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A Taste of His Own Poison

When it comes to creative play, they don’t come much trickier than Phil Ivey. But in this hand on High Stakes Poker, “Yukon” Brad Booth proved that he can mix it up with the best of them. GOM’s Duncan Wilkie runs the rule over some higher-level thinking.

With blinds at $300/$600, David Williams gets action underway by opening to $1,800 with Js-9c and sitting to his left with a stack of over $1 million, “Yukon” Brad opts to raise to $5,800 with 4s-2s. This may seem like quite an odd move on Booth’s part, but three-betting in position is an essential part of winning cash-game strategy and the benefits of it are three-fold.

First, Williams would open from the cut-off with a wide range of hands, so his initial bet doesn’t necessarily signal any particular strength—a raise on the button may well take the pot down here—and even if Williams does call, he’ll be out of position for the rest of the hand. Second, should his raise get called, “Yukon” has a hand that he’ll never lose much money with but will occasionally flop big and trap a stronger holding. The third advantage of the raise is that such a move will mix up his play, making him harder to read, and could potentially generate action in future hands.

Unfortunately for “Yukon”, Phil Ivey wakes up in the big blind with pocket kings and makes it $14,000 to go, with action quickly folding back round to the Canadian who now has to put in $8,200 to play for a pot of $22,900. At first glance this may look like an almost mandatory fold—after all, Booth has four-high—but again, let’s give the situation a bit more consideration.

Facing a bet and a raise, Ivey has shown incredible strength by re-raising, and by playing his hand this way, he’s giving every indication that he has a big pair from pocket queens to pocket aces. Given his likely range of holdings, therefore, should Booth call and flop trips, two-pair or some sort of combo draw on a low board, the implied odds of the situation dictate that he is likely to win a large pot off of Ivey.

Now, I’m not advocating that you should call with speculative hands often—in fact, a lot of bad players use “implied odds” as an excuse for making marginal calls—but it’s certainly something that you should be in the habit of considering in situations like these. In this instance, “Yukon” does indeed call and a 3d-7s-6d flop gives him little more than gutshot straight and backdoor-flush draws. With an over-pair to the board, Ivey bets out $23,000 and Booth thinks for a few moments before taking the unexpected option—moving all-in.

This is risky, but if Booth is convinced that Ivey is holding a big pair, the move makes it almost impossible for him to call. From his opponent’s point of view, Booth could have called to hit a set with threes, sixes or sevens, and suited connectors like 7-6 and 5-4 also have his kings crushed. Couple this with the fact that Booth could even have smooth-called to disguise aces pre-flop and there is no way Ivey can confidently put all of his money in with just a pair of kings, so the pro duly mucks his hand.

Hopefully this example helps to illustrate just how important getting creative in cash games can be to your long-term profits thus allowing you to further mix up your play in future sessions.
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