Hand of the Week: Holz Escapes Shak’s Rock & Hard Place

Last year 49 players paid $300,000 each to play in the Aria Super High Roller Bowl and fight for a $5 million top prize.

Among them was German prodigy Fedor Holz, who ultimately finished second and added another $3m win to his poker CV.

In our Hand of the Week, though, Dan Shak puts him to the test.

Flop to River

We’re nearing the bubble of the Aria Super High Roller Bowl and tension is rising as the money gets closer. 

Seventh place pays $600,000 — which is twice the buy-in — but there are still 10 players left so three will leave empty-handed. It’s folded to Fedor in the small blind who looks at    

The blinds are 12,000/24,000/3000 and Holz has a stack of 810,000 chips, equalling 34 BB. He opens with a raise to 65,000.

Dan Shak in the big blind is the last player to speak, and he’s also the biggest stack with 1.8 million. He calls to bring the pot up to 145,000 with the effective stacks now at 745,000.

The flop is       Both players check and they go to the turn  

Holz bets 60,000 and Shak makes the call. The pot is 265,000 chips and the effective stacks are at 685,000. The river is the  

Holz leads out again, now for 120,000 chips. Shak hesitates but then raises to 300,000. This makes it difficult for Holz — in fact so difficult that he needs to use one of his time buttons to think things through properly.

Holz eventually calls and Shak shows     for just second pair. Holz wins the pot. Watch the hand in the video below.


There are several exciting moments in this hand apart from how much money is on the line.


The man.

Let’s relive how Holz makes two pretty thin value bets and then is still calm and collected enough to call when his opponent turns his hand into a bluff.

Sitting in the small blind Holz wakes up with the third-best hand in Texas Hold’em, which of course must be raised. 

Playing from the small blind he raises a little higher than usual to make up for not having position at any time during the hand.

Shak looks at J-To and doesn’t see any reason why he should fold. J-To plays well post-flop in position and Holz’ raising range is wide enough for Shak to win the pot if he hits anything on the board.

Checking the Flop

The flop has two nines and an overcard so Holz can’t be very happy with it at all. But he’s still ahead of the largest part of Shak’s range.

Technically speaking, a bet still doesn’t make much sense as there are only very few hands that can actually call it. Certainly there is no worse hand that calls three times so a check is the correct play.

Shak could use this to semi-bluff but Holz could play a king the same way to maintain pot control. By checking he leaves himself all the options for later betting rounds.


For example if Holz checks the turn again he might try to make a move on the pot then.

Holz and the Thin Turn Bet

On the turn Holz slides out a bet to make hands like a ten, a club flush draw or a straight draw pay.

Many amateurs would check here but Holz assumes he has the best hand so he tries to get more chips in the middle and keep the lead on the hand.

It’s now impossible for Shak to fold as he’s now hit second pair and has a gutshot. Holz might well be bluffing and trying to steal the pot, and with pot odds of better than 3-1 a fold is not even an option.

Tension on the River

While this hand has been playing pretty much the way you’d expect so far, both players take it to a new level on the river.


Another level on the river.

Holz starts with another really thin value bet, thinking he should still have the best hand and it’s possible to make some worse hands pay up.

But at this moment Holz has to put Shak on almost an exact hand – second pair – as there are not many other worse hands that could still call.

Then again, Shak has a couple of kings and a slow-played nine in his range. There are also a couple of bluffs that might go for it on the river.

Holz’s bet is then part value bet and part blocking bet, but he has no idea what Shak is up to.

Shak’s Bold Bluff

Dan Shak isn’t thinking about folding. On the contrary, he’s coming in for a raise. As his hand mainly beats only bluffs this raise looks a little surprising.

Holz not amused2

In anguish, but a Top 10 player comes through.

You might think it makes no sense to turn a hand that is pretty solid into a bluff, but a closer look reveals there are some additional factors here.

If Holz is on a bluff he’ll just fold, which means he’s losing as many chips as he would if Shak just calls. However, if Holz has something, Shak might be able to exploit it.

Shak is now representing a nine and a nine only — his idea being that he might be able to make jacks, queens, a king or aces fold. 

So the question arises: how often Holz would fold in this spot despite pot odds of 3.8 to 1?

Well, the truth is that Holz isn’t happy about how the situation has developed but he’s also a Top 10 GPI player. He has enough experience to realize Shak might play a busted draw like this and that he hopes to get it through as he’s the chipleader – the pressure of the big stack.

It’s an ugly side of the situation for Holz that he would drop to 385,000 and bust before the money. His call is impressive proof Holz is mentally strong enough to make tough decisions even under pressure.


Dan Shak analyzes the hand well and goes for a brave move against one of the best players in the world. His opponent Fedor Holz feels trapped between a rock and a hard place, but eventually manages to get out of it.

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