Poker Hand of the Week: When Bottom Set Runs Into Disaster

No way out.

Statistically, you'll flop a set with a pocket pair one in eight times.

If Dan Harrington knows anything about poker, you’re doing something wrong if you’re not willing to go with it if it happens.

At the PartyPoker Million in Montreal, Nipun Java flopped a set and took Harrington’s words to heart.

It ran him right into disaster.

Flop to River

There are 40 players left at the PartyPoker Million and everyone has that nice warm feeling of having $30,000 locked up already. Things can only get better and there’s a cool million up top, too.

The blinds are 300,000/600,000/75,000 and the table line-up includes former WSOP champion Carlos Mortensen. Nipun Java (21.9 million chips/36 bb) sits in second position and finds    

He raises to 1.3 million and gets calls from Jean-Pascal Savard in the cut-off and Ha Van Nguyen in the small blind.

Those three go to the       flop with 5.025 million chips already in the middle.

Nguyen checks; Java bets 2.4 million. Savard calls and Nguyen folds. This is a pretty strong fold with Q-9, by the way, that not every player can make.

The pot is now 9.8 million chips. Effective stacks are 18 million. The turn is the  

Java bets another 7.2 million but Savard shoves all-in for 18.2 million. Java calls after some quick thought.

Savard shows     and wins the hand after the A appears on the river. Savard went on to win the tournament. Watch the hand again in the video below.


What a terrible spot Nipun Java finds himself in here!

Doomed from the flop?

The question, however, is 'was there really any chance for him to avoid it?' Was there anything he could have done differently?

With a stack of 37 big blinds Java has a healthy portion of chips in front of him. Of course he should try to accumulate more of them with a low pocket pair.

Stealing the blinds and antes would give him another 1.5 million chips, but he’d also be OK with taking a flop.

He finds two customers. Savard in the cut-off will have a very wide range, and Nguyen calls from the small blind, which should sound some alarm bells with Java.

The Monster is Hidden Well

Java flops bottom set - which is not the nuts, as 6-6, 9-9, and 7-8 beat him – but is still a veritable monster.

Slow playing, however, is not an option here when Nguyen checks because Java’s opponents might draw to a diamond flush or to a straight.

Also, there are several hands with a nine in them or pairs like tens and jacks that will pay him off.

Going for what looks like a regular c-bet is the perfect play. Java would have made this bet 80% of the time anyway so it looks very inconspicuous. The monster is hidden very well.

Savard calls, so you’d think he at least has something. With Nguyen still to act behind him it’s unlikely that he was on a pure float or even a very weak hand.

Nguyen, interestingly, folds his Q-9 in the small blind, which is a highly disciplined move. Apparently, he realized that he might already be beat and playing another two streets out of position against two opponents wasn’t going to be a lot of fun.

Let's Say He Bets 5m

The 3 on the turn is a nice card for Java. Overpairs haven’t tripped up, the flush draw didn’t come in and a straight is only possible if his opponent has 4-2 or 7-4, which are very unlikely holdings.

Smaller bet better?

The pot has now grown to 9.8 million chips and Java has 18.2 million behind, which he would like to put to good use.

He bets 7.2 million, a bet size that tells his opponent that he will push on any river. Maybe Java should have gone for a bet a little smaller as a flush draw is now down to 20% equity and can’t even call a 50%-pot bet correctly.

Let’s say Java bets 5 million on the turn and gets a call. That would make the pot 20 million chips and Java would still have two-thirds of a pot bet behind.

It would make things a little cheaper. And this move would also more efficiently induce bluffs from combo draws like A 7 or pure bluffs, which are always part of every range.

The Opponent Complies

Unluckily for Java, Savard has one of the three plausible hands that beat him. It’s even one of the two where Java has but one out.

Savard’s all-in isn’t a pretty move, because it makes each of the three hands above more likely, but there’s still no way Java can fold.

jean paul savard
Java went out Harrington way; Savard lifted the title.

OK; with 11 million chips, or 18 big blinds, he would still be left with a stack you can work with. But there are so many draws on the board that semi-bluffs become so likely that it’s impossible to fold a set.

Savard could also hold 8-7 for a flopped straight, but with 10 outs for a full house or quads and pot odds of 3.5-1, a call would have been mathematically correct anyway.

So, at the end of the day, there was no way out for Java. He went down the way Dan Harrington would call 'the correct way.'


In a dream-turned-nightmare scenario, Nipun Java loses his complete stack to the eventual winner Jean-Paul Savard.

When Java noticed that there was something going on, it was too late. He got knocked out before he knew what was coming.

Please fill the required fields correctly!

Error saving comment!

You need to wait 3 minutes before posting another comment.

No Comments


Sorry, this room is not available in your country.

Please try the best alternative which is available for your location:

Close and visit page