Fedor Holz vs Upeshka De Silva on Day 5 WSOP 2015 major bluff

Recently I come accross to this hand played by Fedor Holz and Upeshka De Silva on late-stage WSOP 2015 Main Event.  This is so good of a hand that is worth discussing.

Here is the cut-out:

The hand started at last level of Day 5 with blinds & ante of 20,000/40,000/5,000, Fedor had 2.8M (70BB) in Mid Position while De Silva had 1.8M (45BB) in the Big Blinds.  Pot pre-open was 100,000 8-handed.  Fedor opened 8s7s 90,000 [2.25x BB], folded around to De Silva with ahkc 3-Bet to 265,000.  Holz called.  

The Pot was 590,000, making Stack-to-Ratio Ratio of De Silva to 3x and Holz to 4.3x.  At this small Stack-to-Pot Ratio, this hand can be a decisive hand of the tournament of both player for the final table.

Flop came 8hjdda gave De Silva top pair top kicker and Holz bottom pair.

This is a very good flop for De Silva as it hits De Silva range pretty hard.  If De Silva 3-bet for value, he is likely to have  axkx , axqx suited, and pairs of jxjx+.  Of course he can have bluff with two cards to the bottom range such as 10s 4s.  But at this stage of the tournament (approaching final table bubble) and this featured table, I think the 3-Bet bluff range of De Silva is likely to be thin.

Still, the flop has the potential to evolve ugly for ahkc.  Any diamond makes the potential flush, any kxqx10x make the potential broadway straight or two-pair, any 9x and 7x potentially make potential jx-high straight, any jx can improve middle pair into trips.  Given Fedor wide 3-Bet calling range, he can have anything that either benefits from any cards mentioned above or use those card to build a pot that De Silva might be unhappy to put his tournament on the line with top pair top kicker.  At this point, Fedor can have anything that hit that board too.  Possibly a top pair weaker kicker such as axqx suited (likely) or middle pair such as a qxjx suited (likely), to two pair axjx suited (also likely), gut-shot broadway draw kxqx (likely), to the less likely such as qx10x suited that makes double gut-shot straight draw and of course bottom pair with 8x (actually the most less likely).

De Silva’s continuous bet on the flop is a standard follow-up.  If he had made a 3-Bet bluff with the bottom of his range, Flop bet is a must.  If he had ax, he wants to make value from weaker  ax and protect his hand against this draw heavy board.  Moreover, De Silva is out of position in this hand that makes a flop bet is even more neccessary as he wants to have initiative to balance against a worse position.

Flop: De Silva bet 345,000 into 590,000 pot, a standard 2/3 pot bet and Fedor called.  Pot 1,280,000, De Silva had 1.1M behind and Fedor had 2.2M behind.

Looking at this flop, I don’t ever think Fedor was to fold even he only had bottom pair.  A guy who called 3-Bet preflop with 8s7s is not going to fold with a piece on the flop.  If De Silva made 3-Bet bluff with trash hands, float here and bet the turn would take it.  If De Silva indeed had a hand (more likely), making a call here, Fedor knew he has to win this hand from making play and his bottom pair has virtually no show-down value if De Silva either barrel or check/call the Turn.

At this point if we put De Silva to jxjx+, axqx suited, axkx and Fedor to 8x8xjxjx, axjxsuited,axqx suited, kxqx suited, 8x7x suited to qxjx suited, and kxqx.  De Silva is ahead about 69%.  If De Silva has bluff into his range, now we add 4x4x to 6x6x, 5x4x suited to 7x6x suited, and 6x4x suited to 8x6x suited, Fedor is actually ahead about 58%.

Turn came qh.

This card is a scare-card to both of the player.  But it is much more scary to De Silva than to Fedor.  Because only two hands of De Silva’s range can be improved with this qh is axqx (now making two-pair) and qxqx (now making middle set).  But to De Silva, this qh hit a lot of Fedor’s range: Fedor is very likely to have axqx too for made two-pair and now middle pair improved to two-pair such as qxjx.  If we run equity calculation with this qh to the above range of two player, keeping De Silva bluff range, Fedor is now ahead 69%.

