Revisiting a tough hand from a $25,000 WPT event

I played with Antonio Esfandari in the World Poker Tour Tournament of Champions the other day and every time I see him, I am reminded of the time I bubbled the $25,500 buy-in WPT Championship event in 2013 at Bellagio. The following is an article I wrote after that excruciating bubble. I didn’t particularly enjoy the experience. I hope you do!

Recently I played in the $25,500 World Poker Tour main event at the Bellagio, and I can honestly say I played the best four days of poker of my life. I made good folds, good calls and a few good bluffs. I wrote down every hand I played, which I’ll use as content for my book, Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker, Volume 3. I busted in 20th place, while 18 people got paid. Going out near the bubble in a major event is never fun but always a memorable experience.
Michael Mizrachi, with 500K chips, raised to 27K from middle position at 6K/12K-2K blinds. With 400K, I picked up A-K in the small blind. Antonio Esfandari was in the big blind with 180K. While I was looking at my cards, I looked to my left and saw Antonio perk up a little bit, which led me to believe he might go all-in if given the opportunity. I decided to call, hoping Antonio would go all-in with whatever he had. I didn’t really care what Michael did in response, as I had A-K, which should crush any range he could reasonably have.

I was thrilled to see Antonio instantly go all-in as soon as my chips hit the felt. I was equally happy to see Michael go all-in, which I thought was clearly an isolation play.

I called, of course. Michael had Qd-Jd and Antonio had K-J. I had to fade a Q or J to end up with a million chips and a hefty stack with which I could abuse the bubble. Unfortunately the poker gods didn’t smile one me as a Queen came on the turn to send me packing.
When most players bust from a tournament, they usually try to figure out how they could’ve avoided the situation. I instead try to figure out if I could’ve gained more equity in the hand. Notice in this hand, if I had reraised preflop to around 70K, Antonio would have almost certainly folded and Michael would’ve called.
I would then have to play a pot out of position against someone who tends to not fold whenever the flop is good for his perceived range or bad for my perceived range, which basically means he would almost certainly play back at me on any board that doesn’t have an Ace, King, or Queen. This means I often win small pots when I hit my Ace or King and lose small pots whenever any other flop comes. That isn’t a good thing.

I could also reraise large preflop, to around 100K, but I think that’s a bad play because it will force Michael to fold most hands that don’t have the correct equity to call. Whenever you have your opponent’s range crushed, you almost always want him in the pot. The last thing you want to do is drive him out of the pot when he has a hand such as A-J and is drawing thin.

What this boils down to is I did the absolute best I could in this spot and that makes me happy.
I’m sure some of you are thinking, “But you risked going broke on the bubble.” While I did, notice I got all-in with 58 percent equity in a large pot, which certainly would’ve given me a great opportunity to make a really deep run in the tournament. Unless your stack is short, where getting in the money would be a huge success, playing like a super nit in order to get in the money is rarely a good play. In this event, 18th place paid $40K and first place paid $1.1 million. I would much rather give up a “guaranteed” $40K in exchange for a 1-in-15 shot at $1.1 million.
Sadly, most people can’t or haven’t done the math and believe cashing for the minimum is the way to be profitable at poker. If you look at the players who cash regularly but rarely win, you’ll see they are usually breakeven, at best. To be a big winner in tournaments, you must put yourself in situations to get a lot of chips late in the event. This hand is a great example of how I do this on a regular basis.

Sometimes, it doesn’t work out.

secrets-of-professional-tournament-poker-volume-3I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know what you think in the comment section below. If you want to experience many more hands from this $25,000 event, as well as a $1,500 and a $2,500 WSOP event, check out Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker, Volume 3.

Be sure to check back next week for another educational blog post. Thanks for reading!

54 Comments

  • michael says:

    Your thinking makes sense to me. I’m just surprised Antonio looked at his cards before you and that he gave off such a big tell.

  • Sean says:

    Obviously it was a great play, why would someone avoid being in a good position to win a tournament. I wish you would calculate the value of the chips like the icm of 58% equity of the 100k pot based on total number of chips versus the icm of the apparent stack if Michael calls a raise folds to cbet or if he folds pre and if u received 2 streets of value and ect. What an interesting math problem, just to mathematically prove it was a great play.

