If you go deep in the WSOP Main Event, the pay jumps become so big that one wrong decision can cost you six-figures.
On Day 7 of the 2017 WSOP Main Event, Scott Stewart found himself in a spot that would have ended his tournament long before it actually did.
Stewart really needed to find his nerve for a winning call – and he did.
A Once-in-a-Lifetime Situation
Just 22 players are left on the final three tables of the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event. Each player will definitely cash for $263,000.
Survive one more spot and they get $80,000 extra. Most of the players will never be in this kind of situation again. At this point the blinds have reached 150k/300k/50k so the ante is now what the starting stack was.
Jack Sinclair, a very aggressive player from Britain, has amassed over 40 million chips and is leading the table. Just minutes ago he took a sizeable pot from John Hesp with aces versus tens.
Now he raises again from the cut-off. Sinclair makes it 700k to go, which gets everybody out of the way except Scott Stewart in the big blind with and a stack of 5.7 million.
Thus 1,950,000 chips have been moved into the middle and effective stacks are at 5 million chips.
The flop falls
Stewart checks and then calls a bet of 650,000. That brings the pot up to 3.25 million and effective stacks down to 4.3 million.
The turn is the
Stewart checks again, Sinclair bets 1.3 million and Stewart makes the call. The pot is now 5.85 million with effective stacks down to 3 million.
The river is the
Stewart checks another time and Sinclair pushes him all-in with another bet of 3 million. Stewart takes several minutes and finally announces call.
Sinclair shows and doubles up to over 11 million chips.
Stewart later finishes the tournament in 13th place and earns $535,000 — almost twice the money he would have won if he had busted in the hand.
In this crucial situation Stewart – who’s had a couple of successes in smaller events – makes the right decision and stays alive.
Now let’s take a closer look at the hand to understand how he could do it with a marginal hand like A-4.
Pre-flop, Sinclair raises from the cut-off just after he’d won a nice pot against John Hesp. Considering the tournament situation, his position and his style, Sinclair has an extremely wide range here.
Under these circumstances Stewart can’t really fold a weak ace in the big blind. The problem with this is that he can rarely turn this into a very strong hand.
It’s also a long way to the river – despite his hand being ahead of Sinclair’s range pre-flop.
A Raiser’s Flop
The flop A♠ 9♠ 3♦ is rather dry. There’s a spade draw and some unlikely gut shot draws – 5-4, 5-2 or 4-2 – but not much else.
This is what you would usually call a raiser’s flop because it’s much better for the raiser’s range than it is for the caller’s range (which would have a lot of queens, jacks, tens, kings, middle pairs and suited connectors).
So it’s perfectly normal what happens on the flop. Stewart checks to the raiser, the raiser makes the c-bet and Stewart calls with top pair.
This is also a good example of a spot where a raise achieves next to nothing. Sinclair would fold all his worse hands apart from the flush draw and Stewart would have problems continuing if Sinclair calls.
Commitment on the Turn?
The 8♥ on the turn is a card that doesn’t change too much but it creates more possible draws and 9-8 and 8-8 have now become the best hand.
After Stewart checks, Sinclair bets again. That shows Stewart that he’ll have to play for his whole stack if he calls now.
The pot odds of 3:1 are pretty good for Stewart but his hand just isn’t very strong. Now, should you really call a bet on the turn knowing you’ll have to call all-in on the river?
There’s obviously the possibility that Sinclair was on a bluff and would give up on the river but Stewart must be aware that he might be playing for his life.
What Goes Around
And there we go. A ten on the river, a check from Stewart and a big bet from Sinclair. So: which hands are in Sinclair’s range now?
1. Strong hands – A-A, 9-9, 3-3, 8-8, A-9, A-8, A-3, 9-8. An A-T would probably not bet twice before the river. Also, there are Q-J, J-7 and 6-7 which would semi-bluff twice.
2. Busted draws – two spade hands and some gutshots
We’ve excluded hands like A-K, A-Q and A-J, which in that order become less and less likely. The reason for this omission is simple.
Good tournament players don’t often bet three times with top pair because they’re often beat if they get called three times. You can sometimes win more chips if you check on one street.
This is also the main reason why Stewart takes such a long time to find a call in this situation.
There are actually quite a few good hand combos he could be up against – 12 different possible sets + 3 flushes + 36 two pair = 51 combos – but these are still significantly less than if we didn’t exclude better aces.
Stewart’s A-4 is thus just as good as A-K in this spot as both these hands only beat a bluff and Sinclair’s range only has complete air and two pair or better in it.
Jack Sinclair is chipleader and pretty good at bullying Scott Stewart. First, he represents the ace, then adds a gutshot draw.
Then he puts the chips in the middle when the spade draw doesn’t come in, hoping he can force folds out of busted draws and weak value hands.
Stewart, on the other hand, keeps his cool in a very hot spot and finds the winning call when it was very possible that he could have run into a better hand and busted the tournament.