2021 has had some intense high stakes action. This is the second installment of an article series covering the craziest hands since the year began (see part 1 here).
Today we’re going to look at another nosebleed hand that took place at the “modest” stake of $50/$100. It’s from a heads-up battle between two high-stakes juggernauts — Limitless and Stefan11222 — who have been going head-to-head a lot this year.
Most of the hands in this series include crazy aggressive actions, but this one is different. It’s actually the lack of aggression that’s notable in this one.
With any further ado, let’s jump into the action!
Featured Image: Neil Stoddart / Rational Intellectual Holdings Ltd (edited from original)
Limitless open-raises from the Small Blind to $230 with A♥ J♥ and Stefan calls from the Big Blind with 5♠ 5♦. Limitless is the effective stack with $12,781.63.
A♥ J♥ is a no-brainer raise in this spot. The size Limitless used is also optimal, since according to the latest preflop solutions, a raise below 3 big blinds seems to be the correct choice.
Stefan’s pocket fives is also a must-call and should probably never or very rarely be 3-bet.
Well played by both players.
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The flop comes Q♥ 5♣ 4♠ and the pot is $460.
Stefan (5♠ 5♦) checks over to Limitless (A♥ J♥) who c-bets $137. Stefan calls with his set.
Stefan’s check is essentially procedural. As we’ve talked about in multiple articles, you should (almost) never develop a flop donking range. It is extremely hard to balance and it will leave your strategy wide open to exploits by the opponent.
Limitless should employ a very aggressive, high-frequency small c-bet strategy on this board due to the big range and positional advantage that he has over his opponent.
A small c-bet size is appropriate in this case because Stefan has a lot of very weak hands in his range which become marginal calls vs the small bet. If he chooses to fold those hands vs a small bet, he risks over-folding, which makes Limitless’s c-bet print money. Think of hands such as:
- AT-offsuit to A6-offsuit
- KJ-offsuit to K6-offsuit
These are super high-frequency calls in Stefan’s spot at equilibrium, and they are quite unintuitive to make.
Zooming in to Limitless’s actual hand of A♥ J♥, it’s a slightly better candidate for betting rather than checking back because it gets a bunch of value from the Ax and Kx hands I just mentioned. Thus, it has implied odds when hitting the Ace.
On top of that, once he hits the Ace he can continue barreling for value on the turn and on the river. He also has a backdoor flush draw to go with the hand. But, it’s actually not that important in this case due to how wide the ranges are and how much showdown value it has.
Back to Stefan who makes an egregious mistake (against an equilibrium strategy) by just check-calling on the flop.
I suggest that you never call here. This set wants to increase the pot right away to build towards an all-in situation on the river in order to maximize its value. Calling is such a big deviation from equilibrium that, in this writer’s opinion, it’s almost impossible to justify it by saying it was for some exploitative reasoning.
If the opponent is a complete maniac bluffer who overbets all over the place, just calling with the set can be reasonable. But I really doubt it’s the case because the opponent is Limitless, an aggressive-but-calculating player who won’t make big mistakes.
The turn comes the A♠, making the board Q♥ 5♣ 4♠ A♠. The pot is now $734.
Stefan (5♠ 5♦) checks over to Limitless (A♥ J♥) who fires another c-bet of $878 with top pair. Stefan calls.
Stefan makes another procedural check for roughly the same reason as before. Well played here.
Limitless goes for an overbet, which is the best size to use on this turn. Here’s why: by only calling preflop and on the flop, Stefan is usually capping his range to the point that he will rarely have a hand stronger than two pair. Most strong hands will choose to raise the flop.
In contrast, Limitless retains all of the two pair combinations and all of the sets. Additionally, the turn improves Limitless’s AQ and AA, both of which Stefan cannot have because he would have 3-bet with those hands preflop.
When you have a big advantage in the distribution of nutted hands like Limitless does here, it’s best to use an overbet size. AJ is strong enough to keep pushing for value for this size because Stefan should be calling with a lot of worse hands, such as weaker Ax, Qx, some flush draws, and some 5♠ X♠ hands (which now have a flush draw).
Once again, Stefan goes for a check-call. This is an even bigger mistake than his last check-call. There is only one street left (the river), so the opportunity to exponential grow the pot is closing. Put simply, just-calling leaves a lot of EV on the table.
The river comes the A♦, making the board Q♥ 5♣ 4♠ A♠ A♦. The pot is $2,491.
Stefan checks, Limitless bets $3,733, leaving about $7,000 behind. Stefan just calls with his full house, scooping a $9,957 pot.
Stefan makes another procedural check, which is the correct decision being out of position against a very polarized range without the nut advantage.
Limitless has a huge nut advantage on the river. This means that an overbet is the best bet size to use. Checking AJ in this spot would be a grave mistake because it will get called by a ton of worse hands (basically A2 – AT).
Stefan once again goes for a check-call, which seems like a very big mistake. Limitless will be forced to call with enough worse hands, if he plays a Nash equilibrium strategy, to render Stefan’s shove profitable.
There can be good reasoning here for just calling (compared to the previous two situations). For example, if Stefan believes that his opponent will only call with better full houses, then yes, the best play is to simply check-call.
Mistakes happen whether you are playing 1c/2c or $50/$100. What changes are their magnitude and frequency. Keep yourself sharp by continually learning about the game, and slowly but surely you will be on your way to crushing higher and higher stakes.
But remember, mistakes are inevitable. If even an elite player like Stefan can make a couple of mistakes in a hand, anyone can. The key is to learn from them (without beating yourself up — you’re only human after all).
Why Do You Think Stefan Just Called on the Flop, Turn and River?
Let us know in the comments below.
That’s all for this breakdown! Stay tuned for two more articles to come from this series!
Don’t want to wait for more hand analysis? Check out Top Pro Plays Pocket Queens Passively with $2.7 Million On the Line.
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!
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