  • bruce says:

    You were playing to win, not playing to cash, it is that simple. If you were playing to cash, and made a big re-raise to around 100-110k they both, being reasonable players, probably would have folded. If you got 4-bet you still can get away from the hand with 300k.

    While playing to win is admirable, against two other players with unknown but good cards you were definitely looking at less than 50% of winning the hand, and also you violated the oft-written rule (I believe first in Supersystem, and in various other books since) about Big Slick…better to go all-in instead of call all-in.

    I know how you play by now, though, after all your free media, which I appreciate. You play to win, and don’t seem to care about small cashes or old-style, conservative poker. I’m sure you are getting rich as hell, and good for you!

    • In general, giving yourself a real chance to win is much better than sneaking into the money with a marginal stack. If you become very short, sneaking in the money becomes your main concern because the odds of you winning are quite low.

  • Mark Egbert says:

    Someday I hope to find myself in this situation, i’m just a wannabe, but my gut disagrees. I have every audible book you have available and then some. Listening to your work has taken my game to another level, yet it creates a lot more swings in variance. I still review Annie Dukes book regularly and in my opinion its one the best book out there for a solid game, Your knowledge on ranges is phenomenal but I think I would either raise pre or call fold. Yes I can fold AK pre flop there, call me crazy. I believe Ak is really overplayed in general it still a drawing hand. If I know the bb is playing and I raise he still might shove, then I call. If the original raiser shoves i can fold there. If it goes heads up between the 2 i now have the short stack on my right and still both of them covered.I have to consider both of their ranges, which has almost all pairs and hands i dominate. But a portion of the ranges hold Ax and Kx which limits my outs against any pair. So many people play so tight on the bubble that I think I could shorten both Antonio’s shoving range and Michael 4′ betting range, but at least one of them has to either hold one of my cards, or possibly have me crushed there. I really hate being out of position there post, as you mentioned. I think you can outplay most players, so I guess, why would you want to leave it to the poker gods when you have so much more poker you can play. one hand and you are back on the button and the bubble pops soon. I think you just let go of you edge and left it up to the deck. In hindsight you made the right call, QJ vs KJ vs AK, looking good, but AQ vs AK vs 1010, not so much. You are just hands away from to full tables with a 30 plus big blinds. Like I said, i’m just a wannabe, but im stuck at raise or fold to the 4 bet shove, heck I might shove there, but flat call, i just cant swallow, not from the small blind, you might as well play the same way with 89s. Just my opinion and expressing it for the sole purpose of learning. Thanks for all you do…

    “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
    ― Albert Einstein

    • Thanks for the comments. In general, you should get away from thinking of hands as “drawing hands” or “made hands” and instead only be concerned with their equity. You also mention one of the worst spots as an example but in reality, the equity on average is all that matter. You could have just as easily positioned it as AK vs AQ vs AQ and I would have them crushed. Always be sure to think long term.

  • William says:

    I think the goal is to never get busted.
    If you go all-in 2/3 times in a tourny with only 58% equity your probably going out.
    You need every advantage, especially fold equity of which thier is zero when calling.
    Neither of the hands against you were very strong. I don’t think you should lose to them in that spot. Especially when they don’t want to bubble. $40K is a years Average salary, it has to count.
    Make the $$ then get jiggy if you must, but try to do it with great hands like AK plus fold equity. It’s possible to win 5 or more hands in a row without a fight.
    Sun Tzu said: The best one battle is the one where you don’t have to fight.
    Wm. In Vancouver
    PS I DO know Jonathon and many of you are many levels above me in poker.

    • 40k is 1.6 buy-ins, which really isn’t a huge deal. You always have to think in terms of buy-ins, not “money”. Also, I am not 42% to bust because if I beat Mizrachi but lose to Antonio, I still have lots of chips.

    • Mark Egbert says:

      I just don’t see how you can have greater than 50% equity against 2 hands that have announced great strength.

    • Mizrachi’s raise doesn’t really announce strength. I suppose it is worth mentioning that he is normally quite wild.

    • William Wilkinson and Hildie Campange says:

      Yes the stack size difference.. Important.
      The $40K I referred to was real $$$ Min Cash.

      Thanks for all your doing Jonathan,
      I am really enjoying pokerstars thanks to you and others.

