Conserving my Stack in the WSOP Main Event



This interesting hand took place in the 2018 $10,000 buy-in World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas. Around 30% of the players who started the tournament remained in contention. The blinds were 1,000/2,000 with a 300 ante. Everyone folded around to me in the hijack seat. I raised with AQ to 4,500. The Button, a loose aggressive kid, and the Big Blind, a splashy, straightforward player who typically overvalues his marginal made hands, called.

From late position, my raise with a strong hand is completely standard. I would certainly raise many weaker hands as well. When my opponents decided to call, I assumed I was in good shape going to the flop because most players would 3-bet all better hands.

The flop came A99. The Big Blind looked interested, then checked. I decided to check behind, as did the Button.

While I would almost always make a continuation bet of around 35% of the size of the pot, or around 6,500, I decided to check because I picked up the read that the Big Blind liked his hand. I knew him to be the type of player who would check-raise the flop with a wide range of hands he thought to be strong. Since I am in marginal shape against his probable check-raising range of an Ace or 9, and I did not want to risk my entire stack with what is clearly a marginal made hand if a lot of money goes into the pot, I decided to check behind to control the size of the pot. While I will often miss out on winning a large pot when my opponent has a worse Ace, I make it nearly impossible to lose a huge pot when my opponent has trips.

The turn was the (A99)2. The Big Blind bet 12,000 into the 17,200 pot. I called and the Button folded.

Since I am in decent shape against the Big Blind’s probable range, which I thought was made of entirely Aces and 9s, combined with my excellent pot odds, folding is not a viable option. That said, raising for value makes no sense because my opponent will usually only continue when I am in bad shape.

The river was the (A992)8. The Big Blind bet 16,500 into the 41,200 pot.

Calling is the only play that makes sense because I thought the Big Blind would make this bet with any Ace or 9.

I called and lost to T9.

Even though I lost this hand, it is important to realize that I could have easily lost many more chips if I failed to pick up on the fact that my opponent thought he had a good hand on the flop. If I made a standard continuation bet, I would have almost certainly faced a check-raise that would have put my entire stack at risk by the river. By checking behind, I saved my stack and kept me in contention.