For the last seven weeks, the World Series of Poker has kept us on the edge of our seats on a daily basis.
There have been dozens of thrilling exciting hands. But one in particular has risen risen above the noise.
Bracelet winner Kyle Bowker folded quads on Day 2C of the main event.
You read that right. Kyle Bowker FOLDED QUADS.
This obviously begs the question: Can this ever be a correct decision?
Flop to River
It's Day 2C of the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event and Kyle Bowker has already accumulated 160,000 chips. In other words, he's doing just fine.
Sitting in early position he receives 7 7 7 7 . With the blinds at 400/800/100, Bowker raises to 1,800 and finds three callers - two from middle position and the big blind.
With 8,500 chips in the pot they see a flop of K K 9 9 7 7 The big blind checks and Bowker bets 5,000.
That gets the first caller to fold, but the second one comes along. The big blind also gets out of the way and we now have a pot of 18,500 chips.
The remaining two players have effective stacks of 110,000 and see the turn come 7 7 Bowker now bets 11,000 and gets called again. The pot has grown to 40,500 chips while the effective stacks are at 100,000.
The river is the J J Bowker bets 40,000 and his opponent moves all-in for 100k. There's 180,000 in the pot and Bowker has to pay 58,000 to win it.
However, he takes seven minutes in the tank and then folds! After this hand he’s left with about 100,000 chips. Unfortunately for Bowker, that wasn’t enough to ultimately secure him a spot in the money.
It was an incredible fold, reminiscent of Mikhail Smirnov’s laydown with quad eights during the BIG ONE for One Drop in 2012.
But let’s see what convinced Bowker that his opponent must have had the only hand that beat him – a straight flush.
Pre-flop, Bowker raises from early position. It’s a standard raise with what might easily be the best hand. Also, being deep stacked like this, it’s very tempting to go set-mining as the implied odds are enormous.
Three players call and we need to ask ourselves what their ranges look like. The big blind’s range is pretty large and only excludes very strong hands.
The other two players’ ranges are easier to determine, but we’ll focus on the one that went with Bowker to the river.
Narrowing Down the Range
Low and middle pocket pairs up to 9-9 are in his range, just as there are many Broadway hands like A-J, Q-J, or J-T, often suited.
We can positively exclude A-A, K-K, Q-Q and J-J as these would re-raise pre-flop almost 100% of the time. On the flop we can take the next step in narrowing down our opponent’s range.
Bowker does hit the set and makes the reasonable decision to not play it slowly. The K K 9 9 7 7 flop is pretty wet so a value bet is the correct move to punish draws and weaker hands as well as protect your own hand.
Two players fold, but one remains. We can now eliminate all the small pairs from his range but the Broadway hands with a king are still there, as are spade flush draws and 9-9.
The turn doesn’t change the range much. All the hands mentioned are still realistic, as the player calls another bet.
From Bowker’s point of view the river is pretty irrelevant. He doesn’t have the stone cold nuts anymore but there’s only one hand that beats him - Q♠ T♠.
So Bowker makes a large, pot-sized bet as the flush draw has come in and hands like A♠ J♠ or A♠ Q♠ will probably pay him off.
The pair on the board is an important element here as the nut flush isn’t the nuts on this board, and we have to consider this when our opponent rather quickly moves all-in.
We’re now faced with a new situation. Our opponent seems to be a solid player, and with the nut flush he would definitely just call and not raise.
You Don't Play in the Main Event Every Day
We can now narrow down the opponent’s range to four hands – K-K, J-J, 9-9 and Q♠ T♠.
We've already eliminated jacks and kings as they would have re-raised pre-flop, so that leaves us with just two – 9-9 and Q♠ T♠.
More relevant factors are now the pot odds and combos these hands can build. The pot odds are great at 3.1 to 1 so Bowker only needs to be right every fourth time to make a call profitable.
However, you don’t play in the WSOP Main Event every day, so the situation is a special.
Supporting the call is the number of combos of the opponent’s cards.
There’s only one Q♠ T♠, but there are three possible pocket nines - 9♣ 9♦, 9♣ 9♥ and 9♥ 9♦.
Mathematically speaking, nines are three times as likely as Q-Ts.
If we also take into account the pot odds and the fact that Bowker would still have 40k chips (= 50 bb) if he lost the hand, a call would have been the correct decision.
Bowker explained that he had a read on his opponent and was sure he was up against a straight flush.
The maximum action card on the river makes Kyle Bowker fold quads and we see that he had good reason to do so. Strictly speaking, a call would have been mathematically correct, but that’s disregarding his live read.
Read more here about how the hand unfolded and the responses it triggered.