  • Rosemarie says:

    One of the mistakes most of us have made is to underestimate our opponent’s hands…..the other is to overestimate the power of aces.
    In poker there is also a tremendous level of luck. You can do everything that you feel is correct and the card gods do not cooperate.
    If you see pre flop raising either someone has a strong starting hand or they are bluffing. If there is re raising someone is either defending or trying to attack. If there is an all in declared it is the same. More than one all in or calling all in…..well, everyone thinks their two cards are the winning two cards…however, it takes five cards to make a hand.
    A pair of twos beats AK …. hindsight says you should have folded because an ace or king did not show.
    That being stated, if either of those or if no one would have hit their cards you would have made the correct call.
    I might have given the others credit for a little more than they had given the action.
    They made the correct decision to go all in because they won .
    You made the wrong one because you lost. If you would have won you would have made the correct decision.
    It is gambling.

    • The result does not make a call “correct” or “incorrect”. You have to look at your equity on average and figure out if the risk is worth the reward.

    • Dave says:

      Being able to make decisions based on hindsight after all the cards were dealt would be nice. I think this falls under the being results oriented category. However, you have to learn how to make poker decisions in reality.

  • hero call with 6 high says:

    Did Mizrachi give you a needle afterwards saying something like: “I would have folded AK there..” I could totally see him saying that with that classic trolly grin he has. I like both arguments and can’t fault either side. It’s a +EV over call in a vacuum and it’s an ok spot to fold to two jams on the bubble because you still have over 30bb to play with which isn’t the worst.

  • billy harvill says:

    With T400k I’m sure you’re looking for a spot to chip up but with 30+BB you aren’t critical. While you ended up with 58% equity as the hand played, once mizrachi shoves, your equity is around 40% (maybe less) vs 2 players even with the pretty wide range you would anticipate (pairs, Aces, broadways) making this a play that you lose most of the time. With the pot odds around T618/T400 you’re not getting an overlay, so with your stack (and talent) why not look for a better spot.

  • Diana K says:

    I prefer to raise preflop with AK than call. That way the decision is on the other people and hopefully they fold. If you had raised preflop Michael may have folded and you would have been heads up. But nothing is certain in poker. All I know is from my experience (which isn’t much) the best hand going in seems to lose quite a bit!

    • The problem with raising is Mizrachi will call preflop then play quite well after the flop, applying pressure on board not containing high cards and folding on high card boards. You never want to give an overly aggressive opponent the opportunity to play great after the flop.

  • Bruce Olson says:

    Reading this as an amateur, makes it clear how different the “goals” are… and how critical “goals” are in analyzing any data, whether poker or business (which I do for a living).

    Given that you had over 33BB, you were certainly not in a hurry to “get it in” as Antonio was. I think you have to do the math based on:
    – Equity = Estimated Cash if you call = (42% x 0) + (58% x ???)
    – Equity = Estimated Cash if you fold = (100% x ???)
    Personally, I think a call for you makes sense if you had QQ+ or if you were closer to 20BB than 33… that the difference in your expected ROI isn’t sufficient to warrant busting here. But that’s based on my skill level; you must be calculating that 1MM chips gives you MUCH greater equity and say, 300K chips that you likely would have had by being patient.

    But one of your comments makes this entirely clear… $40K is not a lot… and certainly it isn’t relative to the $25K buy-in… so you

  • Jack Daniels says:

    Jack Daniels says:

    There is a reason…a math reason that AK is ranked so high as a starting hand, equity vs. other ranges. I agree that playing to get to the final table with chips vice a short stack is preferable…even if it means sometimes you go out and wonder “Why did I do that?” on the way out the door.
    I am also a “wanna be”…so what do I know for sure? Figure out your goal and then play like that. I’m just sayin’

  • Hy says:

    I have no problem with how you played the hand. I do have a problem with the assumption that AK would crush any hand that raised from middle position. Even though you ended up being way ahead, Michael’s range could include hands that put you way behind.

    • Mizrachi is fairly wild. I suppose that is relevant information!

    • William in Vancouver says:

      What hands put u way behind with AK?
      AA/KK. 3 handed that’s 1 in over 30 chance.
      A PR is a slight favorite.
      Far more likely if your called the other guy is way behind with AQ, AJ, KQs, and if he’s loose add a few more hands.

    • I am not concerned with how I fare versus various hands. I am more so concerned about how I fare versus the ranges. As you stated, I think both players have many hands I crush in their ranges, making my play ideal.

