Jonathan Little Hand of the Week: Nik Airball Blasts Away on the River
Last Updated: November 5, 2023
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The hand I’ll be looking at today comes to us from the private challenge that’s created some waves in the poker world.
Of course, I’m talking about the Nik Airball and Matt Berkey grudge match, as the two have been playing some $200/$400 ($400) heads-up poker for a few days now, leading to some interesting pots.
Since this wasn’t a streamed game, I can’t be 100% certain that all hand details are completely accurate, but I’m pretty sure they’re close enough.
The action begins with effective stacks being $275,000, and Berkey opens the button to $1,000. Nik makes it $5,000 with Q♥J♥, which may seem excessive, but I think that the larger sizing is fine here, as is his hand selection.
Berkey makes the call, and they proceed to the flop.
The flop comes K♥6♣3♣. While it doesn’t hit Nik’s exact hand, it is an excellent board for his entire range, and I think we can pretty much bet everything for a smaller sizing here.
That’s exactly the line Airball takes, betting $3,300. Berkey makes the call, as he will do with a wide variety of hands.
Given that he can expect Matt to call his c-bet a lot in this spot, Airball needs to have some idea about future streets and how he wants to proceed.
The turn brings another good card for Nik, as it comes A♦. This card will connect with a lot of his turn “bluffs,” i.e., ace-high hands that barreled the flop.
The biggest question here is, should you be betting this turn every time? The answer is probably not.
Once Berkey calls the flop, Nik can safely eliminate all the trash hands from his range. He’s likely connected with the flop in some capacity, and he’ll definitely have a fair few kings as well as some aces.
So, how do you choose the hands to check with as opposed to the ones you continue betting with?
Generally speaking, you’ll want to bet hands that lack showdown value and have some nut potential, such as lower straight draws (i.e., 4-5). These types of hands benefit significantly from getting your opponent to fold.
Including Q♥J♥ in that range is perhaps a bit borderline, but certainly not a mistake. Airball does bet here, making it $18,000. I like the big sizing because this bet signals a strong poker hand, and it should put your opponent in a tough spot.
However, Berkey proceeds to call, and they go to the final street.
Nik Airball catches his gin card on the river as it comes the 10♠, giving him the absolute nuts. In this spot, most people go for a medium-sized bet, trying to extract some value.
That’s not what Nik has in mind, though, as he moves all in, betting almost a quarter of a million into a $50,000 pot.
This is an interesting line, as you’ll want to go for it with the nuts and some blockers. The blockers you’ll be looking for are probably some 3s and 6s, making it less likely your opponent has a set.
The question that Berkey needs to answer is: is my opponent over-bluffing or under-bluffing? Most people probably drastically under-bluff in this particular scenario, which means you have to fold a lot of your bluff catchers.
Either way, this is a miserable spot for Matt with anything other than the nuts. Does he end up making a call, or does he let this one go? Check out the video above to find out!