Pocket aces are the best possible starting hand in Texas Hold‘em, but there are situations when you need to let them go - especially if your opponent is someone like Philipp Gruissem.
Back in 2014, Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier made an epic fold while holding pocket aces against the aforementioned Gruissem.
Today Grospellier is going to walk us through the reasons he eventually decided to fold his big hand.
Elky's Huge Fold
The hand in question occurred on the first day of EPT Monte Carlo. Grospellier opened with pocket aces and Philipp Gruissem called with 9-7s from the button.
PokerListings: What were you thinking initially?
ElkY: In this spot, Phil can call with almost 100% of his hands.
He would look very strong if he re-raises here, but he’s not worried about many other players coming in as there are only the blinds behind him.
Had he raised here I would have folded a lot of hands and even the ones I’d call with I’d be very cautious on the flop.
PL: On the flop (J♣ 8♥ 5♥) you follow with a continuation bet and Phil raises. What does that tell you?
ElkY: It means that he’s probably on some form of a draw.
He can still be bluffing, but there are not many bluffs in his range.
Typical draws he can raise here are T-9 or 9-7. Obviously, he would also value-raise jacks or fives. After the raise, it’d be difficult for me to continue if I don’t have a jack.
PL: The six on the turn seems to be a very inconspicuous card.
ElkY: Still, there is no reason for me to bet here. If he, for example, has a combo draw like T-9 of hearts, he won’t fold and I don’t want to play a big pot so early in the tournament.
Also, I can already be crushed, or I can be way ahead so I can give him a chance to bluff.
PL: The king of spades comes on the river.
ElkY: That card is pretty much a brick. There are very few hands that would profit from it now, for example A-K of hearts.
For me, it’s a lot more likely that he has a set, especially because he bets very big on the river.
I had a feeling I was beat, even though I didn’t know for sure what it was. The betting pattern and the fact that I know he’s a very good player helped me a lot to lay it down.
T-9 is pretty much the only hand he could try to bluff with here. If he has hearts, and he’s seen me calling earlier, he knows I’ll probably call him down.Get Up to $500 Now!
PL: Do you base your actions purely on betting patterns or also on physical tells?
ElkY: The betting pattern and the history I have with a player are the most important things.
But also, Phil is a player who’s very hard to read. He can act the same no matter if he has it or not.
History and betting patterns are more reliable. Still, when you have a lot of live experience, you sometimes feel if you’re ahead or not.
It’s difficult to explain.
PL: You mean it’s a sub-conscious thing?
ElkY: I think so. But even with a thousand hours of live experience you have to be very attentive.
Many players have specific mannerisms but some might have the same, only it means different things.
PL: In a big event like an EPT, you sit with a lot players you don’t know. Do you focus on reads?
ElkY: I put more focus on how they bet, but ideally it’s both. Interpreting betting patterns is how I learned to play the game, though.
Actually, I think I might need to get better at reading players. [laughs] Reading players is really important, too.
You can pick up something like confidence or fear or whatever. Everybody moves in a certain way.
PL: Is there anything that players tend to do in certain situations?
ElkY: Calling speed for example. Someone who calls very quickly on the turn is pretty likely to call you on the river, too.
Other than that, there is nothing where you can really say that a certain mannerism means a specific thing.