Poker Hand of the Week: McKeehen & Kenney in ‘Totally Polarized’

The 2016 PCA didn’t just feature a lot of exciting tournaments.

It also showcased a world champion in top form.

With two runner-up finishes and $1.28m in earnings 2015 WSOP Main Event champ Joe McKeehen showed that his Main Event victory was no fluke.

Even though he eventually bowed out in second, he gave Bryn Kenney all he could handle in the $100k Super High Roller.

Today we'll look at a hand where McKeehen exposed a big bluff from Kenney and called him down with just enough to take the big pot.

Flop to River

It’s the heads-up of the $100,000 Super High Roller Event at the PCA. The two contenders left are Kenney and McKeehen. Both players have $1.22 million locked up but the winner will add almost another half a million.

The stacks are pretty even. Kenney has 7.7 million chips; McKeehen has 6.7 million. The blinds are 100,000/200,000/30,000.

McKeehen finds     on the button and raises to 400,000. Kenney calls and there's 860,000 in the pot. Effective stacks are 6.3 million.

The flop falls      

Kenney checks. McKeehen bets 340,000 and Kenney calls. The pot is now up to 1.54 million and the effective stacks left are 5.96 million.

Turn   Both players check and they go to the river  

Kenney checks a third time. McKeehen bets out one million. Kenney now check-raises to 3.37 million, making the pot 5.91 million chips big.

McKeehen takes over one minute to think about it. He stares down his opponent and eventually decides to call.

Kenney is forced to show a bluff with     Rewatch the hand here:

Hand Analysis

The reigning world champion really didn’t have much here but he had enough to win a big pot. Let’s take a closer look to understand his call on the river.

Bryn Kenney
Wants a small pot.

McKeehen’s raise pre-flop with K♦ 6♦ is reasonable. The hand has above-average quality and, more importantly, he has position.

With the blinds already very high, and with both players having less than 40 big blinds, a 2x raise is a standard move.

Kenney doesn’t have position but he has an ace, which the majority of time means he has the best hand.

Yet he doesn’t want to re-raise as his hand isn’t strong enough to call an all-in and doesn’t hit a lot of boards. So, Kenney wants to play a small pot.

Second Pair on the Flop

McKeehen hits second pair on the flop. When Kenney checks, he sees no reason not to bet. Most of the time he now has the best hand and there are a couple of worse hands that can pay him.

He also wouldn’t mind a fold from Kenney as most of the turn cards will be bad for him. Kenney could choose to fold here but he thinks that McKeehen has hardly ever hit a flop with a queen and two low cards, so he decides to continue.

The 3♦ on the turn is a nice card for McKeehen and he’s still ahead as long as Kenney doesn’t hold a queen or a middle pair – which is unlikely as he would probably raise with it. Hands like 7-5 or 5-2 also seem unlikely.

Joe McKeehen Day8
River is a good card.

It’s still correct to check here as McKeehen has showdown value and his opponent can’t really call with anything worse than McKeehen’s hand.

A Big Surprise

The river is another good card for the champion. It’s another three, which means that McKeehen still has second pair and is often ahead.

When Kenney checks, McKeehen takes his time to think about a value bet. Eventually he bets one million chips, hoping to get calls from ace-high hands or even K-J.

Kenney now check-raising to over 3.3 million is a big surprise for him. Many amateurs would probably just shrug here and fold, but McKeehen takes his time to think the hand through again.

These are the numbers: McKeehen is getting good pot odds of 2.61-1 but he’d be left with only 13 big blinds if he’s wrong.

Brynn Kenney
What hand would he play like that?

Totally Polarized

What’s more important, though, is that Kenney’s range is now totally polarized.

Having checked three times, Kenney suddenly comes up with a hefty check-raise. This begs the question, "what hand he would play like that?"

Pretty much the only possible hands are monsters like pocket fours, a surprise three like A-3, the 7-5 and extremely unlikely hands like 6-6 (there are only two sixes left) and Q-Q.

Hands like K-Q would rather bet the river and hope to get a call instead of check-raising. So the range of strong hands for Kenney is very small whereas the range of bad hands is huge.

It has pretty much all the hands in it that Kenney could have called with pre-flop. And this is exactly the reason why McKeehen was able to call relatively fast.

He exposes Kenney’s move as a bluff that was not really credible and maybe a little impetuous.

Still second, though.


Bryn Kenney tries a surprise move with a check-raise on the river, but he doesn’t give it enough credibility.

Joe McKeehen isn’t very impressed and rather quickly calls against a range of hands that is polarized but almost empty.

Despite this great play, McKeehen lost the heads-up to Kenney and finished the Super High Roller in second place.

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