6,737 runners in the 2016 WSOP Main Event. The next pay jump is at 54 players remaining and it’s a significant one that goes from $117,000 to $142,000.

The average stack is 5.9 million and the blinds are 50,000/100,000/15,000. Spain's Ka Kwan Lau sits with about eight million chips in first position and finds    

He raises to 225,000. On his left Kassouf (10 million chips) 3-bets to 535,000. Further left, Adi Abugazal hesitates. He’s one of the short stacks. Eventually, he folds.

Everyone else quickly folds and the action is back on Lau. He calls and the pot grows to 1.355 million chips. The flop falls      

Lau checks but Kassouf fires 550,000 into the pot. Lau calls. The pot is now 2.45 million chips with the effective stacks at seven million chips.

The turn is the   Lau checks again and Kassouf checks behind. The pot is still 2.45 million and the effective stacks remain the same.

The river is the   Lau checks and Kassouf leads out for 1.25 million. After some tanking, Lau folds and Kassouf reels in the 3.7 million-chip pot.

The English player had     As his pocket pair was counterfeited, this corresponds to a bluff with nine high.


So, Kassouf won the hand with nine high for more than 3.5 million chips. Let’s take a closer look.

Kakwan Lau IMG 8610

Pre-flop, Lau raised from first position with A-K, which is a standard move. Kassouf decided to attack the raise with a pair of nines.

This is a move that has both advantages and disadvantages.

The re-raise blocks any squeeze play from a later position, but it’s definitely possible that a player behind him wakes up with a stronger hand than his.

Also, with only a middle pair, Kassouf is building a big pot against one of the bigger stacks at the table. But the advantages are significant, too.

Abugazal finds a pair of jacks and folds them because he suspects trouble. That means Kassouf managed to make a better hand fold, which also gave him position.

On a side note, Abugazal probably should have taken his chances here but he thought he was looking at two very strong ranges.

A Dangerous Flop

Lau decided to just call in an effort to control the pot against a strong range. There’s nothing wrong with that move, as A-K is obviously too strong to fold, but he’s out of position.

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The flop hits both players’ ranges as they both have a lot of high cards in them.

In reality, Kassouf doesn’t really like it because of all the overcards but he still goes for a c-bet.

The c-bet bet will not make a stronger hand fold but it protects him from a bluff on the turn and keeps the initiative on his side.

If the flop had been checked by both players, Lau might have found it a good idea to take a stab at the pot on the turn to represent a strong holding.

When Kassouf bets the flop Lau could have just folded, but he does have two overcards and a gutshot to a Broadway straight – good enough to justify a call with 4-1 pot odds against a lot of hands.

Ideal Spot for River Bluff

The eight on the turn is almost certainly a brick. When Kassouf checks back to Lau he’s limiting his range, revealing to his opponent that he doesn’t have a ten.

William Kassouf IMG 8019
Can pull off a bluff.

This is valuable information for Lau, but from his point of view Kassouf’s range is still very strong. That doesn’t change with the queen on the river.

Taking into account the action pre-flop, Kassouf’s range is now down to A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, highly unlikely T-T, maybe 9-9 and a few improbable bluffs.

Against such a strong range Lau can’t do more than check and hope to get to showdown and maybe split the pot.

Kassouf learns from Lau’s check that he almost never has a queen. A queen would have bet to make high pairs and maybe ace high pay.

This information on top of his strong range provides the ideal basis for Kassouf to pull off a bluff. It’s a credible bluff, as Kassouf is going through with his story.

Lau’s dilemma is that he can’t beat much in Kassouf’s range. There are some hands he splits the pot with, and he loses to the majority. Insofar, a fold is justified despite pot odds of 3 to 1.


We’ve just witnessed an interesting and exciting hand. Kassouf built up a strong range from the beginning and he managed to use that for a successful bluff on the river.

Ka Kwan Lau would’ve had to make a very risky hero call to expose Kassouf’s bluff. From his point of view, the most he could hope for from calling was merely a chop pot.

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Tyler Stavon 2016-10-08 21:32:31

I just wanted to let everyone know PokerGear on Amazon and WSOP has come out with 9 High Like a Boss Shirts. You can find them by searching on Amazon PokerGear (more to come this week) Will Kassouf is the man!

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