Vojtech Ruzicka certainly was one of the stronger players at the 2016 WSOP Main Event final table.
When he three-barrel bluffed against Gordon Vayo on Day 2 of the finale, though, it stirred up a lot of discussion.
Let's have a look at the hand, put it in context and reflect on the Czech’s decision.
Flop to River
It’s Hand 104 of the November 9 and the blinds are 500k/1M/150k. All remaining players are relatively deep.
Qui Nguyen, who later would go on to win the tournament, is the current chipleader with almost 97 million (equalling 97 bb). Cliff Josephy is next with 82.6 million (82 bb).
Ruzicka and Vayo both have around 54 million (54 bb) while Michael Ruane is the shortest stack with 49 million (49 bb), which is still a sizeable stack.
The remaining five players have $1.935 million in winnings locked up and the next pay jump is to $2.57 million. The winner takes around $8m.
Vayo raises from the button to 2.3 million. Ruzicka in the small blind has A A K K and re-raises to 8.15 million. Vayo calls and there's 18.05 million chips in the pot. Effective stacks are 45.4 million.
The flop is Q Q 8 8 3 3 Ruzicka bets another 6.15 million, which Vayo calls. There's now 30.35 million chips in the pot and effective stacks are 39.25 million.
The turn is the 7 7 Ruzicka leads out again, now for 11.4 million, and Vayo calls. The pot is now 53.15 million chips big and the effective stacks are down to 27.85 million.
The river is the 5 5 Ruzicka moves all-in and Vayo calls, showing 8 8 8 8
The set of eights wins the pot and Vayo takes the chiplead. Ruzicka barely had him covered but busted soon after in fifth place. Vayo, of course, made it all the way to heads-up play.
This was a crucial hand and a major step for Vayo on his way to second place. The big question, however, is whether Ruzicka took too much of a risk or the best possible line.
The pre-flop action is quite normal. Vayo will raise a lot of hands from the button so this move doesn’t say much about his range.
Ruzicka looks at A-K in the small blind, which dominates a lot of hands Vayo could have. As Ruzicka sits out of position he raises big to more than 3x the first raise.
Vayo has no reason to fold just yet. He has a pocket pair that’s probably going to play against overcards on the board, but he has position and he has to pay 5.8 million more which is just the right price to go set-mining.
Remember that you hit your set one in eight times, statistically. At the same time Vayo’s call gives Ruzicka information about his range.
Vayo would have folded all his steals but all the Broadway hands and middle or even lower pairs are still possible.
Am I Willing to Play for My Stack?
On a pretty dry flop, which at least has two clubs, Ruzicka continues with an obvious c-bet.
He didn’t hit anything but Vayo might have missed, too, and a tight player like him will fold a lot of hands. So Ruzicka might win the pot without risking much.Get Up to $500 Now!
Vayo calls the bet with hands like A-Q, K-Q, J-J, T-T, or 9-9 and with flush draws, not mentioning monsters 8-8 and 3-3. He would fold hands like K-J without clubs or 7-7.
On the turn Ruzicka has to make a decision: Am I willing to play for my entire stack if I have to?
At that point Ruzicka has “only” invested 14 million (out of 54m) so he can still get rid of his cards. But any further bet would basically commit him to the pot.
These are the reasons that favor another bet:
- Vayo is a tight player
- Vayo’s range includes a few hands – J-J, T-T, 9-9, or maybe even Q-T – that Ruzicka could force to fold.
- Ruzicka’s range is very strong (considering he re-raised pre-flop and bet on the flop) and has aces, kings, queens, and A-Q in it.
These points speak against another bet:
1. Ruzicka doesn’t have the A♣ to represent the nut flush if another club hits.
2. If he gives it up now, he doesn’t lose too much.
3. When Vayo calls again his range has become even narrower. It now consists pretty much of monsters and hands like a queen with a high kicker, at least a ten, and flush draws.
All or Nothing on the River
The river card is a brick and Ruzicka doesn’t take long to risk all his chips. By now he's invested almost half his stack and he sized his bets in a way that he still has fold equity with an all-in.
Basically there are only two hands Vayo can call with: 8-8 and 3-3. Tight as he played, he would have probably given up any hand with a queen, including A-Q, even if it cost him half his stack.
Add the fact that Vayo might have hands like A♣ 8♣ or 9♣ 8♣ that could have made it to the river and would beat Ruzicka’s A-K, the Czech player’s bluff is absolutely the correct move.
He made his decision to attack on the turn and he was playing to win the tournament. Most of the time his play would have worked against that player and his range, but the guy on the other side of the table hit a set.
Vojtech Ruzicka goes full speed to climb to the top of the chip counts but runs his cards into a monster.
Gordon Vayo once again hit the flop perfectly and all he had to do was to wait for his opponent to hand over his chips.