This hand was taken from the OFC Tournament on 7/19 at the Palms Casino. They are down to the Final Four players (out of 20 entrants), and the Top 2 will be paid. I must warn you ahead of time – I am quite long-winded in my analysis as I try to cover every base. For those who want a cliff-notes, or some may say, much more reasonable, version that keeps the analysis only on the most direct points and limits the side-tangents, that post can be found here: http://vegasofc.com/2013/07/25/ofc-complete-hand-video-1-w-reasonable-length-breakdown/
The video for this hand:
Pauly is the “loquacious” player on the far left – people may know him as @WPTSEUSS on Twitter. To his left is Dan (@Nutcicles), then Jon Turner (@PearlJammed) is the guy in the middle so addicted to OFC he’s playing someone on his iPad while playing at the final table of this tournament. On the far right is Mark, I’m not sure if he has a Twitter handle, so if someone knows it, please contact me and I will edit this post. Note: FantasyLand was not in play for this tournament.
So let’s begin the breakdown. Pauly was 1st to act. He lets us know this, and reiterates that “it’s a huge disadvantage”.
Pauly: K♣, 7♣, 7♥, 8♥, T♠. Pauly plays the 7s in the back with the King as his kicker. It’s the most standard line to take in this spot. I guess you could argue for 87♥♥ in the back because it leaves open both a flush and a straight as an option, but it’s a tough sell to argue to break up a pair of 7s for just a 2-flush/2-straight combination. If the 7s were dead, maybe, but since Pauly’s first to act, we don’t yet know what cards will be dead or live (for that matter, hearts and the middle straight draw may also be dead).
The only real question is in the Kicker. If FantasyLand were in play, and he had KQ877, the set-up would be a no-brainer – Q/K/778. Even with the hand he has, if FantasyLand were in play, a good case could be made for x/K8/77T, with the 8 being a waste-card in the middle (the goal with such a set-up is to have Kings in the middle, Two-Pair or better in the back and Queens up top to go to the ‘Land). But in this tournament, and in every tournament I’ve seen so far, FantasyLand is not in the rules. Obviously if we had more information on which of the 8/T/K was live, we’d be able to figure out which is the best card for the back – you generally want the livest card as your kicker because you want the highest chance of improving to two-pair. But Pauly does not have any information since he’s first to act, so from his point of view, all three are equally live.
To me, there are two defendable choices for the Kicker here, since all three choices are higher than his pair (it would be different if he had some higher and some lower). First is simply the highest live card, which is what Pauly chose, and putting the two other overs in the middle. Second would be the lowest of the three live cards (the 8), with the other two in the middle. The former keeps open the chance of two-pair (or better) in the back and two-pair in the middle if you end up getting another 8, T and K, whereas the latter does not (if you set-up x/KT/778, and pair the Ten and the 8, you then can’t put a K in the middle if you get it unless you are willing to gamble for a full house in the back, otherwise you’ll have Kings Up in the middle and Eights up in the back for a mis-set). The latter, on the other hand, creates the potential for a stronger one-pair hand if you JUST end up hitting one of the two pair cards in the middle and pairing your kicker in the back; for the former, such a result would be either Tens or Eights in the middle and Kings up in the back, whereas in the latter, you’d have Kings or Tens in the middle and Eights up in the back; the difference between Kings and Tens/Eights amongst one-pair hands in the middle is far greater than the difference between Kings Up and Eights Up in the back.
Of course, this is all conjecture, and in the absence of more information as to which cards are live, both plays are certainly reasonable (You can also argue for T/K/778 to try to get a big royalty up top, but I’ve already rambled enough and that play requires you to be willing to gamble if you hit another T before you have anything in the middle and the back, so I’ll just acknowledge that the most aggressive players could make a case for that set-up). So Pauly’s play is fairly standard, and he certainly can’t mind such a hand for first position.
Dan: Dan’s dealt J♥, 5♣, 5♠, T♦, 7♠. He too has no 3-flush or 3-straight combinations, but has a live pair and one fully live kicker. Yes, heads-up players may not like putting 5s in the the back since Pauly has 7s in the back, but he doesn’t have too many other realistic options. His 7 is mostly dead (only 1 out left), there’s also a T already out there, so putting 5s in the middle and high cards in the back means he’s only got one fully live card (the Jack) to draw for. Further, this is a 4-handed game, so we can’t just worry about Pauly’s hand, we also have to play the most optimal strategy against the two unseen hands, and breaking up 5s or putting them in the middle makes zero sense against the two unseen hands. Finally, we hold a blocker for Pauly’s hand here, and our 5s are fully live, so even if it was just heads-up it wouldn’t be a bad play.
