The f*@# can you lay that down? The top five televised folds

The f*@# can you lay that down? The top five televised folds

Thursday, 5 May 2011

As awesome as it is to pull off a big bluff, as we showed you last month, it’s perhaps even sweeter to get away from a hand that a mere mortal would have gone broke on. Some may argue it’s even harder – any monkey can shove chips into a pot, it takes a true master to realise that they are up against a straight flush and let four of a kind go...

You bet the river with top two pair and your opponent moves all-in. Shit, wait... well, he could have hit that gutshot or been slowplaying a set... but I have top two pair. I mean, he could be bluffing, would he value-bet worse? I don’t know... fuck it, I call. SHIT! I knew he had a straight, for the love of God...

Is that situation familiar? Every poker player has at least caught themselves thinking “I knew he had that hand!” after calling and losing the pot in a straight-up cooler. The difference between you and I, though, and the people you’re about to see here is that they could actually summon the will to push the near-nuts away from them and concede a pot that they were sure was theirs.

There is, of course, a fine line between genius and idiocy and you could argue that these folds are terrible against an opponent’s range. You could also argue that these folds are trivially easy given the action, but bear in mind the difference between seeing a hand and playing it out. It’s very hard to push a full house into the muck.

5. Phil Hellmuth has a fold button? Shock horror!

OK, OK, we know what you’re thinking – Phil Hellmuth is a massive nit and makes terrible folds routinely, so the odds are he gets one of them right. This is true, but the man can dodge bullets and he dodged a .50cal sniper round here when the hyper-aggressive Tom Dwan picked up a full house against Hellmuth’s flush.

During the PartyPoker Premier League, each player began with 100,000 and on the very first hand Tom “durrrr” Dwan – who Jesse May points out “has a reputation for playing lots of pots” – called a button raise from Phil Hellmuth, who held Jh9h.

Dwan’s AsTc was ahead pre-flop and stayed ahead when the flop came AhTdTh, giving Hellmuth a flush draw and durrrr the nuts. Dwan check-called a bet of 8,000 and the turn was devastating for Hellmuth when the 8h completed his flush. Dwan again checked and Hellmuth bet 8,000, again not knowing he had only two outs.

Dwan again called and the river was the 5d, keeping Dwan’s nuts nutted. He made a genius third check and encouraged Hellmuth to bet 29,000 before raising all-in for his remaining 84,000. Hellmuth, getting odds of around 3-1 on the call and facing an opponent who could be doing this for thin value with a bare ace or indeed with sweet FA, found the fold and preserved his time in the tournament, addressing co-commentator Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott personally before letting the hand go.

4. Doyle folds an overpair for one raise – that’s fifty years’ worth of reads

The inaugural $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event at the 2006 World Series of Poker guaranteed a star-studded final table, which was played out as No Limit Hold’em and culminated in one of the most intense heads-up battles ever seen, between Andy Bloch and eventual champion, the late David “Chip” Reese. Reese didn’t have an easy time of it, though, with a final table consisting of Bloch, Cloutier, Ivey and one Doyle Brunson, who could apparently see Reese’s cards.

With blinds of 10k/20k Doyle made it 70,000 to go with Q-Q and Reese just called holding K-K and crushing his long-time friend and table-mate. David Singer came along with 6-6 in the big blind and the flop came a highly innocuous 7-3-2 rainbow, perfect for one hidden overpair to stack another. Doyle bet 220k with his queens and Reese raised the minimum to 440k. Singer got out of the way and...

Doyle folded. Just like that, in the same way he would have done had he held jack-high. Years – no, decades of playing to the right of Reese culminated in this hand, Doyle asking if he had a pair before throwing away the queens and exposing one.

“He folded queens?” asked TJ Cloutier, disbelievingly.
“No, no, one queen,” corrected Andy Bloch. “No way he folds two queens there, the other card was probably... A-Q?”

Doyle said nothing but Chip Reese knew.