  • Sean Roman says:

    Since this was a 2013 hand that you remember as vividly as if it was yesterday, I think this is the hand you would love a onetime time machine to re-do. With live poker, Antonio’s pre-flop excitedness is likely the key to answering what the best move was. My humble opinion is that a big raise was in order. I get the significance you place on the equity percentage – but overlooking the revelations beyond the math negates that card playing can also approach an art form.

    Disclaimer: I have never been able to afford near A five figure buy-in.

  • Greg Thomas says:

    That was very creative trapping w/AK. I love how you came up with that plan on the spot in a high pressure situation.
    I really like how you played the hand.

    ICM wise i know the caller gets punished more than the raiser which often seems arbitrary to me.
    That seems irrelevant in this hand because your stack was too large to shove.

    I am curious if you had around $210k the ICM difference between shoving and trapping vrs .villains range and exact hands.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Adam says:

    As I ran it on Poker Cruncher, AK in that situation is only ~35% against two opponents’ reasonable ranges: 55+, ATs+, KJs+, QJs+, AJo+, KQo+. Even those ranges seem slightly wide for all-in on the bubble…and they still have ~32% equity each.

    So in the instance, the equity was ~58%, but they were BOTH at the bottom of their ranges. It seems to me that if expected equity is only ~35% and equal for all players…then there surely must be better spots with a greater edge. AK only has 2BB invested and to call off 32BB more on an expected edgeless situation seems like gambling.

    Granted, I did not do the separate math for the side pot with Mizrachi but against that reasonable range, AK is only ~55% at best so it’s a flip with him too.

    EXCEPT…Mizrachi’s play to “isolate” with QJs is usually not in a normal playbook. I would expect an isolation hand to usually be pairs or AQ+. So AK is marginally behind in that situation. Even with some of the separate dead money it may still be a close call or small edge but we still have 30+BB to seek greater edges.

    My two chips worth…

    • I think Mizrachi is much more wild than you expect. Also, as you state, the only time this is an actual disaster is when I lose to Mizrachi. If I lose to Antonio but beat Mizrachi, it works out well enough.

  • Bill Hoffer says:

    My only thought is that you should have re-raised preflop and tried to see if you could isolate Antonio………since you already felt he would shove, no matter. I personally would not have risked all my chips as the 3rd all-in caller. I guess I need more education about “hand equity”. Can you direct me to a book or video that can enlighten me more on this topic?

    • If I reraise preflop, Antonio would certainly fold, leaving me playing out of position versus Mizrachi, who will play quiet well in position versus my somewhat face-up range.

  • Eric H says:

    Awesome play. I did something similar last night and busted w KK against QT when my opponent turned 2 pr. Bah!

  • Daniel Matias says:

    Jonathan, nice post.
    One question.
    At the time you had 33 BB.

    Total pot was
    18k BB + 20 K ante +27k (your call) + 180k + 500k = 745KK
    your call was = 373 k
    total pot = 1,188k
    Pot odds= 31%
    Against the 2 players range, I figured you had 36,4% equity
    Result: Ev+ call – correct call in Math

    However this is my endless question. Should you put your tournament in risk (only 36,4 % edge) with over 30 BB knowing you had a better edge over the field ?
    In my case, as a profitable amateur player, I would easily call since I don’t have such edge as you had.

    What is the limit for taking such decision or even a flip decision with 30BB+ BB when you have edge over the others?

    thank you

    • Thanks for the analysis. Great work!

      I generally want some decent edge when calling off in this spot. This is an odd situation because the only “bad” result is when Mizrachi beats me. If Antonio beats me but I beat Mizrachi, I still have a reasonable stack. In general, deep in a $25k buy-in event, I don’t expect to have much of an edge. In this situation, I am happy enough with my call mainly because my opponents could be looser than I expect but will rarely be tighter. I generally view your analysis as the worst case situation. If the worst case is decent enough, the best case is usually great.

  • Mike Scarsdale says:

    I think your play was great, you set a trap and it worked.

    What do you think Esfandari and Mizrachi should have been thinking about? What should they have put your range on to flat the SB with 33BB? I think alarm bells should have been going off.

