The 2012 World Series of Poker is almost over. All that's left is for the remaining nine players in the Main Event to play for the $8.5 million first-place prize at the end of October. Many of my friends had WSOP success, some of them winning a coveted WSOP gold bracelet.
One of my best friends in the poker world, Timothy Adams, won the $2,500 4-max (maximum of four players per table) no-limit hold 'em tournament and played some magnificent poker to get there.
With three players remaining and the blinds at 12,000-24,000, Adams was second in chips with 1.8 million in chips. Brendon Rubie was the chip leader with 3 million. Adams was on the button and raised to 48,000 with Ad Ks. Rubie reraised to 112,000 from the small blind, Adams four-bet to 243,000, and Rubie called.
The flop came 7h 6d 2d, and Rubie checked. Adams bet 201,000, and Rubie countered by check-raising to 976,000. Adams pondered his options, then announced all-in for roughly 1.55 million. Rubie called and turned over 9d 10d.
The turn was the Qh, the river was the 2c, and Adams doubled up and took over the chip lead.
I hope the retelling of this hand didn't startle anyone too much. Risking your tournament life with A-K on a 7-high board, when there is no fold equity, seems absolutely ludicrous -- especially when there are two people standing in your way of your first WSOP bracelet.
This is why you shouldn't pass judgment: Adams' preflop play
The most important aspect of this hand is Rubie's range. Being the chip leader, Rubie would three-bet from the small blind with a wide range. This includes hands that have good value (A-K, A-Q, A-J, K-Q suited, suited connectors, or pocket pairs from A-A to 8-8) and hands that are bluffs or don't have great value (A-4 offsuit, K-10 offsuit, Q-9 suited, 8-4 suited, etc.). Remember: Hand values increase significantly when playing short-handed.
Rubie's call of Adams' four-bet most likely meant he had the sort of hand that plays well postflop. Rubie could have been trapping with A-A or K-K, but we can rule out strong holdings such as A-K, A-Q, or medium to big pairs, because with those hands he'd reraise or try to get it all-in preflop. Hands that have bad value are eliminated as well, because Rubie wouldn't have called a four-bet out of position.
The next element we have to analyze is Rubie's bet-sizing on the flop. He raised Adams' bet of 201,000 to 976,000, which is enormous. This tells us a lot about Rubie's hand. This would have been unlikely, but let's say he three-bet with a small pair (2-2, 6-6 or 7-7.) Given the circumstances, Rubie would never raise that much with a set or any other extremely strong holding.
Also, the size of the bet means Adams doesn't have fold equity. Rubie is mathematically priced in to call Tim's all-in.
Adams held the Ad, which helped define Rubie's range. Adams pinpointed Rubie's range as being one of these holdings: 8d 9d, 9d 10d, 10d Jd, Jd Qd, Jd Kd, and Kd Qd.
Tim has a 56 percent chance to win against this range. Adams couldn't think of a possible holding that he would have been losing to at that point, and that was the deciding factor for moving all-in.
Even in high-pressure situations, successful poker players are able to break down a hand and make the best decision possible. Adams did just that.
Tristan Wade is a World Series of Poker bracelet winner and the director of training and education for DeepStacks Live poker seminars.