The last-ever Super High Roller event on the European Poker Tour had a sensational ending.
The most important hand on his way to the title is the one we’ll take a closer look at today.
It shows vividly how even the best can sometimes fail in their hand analysis.
Flop to River
It’s the final phase of the €50k Super High Roller event in Prague and there are just four players left. Each will take home at least €258,800.
There are three professionals left – Vjacheslav Buldygin, Juha Helppi and Charlie Carrel – who are mostly playing for the money. They’re facing a rather wealthy amateur named Leon Tsoukernik, who’s only interested in the title and the glamour that comes with it.
The blinds are 40k/80k/10k. Short-stack Helppi folds and Tsoukernik (stack: 4.17 million/52 bb) opens from the button to 200,000. Carrel has virtually the same amount of chips and calls from the small blind with Buldygin (2.75 million/34 bb) also calls from the big blind which gives us 520,000 chips in the pot.
The flop falls
It’s checked around and the turn is the
Carrel takes the lead with his two-pair and bets 325,000. Buldygin folds but Tsoukernik calls. There’s 1.29 million chips in the pot and both players have around 3.6 million left.
The river is the Carrel bets another 620,000 but Tsoukernik now raises to 1.7 million. Carrel is visibly unsettled. He ponders what to do for almost 10 (!) minutes and eventually calls.
Tsoukernik shows for a straight and wins, paving the way for his tournament win later on. Watch the hand again in the video below starting at 6min15secs.
Why does such a strong player as Carrel think for so long, only to then make the wrong decision? That’s the main question we’re trying to answer here.
Let’s take Carrel’s position in this hand to find out. Tsoukernik’s raise from the button doesn’t mean much and Carrel, with A♣ 4♣, often has the best hand.
But due to the tournament situation and his stack size the conditions aren’t ideal for a re-raise. By just calling the young Brit controls the pot size and is often able to make it to showdown.
Buldygin only calls because of the pot odds, but he might have just folded pre-flop as well.
Ranges Remain Unclear
The A-5-9 rainbow flop is pretty dry. All three players check so we can’t really draw conclusions regarding their ranges.
Carrel and Buldygin would almost always check to the raiser here, and Tsoukernik checking behind doesn’t give away much either.
He might have bet with a strong ace, hoping to get paid by a weaker hand, but even that we can’t be sure about.
Also, Tsoukernik does have a couple of tricks up his sleeve so we couldn’t even predict if he would bet a monster like A-9, A-5, 9-9- or 5-5.
There’s also a very good chance that he doesn’t have anything because his opening range on the button is so wide and you just don’t hit the flop very often.
Mathematically Speaking … Not Good
Carrel hits a second pair on the turn and takes the initiative. He usually has the best hand now and there’s a reasonable chance he gets paid off by weaker holdings.
Buldygin gets out of the way (he had Q-6) but Tsoukernik isn’t willing to fold. Mathematically speaking, this call is not good.
He has a 10% chance to hit one of his four outs and has to pay 325,000 chips into a pot of 845,000 – way too much to make drawing profitable.
But Tsoukernik loves gambling and he can’t resist trying to win a big pot with the worst possible starting hand in poker.
Bad, Bad River
The river is an innocuous three and Carrel sees no reason why he shouldn’t put in another bet. He can now get paid off by a strong ace that wanted to play pot control, by a stubborn nine or even by pocket tens.
But imagine Carrel’s surprise. He expected to see his opponent in a tough spot, maybe making a crying call, but instead Tsoukernik has completely different plans.
He raises to 1.7 million and suddenly it’s Carrel who’s in a tough spot.
Let’s look at the numbers here, because we’re dealing with a very unusual situation that none of the players at the table encounter very often.
Carrel needs to pay 1.08 million to win a pot of 3.61 million, which means he gets very good pot odds of 3.3 to 1.
But the British player is facing several problems at once. First, he’s dealing with a player who’s known to bluff a lot and play all parts of the deck.
Due to the way he played his hand, it’s also very hard to put Tsoukernik on a specific range. He might sit there with a monster like nines or fives, and he’d definitely be capable of raising despite the board looking a little dangerous.
But there are two hands that Carrel really has to fear – 7-6 and every deuce that just made a straight and will definitely raise.
So now he has to think about probabilities, which is made additionally difficult because his opponent knows how to maximize profit based on his image as a loose-aggressive player.
Eventually, Carrel might have decided to call because he knows that the turn-call of Tsoukernik wasn’t mathematically correct with a deuce, so there are added bluffs in his range.
He soon found out that a player like Tsoukernik can have literally every hand on every board.
Leon Tsoukernik makes a mathematical mistake on the turn, which pays off big time on the river.
A player of Charlie Carrel’s calibre doesn’t often need that much time to decide but the different factors to consider – an unpredictable opponent and an unpredictable range – sent Carrel into a jungle that he couldn’t find his way out of.