Jonathan Little Hand of the Week – Hellmuth Puts Seiver in a Tough River Spot
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The hand we’ll look into today took place recently, during the $800,000 High Stakes Duel between Phil Hellmuth and Scott Seiver.
The action begins with blinds at 4,000/8,000 and Hellmuth, as the effective stack, sitting at 239,000 in chips.
To kick things off, Seiver limps from the button with 9♦8♦. This is a strategy you’ll want to employ sometimes, as you don’t want to raise and have your opponent jam on you, forcing you to fold.
Hellmuth wakes up with A♠K♥ in the big blind and makes a standard raise to 29,000, and Seiver calls.
The dealer reveals the first three cards, and they are Q♣5♦2♣. Phil doesn’t continuation bet but decides to check it over to Scott instead.
Some of you might be surprised by this play, thinking you have to almost always c-bet here as a preflop aggressor. However, especially when you’re playing out of position, you have to be able to mix in some checks.
Hands that make a lot of sense to have in the checking range on this board are the ones you can confidently check and call with, such as those containing an ace and another over-card to the board.
Seiver goes ahead and bets 18,000, and I like this small bet. This gives him a chance to win the pot right then and there or easily fold if Hellmuth raises.
If he calls, which will happen a lot of the time, there will be various turn cards that will allow Scott to confidently continue bluffing.
The turn is an uneventful 4♠, and the action goes check-check. After betting the flop with nothing, this is certainly not a good card for Seiver as it doesn’t give him any additional equity.
Thus, Scott decides to check behind, which is perfectly standard. You don’t have to continue bluffing on all turns if you bluffed on the flop. If you do that, you’ll end up with way too many bluffs in your range.
Seiver improves to a second pair as the river comes 8♥. Hellmuth checks once again, and Seiver decides to go for some thin value, betting 30,000, which is around one-third pot.
It is a tricky spot for Hellmuth, and I’d like you to think about what would you do in this spot?
Hellmuth decides to go for a surprising line, raising Seiver’s bet to 110,000. This is a very tricky situation because when an opponent raises you on the river, they usually have a big hand.
The question is, how many really strong hands (like two pair) does Hellmuth have in his range given the action before the flop?
The most likely hands here are pocket aces, kings, and ace-queen. Does Phil skip the continuation bet on the flop with those hands? I think it’s certainly possible.
So, the best blockers Scott could have here would be hands containing an ace and perhaps a king.
It’s a really weird spot, and Seiver needs to figure out if Hellmuth has the goods. And, those of you who have seen some of my videos know that when the opponent raises you on the river, they tend to have it much more often than not.
With all that in mind, I think a default play is to find a reasonable fold here. Is that what happens, or can Scott figure this one out? Check out the video above to find out!
Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $7 million in live tournament winnings and best-selling author of multiple poker strategy books. If you want to learn from the best and increase your edge at the tables, make sure to get your FREE 3-day pass and check his training site at pokercoaching.com