  • Gastonepoker says:

    Hi Jonathan,
    the spot seems to me quite normal if u think bb squeeze a decent amount of time (if is not a nit playing to cash).. I mean, it’s all about stack size, you CANT push bc too big and you cant fold bc too strong. Only call and raise is an option, and that depends again on stack size: OR is 40bb+, ip on the bubble and is Mizrachi (a good reg very wild and aggr that knws how to play) so his range should be HUGE.
    Bb is short and is Antonio (good reg as well maybe less crazy but for sure able to make good +ev moves!) and his range depending on the action should be somewhat solid, in theory he shouldn’t call much here(if not to defend bb vs a min) but he should be in the push fold already.
    If sb 3b the or here he would find only the push of bb with solid hands(AQs+/AK/ 55+ or 99+ depending on the player) and almost never with semi-junk(A2s+ A5+ 22+ KTs+ JTs+). Even more, when u 3b and bb folds u gonna play oop vs good aggr reg with bigger stack, as you said thats terrible!
    So it seems to me that the call is the only option if bb is a decent or good player! In this case he must squeeze also his semi-junk range bc of money in the pots and bc of OR wild range! Plus the sb call obbligates Mizrachi to take a decision if Esfandiari push bc after him 1pl still to act, so or he folds or he isopush, both great for bb if sb isnt trapping!
    Bb prob knws as well that sb call his 20/25%strong(AQ/QQ+) and 75/80%pretty hands(ATo+/56s+ A3s+ J9s+ 22-66 maybe 77/88 and similar) so even if he has small(does he has any?) fold equity I think it’s a mandatory squeeze with both ranges solid and semi-junk.
    Mizrachi open range is huge (I think something like 57%-22+, A2s+, K2s+, Q2s+, J3s+, T5s+, 95s+, 85s+, 75s+, 65s, 54s, A2o+, K4o+, Q6o+, J7o+, T7o+, 97o+, 86o+ maybe even more), and we knw that he knws what we just said.
    This means that he’ll isopush much more then folding! I can’t really figure his isopush range here bc I dont knw the player enough, but I think it will be not less then half of his open range (I guess a similar range to the range he would think bb is pushing).
    If my process is correct, AK here should be 45%ish vs the two players (that in a 3way pot full of chips looks great to me, I mean KK vs TT vs AKs is at 55%) , but what’s most important, as you pointed out in different replys, is that u are crushing Mizrachi with AK 65% favorite vs his isopush range.
    What I would like to knw is with what u would make a call call here other then AK and with what u would make a call fold(88-99?)? Also, the times bb folds how do u play AK? If u hit u pot control vs aggr oppo and if u dont kind of give up? Or u might try some play to get the pot bc after cbet would be a big pot. And last how many BB would u have 3b push here? Is 24/25bb still too big?

    PS: I watch ur HU vs Kitty.. Nice score btw. I got a question for that as well..
    On one hand u where on the river with a mid pair 4, the board was like Qd4d3s5hTs and she had 86o and she call flop check turn e almost pot
    river. You said that it didnt make any sense her bet and she wasn’t betting a T or a 5. You min tank and then folding while u say:I will be a good
    boy and fold! 🙂
    I think she wouldn’t bet a Q like that, and she would bet only A2,67,QQ,33,44,55,TT and maybe 62(if she play that?!). I don’t think she would bet
    that big 2pair, maybe QT, but I could be wrong..
    The rest would be pure air and missed draws(especially with the turn check)! The flush missed and the 6 and 2 missed river.
    I also think she would raise AdXd on the flop, making her range on the river something like this: QQ, TT, 55-33, 76s, KdJd, KdTd, QdTd, As9s,
    Kd9d, Jd9d,As8s, Kd8d, Jd8d, 9d8d, As7s, Kd7d, Qd7d, Jd7d, 9d7d, 8d7d, As6s, Kd6d, Qd6d, Jd6d, 9d6d, 8d6d, Ad2d, Kd2d, A9o-A6o, A2o, KJo
    K9o, QTo, J9o,J8o, 76o. I’m not sure she would always play 33/55/TT/QQ like that flop and turn, but it’s possible. Still even with those hands the
    4(I think u had 6c4c or 7c4c?) u r at 67%.
    What I want to ask is: when the river bet from a decent/good player doesn’t make sense its a sure bluff (well 80%)?
    I asking you this bc I think I heard you saying something like that in some coaching video, and I actually agree!

    Sorry if I was so long.. 🙂
    Thanks for any reply u want to give me!!!

