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Advanced Poker Strategy– Smith vs Kempe

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Dan Smith vs Rainer Kempe/

The 2016 Super High Roller Bowl at ARIA in Las Vegas saw 49 players put up the $300,000 buy-in their shot at a $5 million first-place prize and one of the most prestigious titles in all of poker. Given all the action was filmed for worldwide broadcast on NBC Sports, we at 888poker thought it’d be fun to not only identify the biggest hands, but to also offer analysis on them straight from the pros.

In this hand, which occurred in the sixth episode of the 2016 SHRB, Dan Smith and Rainer Kempe squared off in one of the tournament’s most memorable hands, which also happened to be a major cooler. We asked 888poker Ambassador Dominik Nitsche to break down the hand and see if there was anyway Smith could have gotten away without going bust.

The Setup

At the final table of eight, the money bubble was in full effect. That meant just one more player needed to leave empty handed – or rather down the $300,000 buy-in – to ensure the remaining seven a minimum $600,000 payday.

The blinds were 20,000/40,000/5,000 when Kempe (2.09 million) raised to 110,000 from the cutoff with 8♠8♣ and Smith (2.265 million) called from the small blind with the 6♥6♣.

“I think the play here is entirely dictated by the fact that they were on the money bubble,” said Nitsche. “If you are on a bubble of a tournament, your play should not just be influenced by your cards and your opponent’s range, but also by the other stack sizes at the table. Here, there were a couple of other short stacks around the table. This should have forced both Dan and Rainer to play somewhat cautious before and after the flop.”

The 10♥6♠8♥ flop gave both players a set, but of course, Kempe’s eights were best.

“Now when both players flop sets, my above advice is all good and true, but a set in No-Limit Hold’em is a monster. Period,” said Nitsche. “This is typically a hand you would never fold, but could this spot be an exception? Maybe.”

Action Explodes

Smith checked his set of sixes and Kempe bet 165,000 with his set of eights. Smith used a time extension and then raised to 475,000. Kempe used a time extension of his own before moving all in for 1.975 million. Smith called the additional 1.5 million.

“Flat-calling the flop is almost certainly an option, and I think I prefer it,” said Nitsche. “But I can totally understand why Smith decided to raise there. Dan is an amazing player, so he understands that getting it all in here with a set isn’t quite the dream situation many amateur players feel it is. Dan is also up against Rainer, a world-class player who won't be firing it in with just an overpair. He is simply too good for that. At worst, he has a hand like J♥9♥ or Q♥J♥, and even those he might just elect to call with.”

“It's a tough spot for sure, but I think Dan just calling is the play,” Nitsche continued. “It's important to keep in mind that Dan called from the small blind, so his range is a lot stronger than if he had called from the big blind.”

How could calling from the small blind as compared to the big make such a big difference? Nitsche is suggesting, correctly, that by calling from the small blind Smith needs to commit 25% more than he would have from the big blind. As such, the quality of his starting hand has to reflect that, meaning his range is likely small to middle pocket pairs, hands with aces in them, or even two paint cards. On the flip side, players are prone to defend from the big blind with a much wider range as they already have a good number of chips in the pot.

“If this hand was cutoff versus big blind, I’d say there is absolutely nothing that can be done,” Nitsche added. “But now given how tight Dan’s range should be preflop, I have a hard time believing Rainer is gonna put the chips in with a worse hand.”

The Turn & River

Smith was looking for the case six to win the pot, but it didn’t come as the A♣ blanked on the turn followed by the Q♥ on the river.

According to Nitsche, here are the major lessons to take away from this hand:

  • Notice how the bubble should affect both you and your opponents’ range (especially the range in which they’re willing to go broke).
  • Pay close attention to where your opponent called from and how that should influence postflop decisions. Here, Smith called from the small blind, which calls for a tighter range as compared to defending from the big blind.
  • Kempe is not going to continuation-bet a lot, so when he does it typically means a strong preflop range.

Smith was crippled after the hand and busted a short time later as the bubble boy. Meanwhile, that hand propelled Kempe into the chip lead, and he used it to navigate his way to the end to capture the $5 million first-place prize.

Be sure to check back regularly as we continue to bring you more hands from the 2016 SHRB “Straight from the Pros.”

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