Deep into the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event, the ESPN cameras caught me four-betting preflop with 6c 4d.
It was late on Day 6, with blinds at 30,000-60,000 and antes of 10,000, and I had been playing relatively tight. My stack had hovered at the “deep enough but nothing to be excited about” level for days, and I had around 3.2 million to start this hand. My hand was nothing to be excited about, but I was in a good spot.
The spot was good because the big blind was tight and had a stack to attack, because the players behind me weren’t three-betting lightly, and because I had been card dead, so my perceived range was narrow. I made it 130,000.
Action folded around to Michael Finstein in the small blind. I had seen plenty of Finstein over the years and knew that he’s smart. Not exactly the best opponent to mess with, but poker is about finding spots and executing in them. In this particular spot, I had a piece of information that skewed my decision from “easy fold” to “reraise.” I had picked up a tell on Finstein that I had confirmed the previous hand in regard to the preflop strength of his hand.
He reraised to 375,000, a relatively hefty bet considering that he started the hand with about 2.9 million. The big blind folded.
The tell that I picked up on the previous hand, when he was strong, had been missing in an earlier hand when Finstein reraised and folded preflop. The tell was missing here, too, and it felt like he would have been fine with me folding preflop. I knew that he was smart enough to not want to play a pot out of position against me, and I knew that he was smart enough to know that I might have been trying to attack this big blind in particular.
I reraised to 775,000.
I was expecting him to fold or shove, so I was surprised when he just called. At this point, I knew that he didn’t have A-A, K-K, Q-Q or A-K, because he simply would have shoved with those hands preflop. I knew he didn’t have garbage, because he would have folded or shoved those hands, too. Therefore, I could conclude that he probably had something like J-J, 10-10, 9-9, 8-8 or A-Q – hands too weak to shove with preflop but too strong to fold considering my small four-bet size.
The flop came Kh 6s 2s. I had a little over 2.4 million, barely covering his 2.1 million. Stacks were really awkward with 1.7 million in the pot at this point. I could bet 500,000 and then fold to a shove, because I’d only beaten A-Q offsuit. But that didn’t seem optimal, because conceivably I could have had A-A, K-K, Q-Q and A-K, all of which would have been ahead of his range. If I had any of those hands in this spot, I would check, so I checked.
The turn was the Qh. He checked again, and now I felt I really needed to win this pot. My range crushed his range. Shoving would seem strange, but so would betting 500,000. I decided to shove.
He quickly folded Js Jd, and I smiled when I saw the hand on TV.
Bryan Devonshire is a professional poker player from Las Vegas. He has amassed more than $2 million in career earnings. Follow him on Twitter: @devopoker.