In mid-December, 100 players entered the Epic Poker League $20,000 Main Event at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas. A new tournament series that features the top 250 players in the world, Epic features top-notch action and big prize pools.
There were 14 players left in the tournament, and with only 12 places paid, a mistake could cost a player more than the average American salary. Joe Tehan, Faraz Jaka and Vanessa Rousso became involved in an interesting hand.
Tehan, a World Poker Tour champion, was the commanding chip leader. He was playing the bubble aggressively, considering that the next player knocked out would leave penniless.
Faraz Jaka was the short stack in the hand, having 18 big blinds. Jaka plays an unorthodox style of poker. With over $4 million in career earnings, his unpredictability is a threat.
Finally, we had one of the most famous female players in the world, Vanessa Rousso. Forum posters on the Internet frequently criticize her decisions, but make no mistake: With more than $3.5 million in live cashes alone, Rousso can play.
At a five-handed table, with blinds at $2,000-$4,000 and a $500 ante, Jaka moved all in for $72,000. With a stack of $300,000, Rousso reraised to $120,000. Action was now on Tehan. He requested Rousso’s chip count, then moved all in, putting Rousso’s stack at risk. She mulled over the decision and ultimately called. Jaka turned overA-A, Rousso showed Q-Q, and Tehan turned over … 2d 4h.
Yes, you read that correctly: 2-4 offsuit.
Jaka shouldn’t have moved all in. His best play would have been to make a small raise. Given his style, he needs to leave room for one of his opponents to make a mistake, not hope they wake up with a good enough hand to call. Rousso made the next error.
She should have just called the all-in by Jaka rather than re-raise. The $72,000 bet was large enough to keep weak hands out of the pot.
By re-raising, Rousso needlessly put dead money in the middle. By trying to protect her hand, she helped define her range. She must anticipate one of the players behind her will move all in.
Tehan did just that. Go figure.
He realized Rousso’s range was vulnerable. He thought she had a good enough hand (such as 10-10, JJ, Q-Q or A-Q) but also one she could fold. Given Tehan’s aggressive bubble image, coupled with the fact that they were playing five-handed (where hand values increase significantly), his logic was skewed. Even if Rousso folded, he still had to turn over 2-4 offsuit and beat Jaka. I applaud Tehan for his ambition, but if you’re going to make a play like this, I prefer hands with better equity.
Rousso appeared to have set Joe up perfectly, but the fact that she debated for minutes about calling or folding shows she didn’t have strategic intentions in her re-raise.
When the board ran out 9h 6d 4s 4d 10d, Tehan made three of a kind to eliminate both Rousso and Jaka short of the money.
Even the world’s best players make mistakes, but aggression in poker gives you a stronger chance at winning. Just ask Tehan.
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Tristan Wade is a World Series of Poker bracelet winner and the Director of Training and Education for DeepStacks Live poker seminars. Learn more at deepstacks.com. Twitter: @TristanCre8ive.