Poker Hand of the Week: Selbst’s Inescapable Main Event Fate

Poker can be magic to watch – especially when you can almost feel the friction between two players.

On Day 1 of the 2017 WSOP Main Event Vanessa Selbst and Gaëlle Baumann clashed in a dramatic hand that made probability calculation look silly.

It also left one of the best players on the planet empty-handed with the nut full house!

Flop to River

It’s the first level of Day 1B of the Main Event and two of the best players in the poker world are at the feature table together.

Blinds are 75/150 and Vanessa Selbst (43,400 chips) wakes up in third position with    

She raises it up to 400 and gets called by Bauman (50,425) on the button and Jake Schwartz (51,025) in the big blind. There’s 1,275 in the pot and effective stacks correspond to Selbst’s stack (43,000 chips).

The flop falls       Schwartz checks, Selbst bets 700, Baumann calls, Schwartz folds. There’s now 2,675 in the pot and effective stacks are 42,300.

The turn is the   Selbst now checks and Baumann takes the lead with a bet of 1,700. But Selbst check-raises to 5,800. Baumann makes the call

The pot has grown to 14,274 chips with the effective stacks dropping to 36,500. The river is the  

Selbst takes back the betting lead and bets 16,200. Baumann responds by moving all-in, having Selbst slightly covered. That sends Selbst deep into the tank. She takes a minute and announces call.

Baumann shows     The French player builds a stack of over 90,000 while double bracelet winner Selbst busts the WSOP Main Event incredibly in the first level. Watch the hand and feel the pain:


What a brutal beat at the very start of the biggest poker event of the year!

Vanessa Selbst

It sure looks like there was no way out for Vanessa – and Antonio Esfandiari on the mic confirmed that he would go broke in this hand even before it went to the river.

But there are several interesting moves and countermoves in this hand that are worth taking a closer look.

Selbst opens with a standard raise to 2.66 bb. She doesn’t want to chase everyone away; in the best-case scenario she’ll be up against one or two opponents.

She gets what she wants as Baumann, typically playing rather tight, calls from the button, and Schwartz calls in the big blind. The three see a flop that leaves them with mixed emotions.

Selbst hits top set but the flop has three clubs so she might be beat at the moment. If there’s another club on the turn, the set might be worth nothing at all.

However, when Schwartz checks it’s correct for her to bet. Selbst will get paid by all hands that have the K or Q in it – and both are definitely in the ranges of her opponents. Plus there will be some A-x hands that pay this bet, too.

So, Baumann’s call doesn’t mean too much as she might call this bet with a lot of hands in position — some of which are even pretty random hands she’d try to steal chips with.

The Explosive Turn

The 7 on the turn is a great card for Selbst – she thinks. On the flop her hand was strong but still pretty vulnerable; now she’s improved to the second nuts and would only be beat by pocket sevens.

Gaelle Baumann4

The flip side of this is it becomes more difficult now to get money from her opponent. Basically, she needs Baumann to hold a club flush draw, a seven, or even pocket fives.

So Selbst gets creative and makes a tricky move. Hoping that she can induce a bluff or a bet from one of the hands mentioned above, she proceeds with a check.

Baumann indeed does her the favor and bets about two-thirds of the pot. Selbst now has the option to call which would keep all the bluffs and Baumann’s full range in the hand, but it would make it more difficult for her to continue on the river and win more chips.

Let’s say Selbst checks the river. There’s a good chance that Baumann will check behind. A bet on the other hand would look very suspicious.

By check-raising Selbst tries to make her hand look like a bluff to build the pot and to take back the initiative so she can bet again on the river.

Drama on the River

With the hand Baumann really has she’s obviously not going anywhere and calling is once again the best option for her. Calling keeps all the bluffs in the hand and gives her opponent the chance to lose more chips.

Selbst suspects it

Selbst bets out again, indeed, and with 16,200 chips it’s even a slight overbet — probably to make it look like a bluff again. Now the French pro releases the hounds.

She pushes all-in rather quickly and that gives Selbst some doubts. Selbst knows that this push can’t be a bluff because Baumann is too good for that.

Selbst gets 3.3-1 pot odds for a call which isn’t nearly good enough to make a strong hand fold to a bluff. Hence, Baumann’s range is pretty small at this point.

She can have 7-7, 5-5 or A-7. No other hand is plausible including 4-4 as that hand wouldn’t have made it to the river. Let’s take a look at the possible hands:

1) Pocket sevens are just possible in one combination – 7 7 – but it would fit Baumann’s play perfectly. Call the flop with a set, bet-call with quads on the turn, raise all-in on the river.

2) A-7 is really only reasonable if it’s suited hearts as Baumann is probably playing too tight to call a raise with A-7o even though she’s on the button. This hand also makes sense on all streets including the push on the river that might get called by pocket fives.

3) Pocket fives are less likely in Baumann’s hand as she would have to ask herself which worse hand Vanessa could play so strong AND call all-in. It seems more likely that the French player would just call.

At the end of the day we’re left with exactly two(!) plausible card combinations in Baumann’s hand. As she would move all-in with both of them, Selbst’s call is correct.

Gaelle Baumann5

She analyzed the hand perfectly herself and recounted it afterwards, too. Her fate was simply inescapable.


In a dramatic hand Gaëlle Baumann busts Vanessa Selbst out of the 2017 WSOP Main Event.

Baumann later described Selbst’s play as a little “freaky,” by which she probably was referring to Selbst’s check-raise on the turn.