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Advanced Poker Strategy– Berkey vs Kenney

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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 late stages of the 2016 SHRB, a short-stacked Matt Berkey, in the big blind with a marginal holding, called a small raise from Bryn Kenney. Why didn’t he just shove or fold from the get-go? We decided to ask him.

The Setup

 Just six players remained in the tournament when Bryn Kenney (2.09 million), with the blinds at 30,000/60,000/10,000, raised to 135,000 from the hijack holding the A♥10♥. Berkey (835,000) opted to call 75,000 from the big blind with the 5♣4♣.

“At this point, the money bubble had already burst, and I’m by far the shortest stack, so ICM (Independent Chip Model) considerations no longer exist,” said Berkey. “Now my only decision is, can I play my hand profitably out of position being laid a price of nearly 4-to-1. Given that I’ll have exactly a two stack-to-pot ratio (SPR) moving forward, there will be nearly zero difficult decisions after the flop. Because of my chip position, there is no consideration for preserving my stack. My only objective is to find spots to accumulate, and given the juicy price I’m being laid here, it would be an absolute mistake to fold.”

For those unfamiliar with SPR, it’s a term coined by Ed Miller in his book Professional No-Limit Hold’em: Volume 1 to describe the effective stack sizes divided by the size of the pot on the flop.

For example, let’s say you raise to $8 in a $1/$2 No-Limit Hold’em cash game. Only the player on the button calls and you each started with $100 stacks. That means you each have $92 behind and there is $19 in the pot. In this example, the SPR equals 92 (the effective stack sizes) divided by 19, or 4.84.

In Berkey’s case, his SPR was so low it made things easy postflop. With so little room to manoeuvre, he was either going to get it in or fold.

The Flop

When the flop came down 7♠9♣10♣, Berkey checked, and Kenney bets 145,000. Berkey then moved all in for 695,000 with his flush draw, and Kenney called.

“It’s very important to ask ourselves, ‘Why am I open jamming rather than checking?’ The obvious answer is because we hope our opponent folds,” Berkey explained. “However, let’s analyse exactly what hands Bryn would consider folding in this spot given the information we have thus far. He opened from the hijack with a comparable stack and tough player in Fedor Holz, to his left. He also has Erik Seidel next to act with a 15-big blind stack, which is perfect to re-shove, as well as myself in the big blind with 7% of my stack already committed.”

Berkey continued: “It’s logical to deduce he has a reasonably strong opening range. Given the board texture it would be difficult to find many hands in an opening range, no doubt dense with pocket pairs and paint, that would fold to my open-shove. Perhaps we have some fold equity against his ace-high holdings, but he’ll have to protect a lot of those by checking behind when checked to, which still allows us to realise our equity cheaply. In short, I feel as though we allow Bryn to commit nearly zero mistakes by taking an open-shove line.”

The Turn & River

After the chips get in, the 6♣ and 5♠ appear on the turn and river respectively, which gives Berkey a flush and a double to 1.72 million. It worked out great for Berkey, but what if Kenney had checked back the flop?

“I think the texture of the turn is very important,” Berkey replied when asked that very question. “There really are no blanks on a board texture such as this one, outside of an offsuit two or three. That being said, I am quite resigned to checking with the intent to shove on most turns, club or no club. I think I’d be inclined to check-fold on a turned offsuit king, queen or jack as I wouldn’t anticipate there being many hands in Bryn’s check-back range that would be betting and folding on those turn cards. Given the reduction in equity with only one to come, my hand requires fold equity in order to continue aggressively. Living to fight another day with a stack that still possesses fold equity moving forward would ultimately be my fate if Bryn hypothetically checked back and I bricked.”

For those who don’t know, Kenney ended up finishing the tournament in sixth place for $800,000 while Berkey did him one better by finishing fifth for $1.1 million, his largest career score.

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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