Two out of the three days scheduled for the Super High-Roller cash game at the Aria are in the books. If you haven’t been following the action, it’s a $400/$800 No-Limit Hold’em game with $200 antes and a $250,000 minimum buy-in. The game is being streamed live on Twitch and covered in real-time by PokerNews; an edited-for-television version will appear on Poker Central once the channel launches.
The biggest hand of the second day – and of the game thus far – involved a clash between last year’s Big One for One Drop winner Daniel Colman and Scott Seiver, who is himself 10th on the global all-time money list for live play. The hand in question is interesting not just for the amount of money which changed hands, but as an illustration of just how different deep-stacked cash play can be from the tournaments we’re used to seeing.
How the action played out
The pot was already huge before the flop. It began with an open by Andrew Robl for $2,400. Colman was in the cutoff and put in a three-bet to $8,500. Seiver held the button and cold four-bet to $24,000. Robl got out of the way, but Colman came over the top with a five-bet to $70,000, which Seiver flatted.
At this point, the pot contained around $145,000 and both players looked to be holding fairly nutted ranges. That being the case, the fairly average-looking K-9-2 rainbow flop was actually quite an interesting development.
Colman led out for $50,000, a little over 60 big blinds. Though the bet was huge in absolute terms, it was small relative to the pot – just 35% or so. Seiver called.
The turn was a blank – the Three of Hearts – and Colman checked. With about $245,000 now in the pot, Seiver bet $120,000 and Colman called.
The river was another blank – the Eight of Diamonds – and Seiver moved all-in. There was now just under a half-million in the pot, and Colman had $345,000 behind, which Seiver had covered.
Colman announced that he had Aces and speculated that Seiver must have Kings. After tanking for a while, he made the laydown.
Folding Aces in a 5-bet pot?
Most of the poker that we get to see is tournament poker, as high stakes cash games are typically played behind closed doors. That being the case, the idea of laying down Aces on the river, in a 5-bet pot, on a dry board, getting about 2.5-1 probably seems unthinkable to many readers.
Indeed, if you had just walked into the room postflop and knew nothing about the blinds or the preflop action, it would seem pretty normal to be checking the turn with Aces with the intention of check-raising all-in, not check-calling to fold the river.
But consider just how deep-stacked the hand began. Totalling up Colman’s bets and his remaining chips on the river, he began with about $585,000, and that was the shorter of the two stacks. With the blinds at $400/$800, that meant they were playing over 700 big blinds deep. PokerStars’s ultra-stack turbos notwithstanding, you never see stacks that size in tournament poker, and it changes everything.
“You wouldn’t play Ace-King like that.”
Prior to folding, Colman stated that he couldn’t believe that Seiver would play Ace-King this way, and I’m inclined to agree. Chances are that most players would either 6-bet Ace-King as a semibluff preflop or else fold it, as it’s too difficult to play post-flop against a polarized preflop range.
Even assuming that Seiver would call with Ace-King preflop, it’s unlikely he would go for three streets of value with it, even having hit a King. What would he be getting value from? The best he could hope for would be Queens, but Colman would likely release those to a turn bet given the preflop action. With Ace-King, Seiver should usually either be checking back the river or, more likely, checking back the turn and making a thin value bet on the river.
Just calling with Kings?
It’s unlikely that Seiver would be cold 4-betting and calling a 5-bet with pocket pairs Nines and worse, and two pair is even less probable, so once we’ve ruled out Ace-King, it seems that Colman was losing to exactly pocket Kings and nothing else. The first question, then, is whether Seiver was even likely to have Kings, having flatted the 5-bet instead of 6-betting.
In a tournament, you almost never expect an opponent to show up with Kings when they’ve just called a bet preflop. Stacks simply aren’t deep enough in a tournament that you can see enough preflop action to put an opponent on Aces very often; the narrowest that you can usually range someone is QQ-AA and AK, and that’s a range against which you just want to get it in with your Kings.
Here, though, Colman would be unlikely to 5-bet Queens or worse against a cold 4-bet with so many chips behind, and if he did, he might fold them to a 6-bet. Meanwhile, if Seiver did have Kings, he was blocking Ace-King and the other two Kings pretty heavily. Thus, Colman’s range would probably be mostly Aces and possibly a light 5-bet bluff. Against that range, 6-betting the Kings would be terrible, as it would stop Colman from continuing with his bluffs, and cause Seiver to go broke against the Aces.
So, yes, flatting with Kings against the 5-bet makes perfect sense with these stacks.
Could Seiver be bluffing?
The more interesting question is whether Seiver could be floating Colman and bluffing. This is a much trickier question to answer. If Seiver can put Colman on exactly Aces, then yes, I could just barely see this being a bluff because Seiver knows that Colman knows that it looks like Colman has Aces, and therefore that they both know Seiver’s line looks like Kings. That’s a classic levelling situation.
However, the question is what bluffing hands Seiver could have in his range. The answer is probably exactly Queens. Maybe Jacks, if he cold 4-bets those. Preflop, Seiver was calling $46,000 with about $100,000 in the pot and another $500,000 or so behind, so he was getting the correct odds to set-mine with his big pairs if he was putting Colman on Aces. Therefore, if he was flatting with Kings, he’d be flatting with any other big pairs he 4-bet, which probably includes Queens. I don’t think I’m qualified to speculate about whether he might have Jacks in there as well, but I guess it’s possible.
That being the case, and knowing that Colman would likely be putting him on a JJ-KK kind of range, you can see that it would be tempting for Seiver to turn Jacks or Queens into an epic bluff. The trouble with that is that Seiver can only really rule Ace-King out of Colman’s range when he’s holding two Kings himself. With Jacks or Queens, the odds are more likely that Colman could have Ace-King. And it would be much harder to bluff Colman off Ace-King than Aces, since the King in his hand would make it very hard for Seiver to have the other two. In other words, with Queens, Seiver wouldn’t be blocking his opponents blockers to the hand he would be representing. Confusing, I know.
We won’t get to see what either player actually had until the show airs on Poker Central, but I think we can be fairly confident this hand will make the cut. Based on the analysis above, though, I’m fairly confident in predicting that Colman was both telling the truth about his hand, and calling Seiver’s correctly. Tournament poker is all about ranges, but in deep-stacked cash play, it really can be possible to put your opponent on an exact hand and I think that’s indeed what went down here.
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.