Poker Hand of the Week: Fernandez Finds a Farrell Problem

No matter how big or expensive a poker tournament – and no matter how many pros are in it – amateurs still frequently make final tables.

Which is great. It’s why we all play, right?

One of those amateurs to accomplish this great feat is French player Julian Fernandez, who made the final table of the 2016 French Poker Series in Monte Carlo.

It was a wild run for him all the way to the final table. Then he played a fateful hand against Scottish pro Niall Farrell and it cost him dearly.

Flop to River

Amateur player Julian Fernandez has had a great run in the €1,100 FPS main event. He made it to the final three of the field and was already sure to win €90,000.

His last two opponents in the battle for €218,000 up top were experienced pros Stephane Dossetto and Niall Farrell.

This hand was at blind levels 100,000/200,000/25,000 with stacks at 13m (65 bb) for Farrell, 12m (60 bb) for Dossetto and 5m (25 bb) for Fernandez.

The next pay jump is worth €40,000 but it doesn’t look too good for Fernandez when he finds     in the small blind.

Farrell raises from the button to 425,000 and Fernandez calls. Dossetto gets out of the way. With 1.125 million chips in the pot they go to an       flop.

Fernandez checks and Farrell bets 350,000. Fernandez makes the call to bring the pot up to 1.825 million. Effective stacks are down to 4.2 million.

Turn:   Fernandez takes the lead and bets 550,000. Farrell raises to 1.25 million. Fernandez goes all in for 4.2 million and Farrell calls.

River:   When the players show down their hands, Farrell wins with    

Fernandez busts and gets the minimum €90k for third place. Watch the hand in the video below from 12 mins:


Julian Fernandez busted with top pair, his dream of becoming a tournament winner on the FPS ending in flames.


Chips go in, don’t come out.

At first glance this might look like an amateur somehow found himself in a bad spot without it being his fault. A closer look reveals that there was a lot of room for improvement in his play.

It starts pre-flop. Farrell might be a very aggressive player but he’s also very good.

You should think twice, maybe three times, if you want to take a stand against him with middle suited connectors, out of position, with 25 bb in front of you.

Of course T 9 is a pretty nice hand, but taking the tournament situation and the position Fernandez is in into consideration, it seems reasonable to fold.

Not mandatory, but reasonable.

He’s Supposed to Fold!

Dossetto folds and the flop is all eights. That means the hand that was ahead pre-flop is now still ahead.

OK; there’s a chance that one of the players has flopped quads. But this is so small we can neglect it.

Fernandez standard checks to his opponent who standard c-bets. But this bet is unusually small — just a third of the pot.

What is Fernandez supposed to do now? Simple. He’s supposed to fold!

Yes, it’s possible that Farrell has a worse hand than him – like 7-6 or 6-5. And that would mean he stole the pot.

But most of the time Farrell will have either an overcard or a pair – maybe 4-4 – and be ahead.

It’s not easy to say what made Fernandez stick with his ten high. But the lesson doesn’t end here.

A Bad Flop Call Even Worse

The turn brings one of the two absolute “dream cards” for Fernandez.

Niall Farrell2

Aggressive and good.

As it was hardly possible to win the hand with ten high, Fernandez needed to hit and the probability of one of his six “outs” hitting the board was only 12%.

Of course, we know that none of these cards were actually outs. Which makes his bad flop call even worse.

Now, instead of checking to Farrell on the turn, Fernandez takes the lead and bets. What is he trying to achieve?

Is he trying to protect his hand? Or does he think he can get two streets of value out of a worse hand?

The right move would have been to check again and either hope for Farrell to bluff with a worse hand or slow down with a better one.

With the way Fernandez is playing this, the only hands he can get money from are A-K, A-Q or 7-7 and similar. But he won’t get paid twice so his bet doesn’t make any sense.

Fernandez has a Problem

Fernandez donk-bets and Farrell goes into the tank. Apparently he was a little surprised by this bet. But then he comes back with a very strong move.

He raises and polarizes his range. A call would have said that he just had “something.”


From bad to worse on turn.

Also, Farrell is assuming that Fernandez must have hit there and, as he beats everything except an eight and 9-9, which would hardly bet the turn, he would be very happy about an all-in push.

Fernandez, on the other hand, has a problem with letting his hand go. An aggressive player like Farrell could actually bluff here.

In addition to that the Frenchman has already invested more than a quarter of his stack. If he folds now he’d have to carry on with 3.65 million chips – an idea he’s not really interested in.

But a call would have been the better move. If Farrell was on a bluff, he folds to the all-in. A turn-call and river-check by Fernandez might have induced Farrell to bluff all-in.

In this scenario Fernandez wins a lot more chips by just calling the turn. But in the real world he finds himself all-in with just two outs to win and another “out” that is being “out” of the tournament.

The Moral of the Story

Like a chain reaction, Julian Fernandez makes things worse street by street and betting round by betting round until there’s no way out.


So that’s what that feels like.

Players like Niall Farrell bluff often and have weak ranges, but they get monsters, too. Fernandez never even gave that a thought.

If the Frenchman was really going to challenge the Brit, he would have had him bet all the way to the river, realize that he lost to kings, shrug, and leave.

The best way to play the hand would have been to get rid of it on the flop, though.

PS: Farrell busted Fernandez in third place but still couldn’t secure the title. That went to Stephane Dossetto.