3. The Orient Express will not stop at Valuetown for Huck Seed

This hand comes from Poker After Dark, an episode in which six WSOP champions –Chan, Seed, Brunson, Hachem, Gold and Hellmuth – competed in a winner-take-all STT for $20,000 apiece. Chan opens the action with pocket aces and a standard raise to 1,200, and both Hachem (holding K-Q) and Huck Seed (holding 6-6) call from the blinds for a 3,600 pot. Seed hits the flop fairly hard as it comes J-J-6.

The action is checked through on the flop and, when Hachem checks air and Seed slowplays the blank turn, Chan amazingly checks behind. The river is another blank – the deuce an even blankier blank – and Seed bets 3.5k after Hachem again checks. Chan insta-folds and Seed is left wondering how he flopped a full house against an overpair and didn’t double up his chips.

This is certainly one of the situations where it could be argued the fold was terrible and that aces are good at least as a bluffcatcher, but the people arguing this are almost certainly not Johnny Chan.

2. Uber-aggressive Annette Obrestad finds her passive side with a full house

As we established, it’s all well and good being a super-aggressive player who racks up non-showdown winnings like there’s no tomorrow, but if you have that ability coupled with an uncanny sense of when you’re beaten then truly, you are a dangerous player.

Annette Obrestad is known for her aggressive style (she was an aggressive Scandinavian before Viktor Blom even picked up a chip set) and came to the attention of the poker world in 2007 when she won the inaugural World Series of Poker Europe for a tidy £1,000,000. In this hand from the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event, 21-year-old Annette shows she’s not all about the bluffing.

Five players see a flop of Jd4dJc and Annette holds 4-4 in the cut-off for a flopped full house. Her opponent to her left holds J-7 and calls Annette’s bet on the flop, taking them heads-up to the turn, which is a made-for-TV 7d, to give both players a full house with three diamonds on the board. Annette fires another barrel and is called before the queen of hearts on the river locks up the hand for her opponent.

Annette bets again and this time faces a small raise, giving her almost 4-1 on the call with a full house. “So ugly,” she mutters, before asking her opponent if he has the flush. “What’s a flush?” he replies. What indeed when you have a full house? Amazingly, Annette mucks her full house and concedes the pot, saving her tournament for another big cooler.
1. Roberto Romanello does a Titanic and lets jacks (full of tens) go at WSOP

Unfortunately in this hand we don’t see the pre-flop action but it doesn’t make it any less scintillating. Roberto Romanello, our favourite Welshman, bets 1,800 on the river of an A-J-K-T-T board, holding J-J, and his opponent raises it up to 6,000 after two checks on previous streets. Mike Matusow folds his 9-9 and Romanello riffles his chips. His opponent turns to him and says “just don’t raise me” while displaying most of the contents of Caro’s Book of Tells for “weak means strong”.

“You show if I fold?” Romanello quickly asked. His opponent declined quickly. A few more minutes passed before: “... OK I’ll show.” Romanello nodded and moved his hand over the betting line, mucking his cards as Mike Matusow sat bored and muttered about just showing the hand already.
“WOW!” Matusow suddenly exclaimed as both hands were revealed. “WOW!” Again, jumping out of his seat. “How do you fold that hand?! That is the fold of the tournament. I would NEVER fold that... wow, how do I get at a table with people like this?”

Here we have a stellar example of what makes a great fold – looking at the hand objectively and knowing nothing about the pre-river action besides K-K man’s two checks and “a big raise pre-flop”, we can give him a river raising range of a flush or better, meaning either the flopped flush (unlikely unless he holds exactly KsQs) or K-K/A-A and maybe T-T. Thus, against a river raise and an exhibition of strong tells, jacks full is an easy fold.

Fuck off is it! It’s one thing to know all this when you can see the hole cards, it’s quite another to ascertain this at the table on the fly and then make the fold in-game. Hell, the two had chips behind – Romanello even had the option of calling the raise but chose not to.

Not because he’s a nit who got lucky; because he’s awesome. Better than you, in fact.

Tags: Laydowns, Phil Hellmuth, Tom Dwan, Doyle Brunson, Annette Obrestad, Johnny Chan, Huck Seed, Roberto Romanello