2014 WSOP Hand Analysis: Listen to Your Head, Not Your Heart

2014 WSOP Hand Analysis: Listen to Your Head, Not Your Heart 0001

I’m currently in Las Vegas, Nevada where I am reporting on various poker tournaments at the 2014 World Series of Poker for PokerNews. As a result of my role as a blogger, I am seeing hundreds of hands every day and in close-up detail.

There have been many big hands written about over the past couple of weeks, but one in particular stands out to me. I thought it would be an idea to share it with you on these pages, not least because it tells an important story.

The hand in question was the final hand of Event #12: $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em. Pot-limit Hold’em isn’t anywhere near as popular as it once was, yet 557 players bought into this particular event. After three days of action, only two players remained: Gregory Kolo and Kaza Oshima (pictured above).

Oshima had played superbly from the point there were only 25 players remaining down to just two, and along the way I had picked him as the man who would win the coveted bracelet. He applied pressure whenever he could and seemed in control of every pot that he played.

Kolo had obviously played well, too, otherwise he wouldn’t be heads-up — after all, luck can only get you so far. But he seemed quite straightforward and methodical in his approach to the game. His friends on the rail were half-mocking him, calling him “Rainman” suggesting he is very mathematical in his approach.

The final hand saw Kolo open with a min-raise to 50,000 from the button and Oshima call. The flop came down {2-Hearts}{J-Hearts}{3-Spades}. Oshima checked, Kolo fired a continuation bet of 55,000 and when Oshima check-raised to 130,000, Kolo called.

The turn was the {10-Diamonds} and Oshima led this time for 200,000. Again, Kolo called.

The {4-Spades} then completed the board. Oshima moved all-in and Kolo quickly called, turning over {J-Clubs}{3-Spades} for two pair. A disappointed Oshima tried to muck his hand before heading to the exits, but the dealer had to show his cards as it was an all-in pot. That’s when we saw that Oshima had made an ill-timed bluff with {Q-Spades}{9-Spades}.

Both my colleague Jason Ainsworth and I were extremely surprised by Oshima’s all-in bet on the river with queen-high, primarily because of the action on earlier streets.

I mentioned how Kolo had played a rather straightforward game, or so it appeared. We didn’t have hole card information, but from seeing a few of his hands at showdown — and from watching how he had won a few pots without showdown — it seemed safe to assume he was playing similar to an ABC style of play, a style which in certain circumstances can be effective as I’ve written about here before.

With that in mind, the alarm bells in Oshima’s head should have been ringing loudly when Kolo called his check-raise on the flop. Then they should have been deafening when Kolo called Oshima’s big bet on the turn.

When a player of Kolo’s description calls big bets on both the flop and the turn, that player almost always has have a strong hand. Many players will call bets on the flop and then fold to a second barrel on the turn, so when Kolo calls both I firmly believe that Oshima should be check-folding the river.

I’ve not had the chance to speak to Oshima about the hand — I am going to look out for him during the remainder of the WSOP — but I will put good money on the fact he believed Kolo had a busted flush draw and decided that the only way to win was to bomb the river to force a fold.

I think Oshima got caught up in the moment and wanted to win a big pot right there and then. He probably thought by winning this significant pot that he had one hand on the bracelet.

I also think that Oshima assigned Kolo a range that was too biased towards missed flush draws. In fact, I also think that Oshima’s hand also looks like a possible busted flush draw. Kolo may not be willing to call the shove on the river with, say, king-high. But he could certainly call with a {J-} or {10-}.

Finally, I believe Oshima had a substantial advantage heads-up otherwise, so he should have avoided taking small edges that would jeopardize his chances of finding a bigger edge later in the battle.

If ever you find yourself in a similar spot, make sure that you piece together the information correctly, otherwise you could make a costly mistake. Do you have an edge over your opponent? Would your opponent play a flush draw or straight draw the same way as he played the hand now?

Most importantly, though, in situations such as this listen to your head, not to your heart. Trust your instincts and be prepared to act on them — they will be accurate more often than you would believe.

Good luck.

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