Not long ago I found myself in the ballroom of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., playing in one of the biggest tournaments of the year: a $5,000 main event with a $10 million guaranteed prize pool. It consisted of three fast-paced starting days and allowed players unlimited re-entries if eliminated. Luckily, I made it to Day 2 after two attempts. I’d heard that someone went off for nine rebuys. (If that happened to a good player I’d be surprised.)
The blinds were 1,200/2,400 with a 400 ante. A straightforward older gentleman with 100,000 in chips raised to 6,100 in middle position. Right behind him was a solid player with a healthy 150,000 stack who called. I was on the cutoff with 95,000 and looked down at As Qd. I reraised to 18,300.
Action was back to the original raiser, who folded. The solid player to my immediate right called my three-bet.
The flop revealed the Js 5s 7d. My opponent checked, and I checked behind.
The turn card was the Jc. He bet 10,500. I called.
The river was the 4h, and he checked to me. I bet 24,000, leaving myself with a little more than 40,000 in chips. After some thought, he decided to call and exposed the winning hand: 10c 10h.
I played this hand horribly. At the time, I had reasons for the decisions I made, but looking back, it’s clear that I made a few mistakes.
My preflop decision of three-betting to 18,300 was correct. I had a strong hand, there was a lot of money in the pot already, and I had position on the two other players in the hand. All of my mistakes came after the flop.
Since the flop contained two spades (and I was holding the ace of spades), it was important to see all five community cards. I felt the caller’s range included a number of middle pocket pairs, which is why I checked the flop. I believe that betting the flop would have been the best play. It’s hard for me to continue to represent a strong hand on future streets if I don’t bet this type of board, plus he will fold the parts of his range that didn’t hit the flop.
When my opponent bet so small on the turn, I felt like his hand was defined as a middle pocket pair, 8-8 to 10-10, that didn’t connect with the board. With almost 50,000 in the pot, I doubt he would have bet that amount with a strong hand. Reraising here would have been an interesting play, but that story might not have been believable. I don’t mind calling here, but only with a strong feeling about how the river will play out.
When he checked to me on the river, that somewhat confirmed my suspicions that his hand was marginal. I don’t think my bet of 24,000 allowed him to find a fold. I should have moved all in, since I had a pot-sized bet left. With that bet sizing, it would have been a much harder decision for him and would have given me a chance to win the pot. If he called and was wrong, it would have affected his tournament greatly.
This was a difficult hand to play given all the variables. I learned from my mistakes, and you should, too. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I’m the idiot who didn’t learn from his mistake.
Tristan Wade is a World Series of Poker bracelet winner and the director of training and education for DeepStacks Live poker seminars.