Even more clear is what card to place alongside the 5s – unlike Pauly’s hand, here the answer is entirely simple – the 7s are mostly dead, the T is partially dead, and the J is fully live – in addition to being the highest card, it’s the ONLY live card amongst the three, so J55 in the back is pretty much the only realistic play. Dan then puts the T in the middle and the 7 up top. The T in the middle is standard. The 7 up top, he’s placing it there because it’s mostly dead. Some people don’t like to put anything up top this early unless it’s entirely dead (or it’s a Q-A for FantasyLand/High-Card reasons), but others don’t mind throwing a mostly (meaning 3 of them already accounted for) dead card. I personally prefer the former, and would have placed the 7 in the middle, but I certainly by no means believe my way is conclusively better, and welcome anyone who can show me why the way Dan played it is a better overall strategy – either play makes sense to me. So even though I’d set up with T7 in the middle, Dan’s set-up is just as reasonable, and like Pauly he certainly can’t hate his position either.
Jon – Jon’s hand is a little uglier than the previous two. Q♦, 9♠, 5♥, 4♥, 3♣. It’s tough to argue for his one flush draw (54hh) because there are three hearts already out there (giving him only a 22% chance of hitting 3 more hearts), so the question then becomes whether to just revert to the default of two livest cards in the back, or play his 3-straight in the back. Given that there are no 2s and no 6s out, and no As out, even with 7s being mostly dead, I personally would much rather play a mostly live 3-straight as opposed to simply 2 live big cards. I wouldn’t break up a pair for a 3-straight, but I’d rather have 3 to a royalty (albeit only a 2pt royalty) as opposed to needed a lot of help to turn my live Q-9 into a full house. Further, the 4 and 3 are fully live, leaving open a backup plan of 2-pair in the back, and Queens or Nines in the middle; such a fall-back plan is still a fairly decent hand all things considered. It may not be an awesome starting hand, but it’s the best option available, and one of the things that makes this game great (no folding; you play your hand all the way through no matter what) also often leaves you in a spot where you’re just trying to salvage something halfway respectable out of trash.
Mark – Mark takes an interesting line here. It’s certainly the most noteworthy play of the four initial set-ups. He’s dealt T♣, 9♣, 8♦, 2♦, 2♥. The T is mostly dead, the 9 and 8 still have 2 more left in the deck, and the 2s are fully live. However, they’re still a pair of deuces, and playing them in the back would mean he’s starting behind Dan and Pauly (and if Jon gives up his Straight, he’d do so by pairing a card higher than the 2 as well). On the other hand, there is only one 7 and only one 5 left, whereas there are both deuces left in the deck, meaning he’d have the only fully live pair in the back. The other two players are 25% to catch trips in the back, he’s 44% to catch a 3rd Deuce.
He elects to play T98 in the back and 22 in the middle. I understand the play – if your deuces don’t improve you’re in a very bad spot as you’re starting way behind two other players, and T98 not only is a 3-straight combination, it also has a backup plan (pairing any of the three cards) that jumps Pauly and Dan’s current hand (7s and 5s respectively). On the other hand, I always try to have a live royalty draw in the back, and there is only one 7 left (although 6s are fully live, Jacks are mostly live, and Queens are mostly live). In general, if I start 3 to a straight I want to be able to see it through for a few streets, and I don’t know if I would be willing to do that here given the scarcity of 7s left.
One option he could have considered was 82♦♦ in the back – diamonds are pretty damn live (9 left in the deck); he’d be 40% to complete the flush. However, the back-up plan isn’t particularly strong – if diamonds don’t come, he’s got to pair the 8 or the 2, and if he pairs the deuce first, even if he goes on to pair the 8 as well, he’s looking at a middle of high cards only since the T is fairly dead, and he’d have a dead deuce in the middle as well. If you’re willing to gamboool it up, it’s not a bad play to set diamonds in the back, but you’re pretty much committing yourself to diamonds-or-bust; if you don’t hit the flush, you have a very significant chance of fouling. If it was 98♦♦, or even T9/T8, allowing you to keep the deuces in the middle (and if the deuce wasn’t a Diamond as well), this play would be a no-brainer in my opinion. But that’s not the hand we have here. Finally, in case someone wanted to ask, T9cc doesn’t make much sense to me in the back as Clubs are already fairly dead (6 out there, so he’d need 3 out of the remaining 7; yes, 3 out of 9 is a lot different than 3 out of 7).
So all three options – Diamonds in the back, deuces with a kicker (and note that none of his kickers would be fully live, at best you’d have a 2-outer kicker with the 9), or 3-straight in the back have their strengths, but also come with significant warts. I personally would play 229 in the back, T8 in the middle, because I’m not confident enough that a 7 will come to start T98 in the back – if I start T98, I’d immediately be willing to abandon it for one pair, breaking up any potential royalty in the back way too quickly. As a result, 229 gives me the best chance for a royalty, so I’d play that.
Whew. Trust me, that’s the longest part of the breakdown. Before we continue, let’s visualize where we’re at:
No hand here really jumps out as being in either great or horrible shape – Pauly and Dan have fairly live two-pair draws (and subsequent boat draws), but both only have 1-out for trips. Jon’s probably in the best overall shape with a fairly live straight draw in the back and live big pair cards in the middle. If Mark does complete his straight he’s in great shape, but he may end up abandoning the straight draw before it even has a chance because he’s got to make sure he covers the 2s. The flip side is that with all the Aces live, he’s the only one who can comfortably play an A up top because he’s already got a pair in the middle.
So let’s get to the runout, which can be found in Part II.