    • I got the vibe that she wasn’t doing anything too crazy, but since I was effectively at the bottom of my range, I elected to fold. If I thought she was really getting after it, I would have called.

  • David Rudder says:

    I think, like Jonathan, Mizrachi’s range is the key. I ran some ranges on an equity calculator. If Mizrachi’s shoving range is around 8.2% , AK equity is about even with Mizrachi’s range, assuming Esfandari has a fairly wide shoving range. So, if the thinking is Mizrachi’s range is quite a bit wider, in trying to isolate, AK equity goes up, and has the edge against Mizrachi. I, of course, don’t have a clue how wide Misrachi would shove there. But, assuming it is quite a bit wider than the 8.2%, I think calling the shove with AK, is a good play. Just winning Misrachi’s chips puts Jonathan in good shape, for the goal of finishing in the top spot(s).

  • Doug LaFave says:

    If you take the same situation, and remove what you picked up from Antonio, I’m curious how your play in this hand changes. Assuming a 7 handed table at that point (21 people left in tournament), 59k in the pot (6k+12k+14k+27k), and you have 394k in chips (400k – 6k SB).

    For your stated reasons (which I agree with) you don’t want Mizrachi playing post flop against your AK. Isn’t your only play in that case an all in shove or a fold (which I would call an all in shove, given stack sizes and the state of both the tournament and the hand). In which case, given their hole cards, they both fold. If you look at making an induce bet (say 80-100k) to get Antonio to fold with the intent of shoving against Miz on any flop and praying he didn’t hit it and doesn’t have pocket pair, you’re just staring at all kinds of trouble. Sure you could flat call with no idea what Antonio will do, but then that really is the same as flat calling with suited connectors (as someone else said).

    It is very hard to get a clearly better spot at that point in a tournament with that stack size. I have no problem with the move you did make, given your read on Antonio. But even with that read, I think I would have shoved. I just don’t want a three way hand here, and Miz can’t really do anything but the isolation play or fold, once Antonio shoves. I understand that that was your intent, though, and I completely agree that you’re looking for maximum value and a minimum amount of post flop pressure on yourself here.

    And so the other way I’m now looking at this is that if you do lose to Antonio and still beat Miz, you’ve not only gained stack size slightly ($440k) you’ve also put a very large amount of hurt on an excellent LAG (Miz, down to $100k chips) which at this point in the tournament can only be good, as he’s very highly likely to put himself in a bust out situation shortly thereafter.

    I think I like your play better, given the read on Antonio. You assumed the three handed risk because the true risk was really two handed (Miz) and gave yourself a shot at one of three outcomes: busted, $440k chips, or $1M chips. My all-in shove has these outcomes: win $59k, busted, or win/lose $180k. My play’s chance at $1M in chips is EXTREMELY thin because I’m only being called by two very good hands, when I’ve shoved first.

    But back to my question…with no read from Antonio here, what do you do?

    Thanks for all the teaching you do!

    • With no reads on Antonio, I would likely still call. I am not a fan of 3betting from out of position against someone who will rarely fold preflop. I also don’t think I want to have a 40bb pushing range.

  • Clovus says:

    Have you played with all of the above players before? Knowing Michael Mizrachi the correct move was for you to shove and isolate Antonio.

    Once the bubble Has broken then you’re trap would have been correct but you can’t win it if you’re not in it no matter how many chips you think you would have had.

    If you had QQ-AA then your play was excellent but in reality all you had was a drawing hand and your behind tens Jack’s Queens Kings and Aces.

    You’re also assuming that they feel your a Nit based on your flat call. In reality you’re pretty wild too from some of the videos i have seen you play online. In my constant online play I find AK is a shoving hand not be calling hand versus multiple players. You’re only going to hit the Flop one third of the time and with your skills even if you just picked up the blinds and Michaels raise you effectively increase your stack near the bubble and lower Michael stack to where the next time you battle as he has position on you he’s at risk and not you.

    PS Your philosophy has increased my aggression dramatically in position but I still find I do better when I play pairs like 99+ AQs+ for a raise and suited connectors for a raise obviously allow you to bluff any big card flop. by the way I saw you at the Hard Rock and I believe you did very well in the main event

    • First off, we were not on the stone bubble. I took 20th with 18 getting paid. I can’t “isolate” Antonio because he hasn’t entered the pot yet. I suggest you get away from thinking about hands in terms of “drawing hands” and “made hands”. All you need to do is think in terms of equity. At this table, I was generally snug because I had both Mizrachi and Antonio splashing round a ton.

