Ryan “PROTENTIALmn” Laplante posted an interesting hand to Twitter yesterday, in which he busted Jason Mercier on the stone bubble of WCOOP-14, a $215 No-Limit Hold’em event with Big Antes and an optional re-entry. The hand is mostly notable because Laplante made an enormous overbet on the flop, which he claims was an accident.
Laplante and Mercier began the hand as the two deepest stacks at the table, with 94,790 chips for Laplante and 55,053 for Mercier. The blinds were 500/1000, with a 200 ante, and Mercier was in the big blind, while Laplante was in middle position.
The action folded around to Laplante, who decided to open Queen-Nine offsuit for 2,144, a little more than a minimum raise. The other players then got out of the way, and Mercier opted to defend his blind with Queen-Eight suited. As the deep stack, on the bubble, I think it’s fair to expect that Laplante would be raising to steal the blinds fairly wide, but at the same time, Mercier would know this and likely be defending his blind a lot of the time as well.
The flop came out QJ6 with two diamonds, giving both players top pair, and it’s at this point that things got interesting. Mercier checked to Laplante, who then bet 19,844 into a pot of only 6,588. Mercier could not flat call this bet, as it would make for a pot of over 45,000 and leave him with only about 33,000 behind. He likewise couldn’t really fold top pair to a single bet – even a ridiculously large one, and even on the bubble – as flopping this well only to let his hand go would mean that defending his blind was a waste of chips. Without any other viable options, Mercier went all in. Laplante was likewise fairly committed with top pair due to his massive overbet, so he called off and Mercier found himself out-kicked by one. Neither the turn nor river was any help to Mercier, and Laplante took down a 112,006 chip pot, making him a monster chip leader at his table and ending the tournament for Mercier.
An extra 4 proves fortuitous
Laplante, who often makes unevenly-sized bets, says that he actually meant to bet 1,984, but “misclicked” by doubling up on the 4 to make it 19,844 instead. Of course, 1,984 into 6,588 would not be a standard continuation bet sizing either, being less than a third of the pot and smaller than his preflop raise. It was a fairly wet flop texture as well, with both straight and flush draws possible, so the standard strategy would be to size one’s continuation bet a bit larger than normal in order to give Mercier poor direct odds on his draws. Against a timid player, on the exact bubble, I could understand making a tiny bet with top pair and a weak kicker, as a normal-sized bet would make it hard for them to call with worse, but we’re talking about Jason Mercier, who definitely wouldn’t be trying to fold his way to a min-cash.
On the other hand, a bet of 19,844 is perfect, especially if Mercier is likely to believe it to be a misclick due to the doubled final digit. It’s just large enough to eliminate flat calling as an option, leaving him a choice between folding or going all in. At the same time, it’s just small enough to let him believe that he has some fold equity, as Laplante would not be priced in to call with hands that missed the board. Of course, Mercier will be folding a lot of the time, but most of the hands that he’ll fold to this giant bet are ones that he would fold to a tiny one as well; if he believes that the sizing is genuinely a mistake, he more or less has to go all-in with any hand he would have called the tiny continuation bet with, which includes many things that Laplante is ahead of.
If it wasn’t a mistake, it was genius
In my opinion, it’s impossible to know whether Laplante is being honest when he says that the bet was a mistake. On the one hand, 1,984 is within the realm of plausibility for bet size, even if it’s unusually small for the texture, and bet typos are certainly a thing that happens. On the other hand, it’s more or less a perfect spot to fake a misclick, Laplante had the perfect hand to do it with, the perfect opponent to do it to, and the “accidental” bet sizing just happened to be perfectly sized to get the desired result. That’s a sufficiently lucky set of coincidences to put some doubt in my mind.
I also think that it’s more or less a given that when a play like this is made deliberately, the player will continue to insist was accidental even after the fact; after all, if one lets it be known that fake-misclicking is in one’s playbook, it will be much harder to pull off in future. That’s not to say that I think he’s lying, I just think that claiming an accident is what anyone would do either way, so it’s a meaningless assertion when it comes to others trying to figure out what actually happened.
Lest Laplante or his supporters take offence to the suggestion that I think there’s some chance it may not have been a genuine accident, let me make it clear that I would not remotely consider fake-misclicking online to fall under the category of angle shooting. It’s certainly a spot where you could imagine someone trying for an angle in a live tournament, for instance by pretending to mistake 5000 chips for 500s, but I don’t think the ethical implications are the same online. The problem with such plays in a live setting is that they leverage the dealer and/or floor staff to the player’s advantage, and these people are not supposed to be “part of the game.” Online, there are no such third parties involved, so a legal bet is a legal bet, and players are, in my opinion, free to size their bets however they like; if an opponent reads something into the sizing and happens to be wrong, that’s on them, and if the misdirection was intentional, then it’s simply a great play.
Whether he made a genius play or got extremely lucky by making the perfect mistake at the perfect time, we may never know, but either way, Laplante has made good use of the chips he took from Mercier. He has made it through to the second day of the event; as of this writing, he’s made the final table and is second in chips. If he ends up taking it down, this bubble hand will undoubtedly be seen as one of the pivotal moments in his run.
Update: Laplante ultimately finished 3rd in the tournament, for $33,481.
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.