Being “pot-committed” is something you hear a lot in poker.
It means having put so many chips into such a large pot that you can't fold anymore, no matter what happens.
But what do you do if you basically have to call and your hand isn’t very good? And you risk losing your entire stack?
This is the very question Gabriel Paul asks himself in this week’s Hand of the Week. Oh, and it’s also about a WSOP bracelet.
Flop to River
Last year the World Series of Poker had a Tag Team event and this hand came in the most crucial stage of it. The teams all had two or three players who shared the prize money between them.
In the final Doug Polk and Ryan Fee met a team made of rather unknown players – Adam Greenberg, Neil Mittelman and Gabriel Paul. At this point Fee was playing Paul.
Both teams have locked up $95,000 but up top there's another $50k waiting. And of course there’s also that bracelet.
Paul has 1.71 million chips in front of him, equalling 57 bb. Fee is ahead with 2.58 million chips equalling 86 bb. The blinds are 15,000/30,000/5000.
Paul finds A A 10 10 and raises to 80,000. Fee re-raises to 190,000. Paul calls and the pot is 390,000 with effective stacks of 1.52 million (51 bb).
The flop is J J 8 8 6 6 . Fee follows up with a bet of 275,000 and Paul calls again. That gives us 940,000 in the pot while the effective stacks are now at 1.25 million.
The turn is the K K Fee bets another 575,000 and Paul makes another call. The pot grows to 2.09 million with the effective stacks coming down to 650,000.
The river is the J J . Fee puts Paul all-in. Paul takes two minutes to think and calls. It turns out to be a double up to 3.4 million as Fee was bluffing with 5 5 2 2 .
Fee fell back to 29 bb but came back later to win the tournament. Watch the hand play out in the video below.
What a wild hand! There are several interesting spots in it that deserve our appreciation.
Paul gets A-Ts, which is a very good hand heads-up, so a raise is the obvious choice. On the other side of the table Fee has absolute garbage – 5-2 of clubs – but gets creative, raises and builds a pot.
Paul can’t fold a hand of this strength and calls. The flop is a very interesting one. J86 brings several draws on the board. It’s also a flop that mostly hits the range of the calling player.
Fee decides to bet anyway and now represents a really strong hand that’s probably going to bet again on later streets. At this point Fee also needs to plan ahead as he’s already investing a third of his effective stack with the c-bet on the flop.
Call or Raise?
Back to Gabriel Paul. We can safely say that drawing to the nut flush with an overcard to the board means folding is not an option.
His options are calling or raising. Both options have advantages. By pushing all-in Paul could probably make some better hands than his fold, like a six or an eight.
If he took it down right there he would add about 30% to his stack. A call is also good because he can let Fee get to the turn with his whole range and that range has a lot of bluffs in it.
But Paul also has to think ahead. His problem is that if he doesn’t hit the turn he either has to give up his hand or call with a naked draw.
Ryan Fee has Nerves of Steel
The turn is the K which is a pretty good hand for Fee’s range. Fee apparently agrees with this and goes for another bet.
Fee must have thought that there were enough draws in Paul’s range that he could force to fold. At the same time he’s sending his opponent a strong message. That message is: “I will push on any river!”
Paul now has to live with the consequences of his flop call. He added an inside straight draw to his flush draw but he still doesn’t even have a pair.
Now, an aggressive player like Fee is always good for a bluff. In that respect a call can be fine -- but only if he also ALWAYS calls on the river.
A Nice Example of Levelling
The J on the river doesn’t change much. The player who was ahead before is still ahead now. Fee, however, still bets into a 2-million-chip pot against a player who only has 650,000 chips or 22 bb left.
This is a nice example of levelling in poker. Fee tries to convey the following: “I’m betting although I know you can’t fold, which tells you I’m really strong. Are you sure you don’t want to fold?”
The message does its work as Paul finds himself in a bad spot now. Not only does he lose against any pair, there are even bluffs that beat him.
At the end of the day, however, it’s a must-call because Fee’s range not only has “regular” bluffs in it but also a couple of busted draws like 9-7, Q-9, a gutshot or even a lower flush draw.
Additionally, there are only very few hands strong enough for three bets – like a jack, a king, eights, or sixes.
Yet, kudos to Gabriel Paul for keeping his nerve. Yes, he sort of had to make his decision on the turn, but it’s still very tough to make that call with ace high with your – and your team’s – tournament life on the line.
Ryan Fee makes four bold attempts to push his opponent out of the hand but can't force a fold. On the other side of the table Gabriel Paul calls with increasingly good draws until he’s so deep in it that he can’t fold anymore.