  • JK says:

    Not sure you want to be coin-flipping in that spot. I was more of a ring game player, but either way it’s pretty deep to call all-in with A-K.

  • Dave says:

    I was thinking about this hand this morning on my walk. I’ve read most of the responses, not all, but I think a very common theme of them is being results oriented. For example someone said you could bet big and then fold to a 4bet, which mathematically seems like a bad play without doing the math. I think once you put in the $100k raise they suggested you would be turning down great odds on a call of a shove. In other cases, people suggest that you should have raised very big hoping to get them both to fold. Again, I know you have stated that the point of your big hands is not to get people to fold, it is to get max value. In my mind if you had raised to $70k and the pot is over $150k with Mizrachi’s call, you would probably lose at least another $50k unless you lead flop and he folds which I think is very unlikely. So you are left with about 20-23 bbs if you played it that way and not a great chance to win the tournament. It might go check check on flop and then you call the turn, or he bets flop and you call, either way I could see you calling at least one street. I find it interesting that no one has questioned Mizrachi’s isolation shove. If you had Mizrachi’s hand and Antonio shoved and you shoved and AK somehow folds and the KJ stood up, I could only imagine the comments here would be even more critical (I’m not saying people shouldn’t discuss their opinions or you couldn’t have played it differently, that’s all good). This is why I say most of the comments are results oriented. If you had won the hand people would definitely be saying Mizrachi should have just folded to Antonio’s shove and what was he thinking, now he’s crippled and might not cash. I just think in these situations people are prone to try to find a different play for you to alter the result, even if those plays don’t make a heck of a lot of sense. But then again, I’m not that good.

  • DJ says:

    With 20 players left, two all in (likely holding blockers), out of position with unsuited AK and my stack covered by Miz I would have snap folded the AK and let the two of them sort it out. Folding AKoff is certainly not a superior long run strategy but makes more sense in THIS specific situation vs. drawing to a weak underdog side of a flip at best if Miz turns over a reasonable +5 2.2bb raising-hand on the bubble like say, 77.

    If The Grinder folds, I instacall… and win. This is just how would I play in this precise spot.

    Love your work Jonathan, you have changed my poker life. See you in Vegas next month.

  • JK says:

    My two cents. One WPT final table, mostly ring game player, degree in math, haven’t played in years since the amount of dead money took a nosedive.

    It’s true that you can’t be results oriented, and you can’t be money sensitive, for optimal play, you try to get your money in, and your opponent’s money in, when you have the best of it. But that’s assuming a time interval of a series of hands that is not defined, and, a time interval in any particular hand that is not defined, optimal is you try to get your money in when you have the maximum best of it, whatever time interval we’re defining that to be, when pot odds and chip stacks aren’t dictating the play. You can’t look at the result and apply that retroactively to deduce optimal play, but you can deduce it in advance even if you don’t know for sure in any one hand, or any one tournament.

    To me, with AK, that you can’t get a good player who has you covered to call off most of his money with QJ when he’s behind is the unlucky part, not the Q on the turn. Theoretically, we can maximize equity with optimal play over time. But in any discrete series, defined by chips or bank account, optimal play can be defined as maximizing equity over the set of hands we’re considering, whether that’s hands in one’s poker career, or the World Series Main Event, or one hand in it.

    To me, it’s more insightful sometimes to analyze what range they put me on, not what range I put them on, especially when a situational raise could be anything. Initial raiser with a chip lead can put pressure on the smaller stacks in the blinds near the bubble with any two cards. Suited QJ is probably the optimal hand to get information with a raise, since any playback from the blinds is likely to involve an A or K and not be crushing or dominating the initial raiser, or it’s a coin flip, with the blinds out of position. If initial raiser has AA or KK, God Bless America, that’s why we raise with QJ too, so we get playback and win bigger pots.

