Awarded to date

MSPT Strategy: Jonathan Little Talks Hand from MSPT Grand Falls

Gary Germann

Tournament poker is full of different poker strategies, and this is evidenced by the different styles we see at each MSPT stop. One hand at our 2018 MSPT Grand Falls Main Event – a $1,100 buy-in tournament that drew 226 entries – was a great example.

The hand took place in Level 14 (1,200/2,400/400) and led to the demise of Gary Germann.

It began when Josh Skogen limped from UTG, and Gary Germann raised to 7,000 from UTG+1. World Series of Poker bracelet winner Eric Rodawig called from the hijack, as did Demetrios Sengos in the cutoff.

You might recall Rodawig from the 2011 WSOP when he topped a field of 168 entries to win the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo Championship for $442,183 and a gold bracelet. Even more impressive was he defeated 14-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth Jr. in heads-up play to do it.

Skogen called the raise and then led out for 15,000 on a 7♣J♣2♠ flop, which Germann and Sengos called, while Rodawig ducked out of the way.

On the K♠ turn, Skogen checked and Germann immediately jammed for 62,300, sending Sengos deep into the tank. After a few minutes, he folded, and Skogen, who only had about 90,000 behind, shrugged and said, “I came here to gamble, I call.”

Skogen: 10♣9♣
Germann: Q♠J♠

Germann’s pair of jacks and queen-high spade flush draw was in the lead, but Skogen had plenty of outs with a double-gutter straight draw as well as a club draw. The K♣ hit the river, giving Skogen the flush and the victory.

“I folded A♣4♣!” Sengos told Skogen, who responded with, “If you call, I fold.”

Josh Skogen chipped up to 235,000 (98 bb) after the hand while Gary Germann hit the rail.

On the face of things, it may seem like an ordinary hand, but a deep dive reveals some interesting decision points. We decided to consult with famed poker player, coach and author Jonathan Little of PokerCoaching.com to get his take on the hand.

MSPT: How do you feel about players limping with hands like 10x9x suited under the gun like Skogen did here? Does the risk outweigh the reward or vice versa?

Little: I typically raise or fold all hands in my range from all positions when I am first to act, but it is certainly possible to develop a balanced limping strategy. That said, raising gives you fold equity and also makes your range more difficult to read, which are huge benefits.

Josh Skogen

Likewise, what about Germann’s raise UTG+1 with QxJx suited after the UTG player had limped? Good or bad move?

Little: Facing an UTG limp, I would likely limp behind with QxJx suited, but raising can't be too bad either. I would be afraid the limper was looking to trap some portion of the time, forcing QxJx suited to fold to a limp/re-raise. If I was going to raise, I would make it larger to have some fold equity, because when you make it only 4,400 more, UTG is never folding. However, if you make it larger, you lose more when you get trapped, so I think QxJx suited should either limp or fold.

What are your thoughts on the turn play in this hand?

Little: Well, on the flop, Skogen's lead is quite interesting. I would tend to check, looking to check-raise all in, but it is difficult to know if that is ideal because I have no clue what Skogen is doing with the rest of his range. It is often good to apply pressure with your best draws when the board should be good for your range.

As for the turn play, I think has an easy all-in. Checking leads to the nasty situation where you face a bet and are getting a somewhat break-even price to call. If that is likely to happen, you would much prefer to go all-in yourself in order to generate some fold equity. In this instance, Q-J may have folded to the all-in, which would have been a huge success for T-9.

Once faced with the all-in, 10♣9♣ is getting roughly the right price to call, assuming all obvious outs are live. Since the jammer could easily have a better draw though, the 10♣9♣ should be folded unless Skogen thinks he is at a severe skill disadvantage against the remaining players in the event.

Is there a case to be made that Sengos should’ve called if he, in fact, had the nut flush draw? Why or why not?

Little: Nope. He only has nine outs to the nuts and is not getting the right price to call. It is as simple as that. As Skogen said, if Sengos called, Skogen would have folded, so it's not like he would stack two opponents.