Poker Hand of the Week: Maria Has Guts, Tilly Takes Pot

Despite a recent #hashtaghiccup, Poker Night in America has come out strong for Season 5 with a string of good episodes.

The latest season started promisingly with players including Maria Ho, Jennifer Tilly, Shaun Deeb and Matt Glantz getting into it at the Rivers Casino.

The first episode had a couple of real highlights and today we’ll look at one of them when Maria Ho tried to deal a big blow and Jen Tilly missed out on maximizing profits.

Flop to River

We’re in the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a very interesting line-up at the table. In particular Shaun WaffleCrush Deeb (check his PokerStars avatar) – has been running in God mode the whole evening.

With blinds at $25/$50 Jen Tilly has put in a $100 straddle and Deeb, to her left, opens to $300.

Four players call – Maria Ho in the hijack, Dave Eldridge on the button, Glantz in the big blind and Tilly on the straddle. She’s holding    

So, five players go to the       flop with $1,525 in the pot.

Glantz checks, Tilly checks, Deeb checks, Ho checks. Eldrigde finally takes a stab and bets $800. That gets rid of Glantz and Deeb, but Tilly calls and then Maria Ho raises to $2,800.

It’s too much for Eldridge but Tilly obviously comes along. There’s now $7,925 in the pot and they go to the   turn.

Tilly checks and Ho bets again, now $4,700. Tilly calls and they see the river   with $17,325 in the pot.

Now Tilly takes the lead and bets out $6,100. Maria gives up her complete bluff with    

Tilly takes the pot with over $23,000. Go to 8:00 to watch the hand in real time.


Bad luck for Maria Ho. She was trying to represent pretty much the exact hand that Jennifer Tilly had.

Let’s see how the two players played their hands. Pre-flop, it’s Deeb with a pretty loose open.

Maria Ho on pnia

No fear.

Maria’s hand is very good to defend with on the button – playing deep stacks, a suited one-gapper is a very promising hand.

Tilly’s hand almost plays itself. A low pair in this position with these astronomical odds is perfect to go set-mining.

The 7-5-3 rainbow flop is very dry. When it’s checked around all the way to Eldridge he decides to take a stab and see if he can steal the pot with a semi-bluff on a straight draw.

Glantz gets out of the way but Tilly calls with two players to act behind her. Deeb gives it up and now Maria Ho fatally decides to make a move.

She knows she might not have any outs at all but she perceives her opponents’ ranges as rather weak. That’s a good spot for a move as she’s only investing $2,800 to steal a pot of $3,100.

This raise is good enough to stop Eldridge from drawing. This is a good move as basically only an ace would really help him in this spot.

He probably shouldn’t have bet in the first place.

Where Things Get Interesting

Tilly calls again and this is where things get interesting because this gives Ho a lot of information.

When Tilly called pre-flop from the straddle her pot odds were so good that she could have done that with virtually everything. But now we can identify three groups of hands:

Monsters and Two Pairs with 7-7, 5-5, 3-3, 7-5, 5-3 or 6-4
Middle overpairs – 8-8, 9-9, T-T
Draws with 8-6 or combos of pairs with draws like 7-6, 6-5 or similar

Calling a bet from Eldridge and then a raise from Ho makes it look like it has to be one of the stronger hands, but this is speculation.


Turn made things clear.

The turn makes things pretty clear. The 3 pairs the board and, after Tilly’s check, Ho fires again.

Should she have checked and given it up there? Maybe, if she was up against a very tight player.

But Tilly might still play hands like 7-6 or 8-8, and she might get pushed off them if Ho is aggressive enough.

So, there’s nothing wrong with Maria firing again. It’s only after Tilly calls again that her range becomes fairly obvious.

One Last Crucial Moment

We can now rule out the weaker hands in her range, like 7-6 or even 6-5, because Tilly surely wouldn’t want to pay another bet on the river with any of these.

Pocket pairs like 6-6 are also not in the range anymore. In short, we’re now looking at a very small, very strong range.

Unobtrusively as it looks, the deuce on the river makes this one last crucial moment in this hand. The question is, should Tilly bet out or should she check and hope that Ho hangs herself?

She decides to bet a third of the pot but that doesn’t really do much against Ho’s range. Apart from a couple of backdoor flushes – and specifically 6-4 – there is virtually no hand that can call.


Out comes folding thumb.

So what if Tilly would have checked the river? Well, Ho would have probably given up and checked behind so the result would have been the same.

Tilly’s range is simply too strong. Even the flush draw has come in now and that was the weakest she could have.

There’s still a chance, though, that Ho might have gone for a last dash for the pot – a final attempt to represent the hand Tilly has. It would have cost her even more money.

Either way a check would have been the better move by Tilly, considering the small number of hands that can call compared to the large number of hands that might bluff.

At least she would have left the door open.


Maria Ho has position, imagination and the guts to go for a pot that was already gone completely on the flop.

We’ll never know if she would have tried and fired another bullet on the river. Tilly averted her from trying with an unnecessary bet trying to win additional money she could only win by checking.