    The initial raiser has to guess a flatcalling SB has AK, and the BB was probably trying to chip up and signal the SB to get out of the pot or not catch him in the middle in a big dog contest, since BB has to guess he has initial raiser’s range dominated, and the blinds have a vested interest over a series of hands against initial raiser with a chip lead. BB can hardly fold or call to an SB flatcall, or get anyone to fold pre or post flop, or wait for another spot. Initial raiser can hardly fold or call with those chip stacks, table image, and those likely pot odds. SB is calling off all his chips as a small favorite, an unlikely spot for that. SB has a choice in that spot where calling may be arguably better to maximize equity in the hand, but maximum equity over the set of hands we’re considering may be winning a small pot by shoving, since the AK drawing hand doesn’t play well out of position and covered, and may be well-disguised by a shove for additional equity if BB and/or initial raiser actually call.

    Thanks for the forum, interesting to think about this after all this time, with thoughtful, quality players.

  • JK says:

    My two cents. One WPT final table, mostly ring game player, degree in math, haven’t played in years since the amount of dead money took a nosedive.

    It’s true that you can’t be results oriented, and you can’t be money sensitive, for optimal play, you try to get your money in, and your opponent’s money in, when you have the best of it. But that’s assuming a time interval of a series of hands that is not defined, and, a time interval in any particular hand that is not defined, optimal is you try to get your money in when you have the maximum best of it, whatever time interval we’re defining that to be, when pot odds and chip stacks aren’t dictating the play. You can’t look at the result and apply that retroactively to deduce optimal play, but you can deduce it in advance even if you don’t know for sure in any one hand, or any one tournament.

    To me, with AK, that you can’t get a good player who has you covered to call off most of his money with QJ when he’s behind is the unlucky part, not the Q on the turn. Theoretically, we can maximize equity with optimal play over time. But in any discrete series, defined by chips or bank account, optimal play can be defined as maximizing equity over the set of hands we’re considering, whether that’s hands in one’s poker career, or the World Series Main Event, or one hand in it.

    To me, it’s more insightful sometimes to analyze what range they put me on, not what range I put them on, especially when a situational raise could be anything. Initial raiser with a chip lead can put pressure on the smaller stacks in the blinds near the bubble with any two cards. Suited QJ is probably the optimal hand to get information with a raise, since any playback from the blinds is likely to involve an A or K and not be crushing or dominating the initial raiser, or it’s a coin flip, with the blinds out of position. If initial raiser has AA or KK, God Bless America, that’s why we raise with QJ too, so we get playback and win bigger pots.

    The initial raiser has to guess a flatcalling SB has AK, and the BB was probably trying to chip up and signal the SB to get out of the pot or not catch him in the middle in a big dog contest, since BB has to guess he has initial raiser’s range dominated. BB can hardly fold or call to an SB flatcall, or get anyone to fold pre or post flop, or wait for another spot. Initial raiser can hardly fold or call with those chip stacks, table image, and those likely pot odds. SB is calling off all his chips as a small favorite, an unlikely spot for that. SB has a choice in that spot where calling may be arguably better to maximize equity in the hand, but maximum equity over the set of hands we’re considering may be winning a small pot by shoving, since the AK drawing hand doesn’t play well out of position and covered, and may be well-disguised by a shove for additional equity if BB and/or initial raiser actually call.

    Thanks for the forum, interesting to think about this after all this time, with thoughtful, quality players.

  • JK says:

    O, should say, not saying that BB is doing anything wrong here. It’s the prisoner’s dilemma, just saying it makes sense to shove, or for the SB to snap-fold anything but a crushing favorite in that spot too.

  • Thomas Witherspoon says:

    I disagree with your play. I would have called and folded to the shove for all the reasons previously stated. First lesson I was taught is AK is a raising hand, not a calling hand. My experience has proved that. I understand your point with calling and maybe you are correct, I can’t argue. However, even if you do win the hand, there is no guarantee that you will win another hand. My first goal is to make the money. My second goal is to be part of any chop or deals, and my 3rd goal is to play and balance my play and climb the payout ladder and try to win the event.
    My question to you is this. How did Mizrachi end up? I have looked up his results and I can’t find anything on this event.
    Would you have played this hand any differently if you had been at any other stage of the tournament, early, middle, or in the money?

    • He took 3rd for $424k.

      I would have played the hand the same way at all stages of the tournament. If I am willing to take high risk plays on the bubble, I am certainly willing to take them elsewhere.

      Also, the idea of chopping the tournament almost never comes up in high stakes events. I have chopped something like 3 out of the many events I have made it deep in, and in none of my large 6-figure scores. We come to play, not chop!

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