Hand of the Week: Sammartino Gets Ruler at Ivey School of Poker

Is it ever not entertaining - or educational - to watch Phil ivey play poker?

This week we're looking back at the $100k High Roller event at the 2016 Aussie Millions and a hand between superstar Phil Ivey and Italian Dario Sammartino.

The former turns the pressure up to 11 with a massive overbet on the river. With a 30-second shot clock in place, the latter has limited time to make a gigantic decision.

The question for Sammartino is: Is my straight good?

Flop to River

It's the early stages of the AU$100k Challenge at the Aussie Millions, which was eventually won by Fabian Quoss. The blinds are 700/1400/200.

It's folded to Phil Ivey (169,000 chips or 120 bb) on the button and he raises to 3,200. Fedor Holz folds the small blind but Sammartino, who is slightly deeper than Ivey, calls in the big blind with J spades J 9 spades 9

There's 8,300 in the pot and they go to a flop of  10 hearts 10 8 hearts 8 3 hearts 3

Sammartino checks, Ivey bets 4,000 and Sammartino raises to 13,000. Ivey calls. There's now 34,300 in the pot and both players have about 153,000 chips behind. The turn is the 7 clubs 7

Sammartino bets 18,000 and Ivey calls. The pot has grown to 66,300 chips and the effective stacks are down to 135,000. The river is the  7 spades 7 Sammartino checks and Ivey thinks for a minute before he moves all-in with about 135,000 into the 66,300 pot.

Sammartino doesn’t like it. He squirms, uses his time bank chip, but finally calls it off. Ivey shows 10 diamonds 10 10 clubs 10 for top full house versus Sammartino’s straight.

Sammartino loses almost all his chips and busts soon after. Watch the video of the hand below:

Hand Analysis

It’s a fatal call from Sammartino and basically costs him his stack and the tournament. Could the Italian pro have avoided disaster or did he have to call here?

dario sammartino
Can he get away?

That’s the question we now need to answer. Sammartino’s hand is a classic example of the range of hands you would defend your big blind with.

J-9s is a hand definitely good enough to call a button-raise. It has a lot of potential to make the best hand. Also, Ivey raised from the button so his range is very broad and it’s very tough to determine his hand.

The single-suited T♥ 8♥ 3♥ flop, however, is more likely to hit the range of the big blind than the button. Ivey c-bets, but that’s a totally standard move and doesn’t mean much, so Sammartino starts his first attack on the pot.

He check-raises his open-ended straight draw as on this board he has both steal equity and pot equity.

The Tide Turns

When Ivey calls the raise it’s obvious that he has something. But the turn is Sammartino’s dream card.

The 7♣ gives him pretty much the nuts, if you set aside the flush possibility for a minute. For Sammartino a bet is obvious here.Get Up to $500 Now!

He’s hit one of his eight outs and he might get paid off by top-pair hands with or without flush draws or even by sets.

From Ivey’s point of view there are now quite a few hands that beat him. Still, it would be playing too safe to fold here.

The call is the perfect move as a raise would only be paid – or raised – by better hands.

The river is the 7♠, and this card sees Sammartino check.

A bet would be possible here, as a ten or any other pair might still pay, but the Italian might think here that there aren’t enough hands that pay him off so he’d rather induce a bluff.

The River Wild

But then what happens is the one thing Sammartino didn’t want to see. Ivey moves all-in for more than twice the pot.

It’s pretty clear what that means. It’s a monster or it’s nothing. As the board is now paired the value of flush hands has diminished. There is no evidence that Ivey would go all-in on that kind of hand.

Screen shot 2016 03 24 at 3.00.34 PM
School is out.

Sammartino is soon in trouble because, including the time bank, he only has one minute to go through the hand and decide what to do.

Surely, Ivey calling the flop and turn means that he has to have something.

At the end of the day there aren’t many value hands Ivey can play that way – T-T, 8-8, or 3-3, plus a few bluffs with one heart, but the risks are high for Sammartino.

If he pulls himself together here and folds he’s left with 138,000 chips, which is a good stack to carry on with the tournament. If he wins the hand he'd have a big stack, but not a crucial advantage for the tournament.

Ivey, of course, played the hand like Phil Ivey. He made his monster look like a bluff and maximized his win against a suspicious opponent.


Dario Sammartino picked the wrong time in a high roller event to challenge the play of Phil Ivey.

The American, on the other hand, found the perfect spot to exploit his opponent’s unwillingness to fold.

Another lesson learned at the Phil Ivey School of Poker

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