Hand Analysis from WPT Five Diamonds: Eddy Sabat vs. Dan Smith

WPtlogoThere was one hand at the WPT 5 Diamond World Poker Classic final table last night that should be of particular interest to anyone serious about improving their game.

It took place between Eddy Sabat and Dan Smith, with Gary Benson involved until the turn. Although Smith went on to win, losing this hand meant needing to survive a coin flip later on, and thus could have cost him the tournament. Here’s how it played out.

A small three-way pot gets very big

Sabat limped on the button, leading Smith to complete in the small blind and Benson to check his option in the big blind.

The flop came out A:s 8:d 4:s and play checked around to Sabat, who bet about 1/3 pot. Smith and Benson both called.

The turn was the 3:h and now Smith led out with a much larger bet, around 2/3 pot. Benson folded and Sabat called.

The river was the 5:c, Smith checked, and Sabat made a huge, nearly pot-sized bet, sending Smith into the tank.

A polarizing bet

I was not watching the final table on television, so I have not seen Smith’s hole cards, though some sort of A seems likely, perhaps A3. Regardless, when Sabat bets so large on the river, Smith’s exact holdings become all but irrelevant. Sabat’s bet is so large that he surely has either a monster or air, and Smith’s hand is now nothing but a bluff catcher. But could Sabat be bluffing?

Reading Sabat’s hand

Imagine yourself in Smith’s position, and consider Sabat’s likely range. Key factors include limping on the button, betting on the two-spade flop, and flat calling on the blank turn when Smith shows strength.

All of these actions are consistent with a hand containing two small spades, and so the most obvious thing to put Sabat on is a whiffed flush draw, perhaps with the 8:s for a middle pair he’s now decided is no good.

In fact, Sabat had 7:s 6:s for a flush draw plus a gutshot, which hit on the river to give him the nuts. Smith surely knew this was a possibility, but it’s very tough to fold to a polarizing bet when there are likely bluff hands in your opponent’s range and only one precise value hand.

This is what allowed Sabat to go for maximum value here, where an average player might have bet much smaller. It’s a classic example of Level 3 thinking: understanding what your own range is from the opponent’s perspective, and employing deception when your actual hand falls in the smaller part of that range.

Alex Weldon is a game designer by day and poker tournament wizard by night. You can read more from Alex at www.benefactum.ca and follow him on Twitter at @benefactumgames

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