There is a critical point into this match when this card come: De Silva has to act first.  Because De Silva has to act first, he will reveal how he feel about this turn card.  If he indeed make two-pair with axqx, he HAS to protect his hand here and now: the board is getting so ugly for straight and flush combo draw.

This actually shows a very common difficult spot in poker: you have a strong hand in a bad position and tough spot arise. jxjx, qxqx, axkx, axqx open raise early position or 3-Bet early positions should be expected to face difficulties here and there with high reverse implied odd either with bad board developments or opponent’s aggressiveness or both.

Turn: De Silva checked the Turn.

Right here I think the hand would be come interesting because a check here was what Fedor had been waiting for.  De Silva was facing a very difficult decision in the Turn.  2nd barrel bet into qh effectively turns  ahkc into a bluff.  Because betting here De Silva is representing at least two-pair to set. There are only one two-pair is possible for this board: acqc or asqs, there are also only three sets possible for De Silva: axaxqxqxjxjx.  Logically, any two-pair or set either have to make a 2nd barrel here on the Turn or going for a check/raise to protect his hand from flush and straight draw.  The only made-straight on this board at this spot is kx10x (must be suited) which is possible but far less likely than other two-pair type hands.  And if De Silva bet his set and two pair here and run into this gut-shot straight with kx10x shove.  So be it.  This check partly open De Silva hand face up:

  1. He is done with his bluff pre-flop and continuous bet flop.
  2. He pot control with strong hand has show-down value: axkx, and kxkx.
  3. He is going to check/shove with set and two pair.
    • This option is far more less likely, as if Fedor check back, a free card here is definitely a disaster if a diamond, kx10x9x, or jx come.

At this point, Fedor definitely has to bet.  And he can bet with any two cards:

  1. End De Silva bluff.
  2. Test if De Silva actually have a hand and maybe depends on the River to bluff him out.

Fedor bet 425,000 into 1,280,000 pot.

This bet about 1/3 size of the pot and give De Silva 4-to-1 (20% pot odd) to call.  When Fedor bet this on Turn, he is not likely to give up on River unless the River come a completely blank such as 2c.  Of course he can win on spot if De Silva bluff.  If De Silva call then this is a preparation for a river all-in.  As Fedor knows he has to tell a story here and once bluff is generally not enough to push De Silva off his hand.

De Silva called for 425,000.  The Pot then was 2,130,000.

(Picture: De Silva called the Turn, courtersy: Pokerlistings.com)

Norman Chad make an excellent comments here: “… and a check/raise is certainly on his [De Silva] arsenal”.  I think if De Silva opt to a check/raise here, he then reprensented top two-pair or better to protect his hand against draws.  Facing this move, Fedor is likely to fold everything but set jxjx and 8x8x because Silva range is now too strong.  Noted here De Silva knows that he had the ah that blocks many of Fedor heart-flush draw and heart straight and flush combo draw.

By making this call here, De Silva halfly open-up the remaining of his hand:

  1. He is not having a bluff here.  So his range will be: jxjx+, axqxaxkx.
  2. He is not having two-pair, set, and above here, making he had exactly axkx.

By calling here, De Silva make a major cap on his range.  He had a show-down value that the only hand fail nicely into that category is an axkx because kxkx was then so weak.

Fedor then had all of the information he needed.  A nice River card would be what he waited for.

River came 9d.

When watched this video and when this card felt off, I thought: “Shove!”

9d arrival makes flop flush and straight possible and is so ugly (in view of De Silva) that now if we eliminated all of bluff range of De Silva out and he has: jxjx+, axqx suited, axkx vs Fedor’s 8x8xjxjx, axqx suited and axjx suited, kxqx, 8x7x suited to qxjx suited (keep the whole range of Fedor preflop), Fedor would then be ahead about 63%.

River: De Silva checked and Fedor moved all-in, bet 765,000 into 2,130,000 pot.

Giving De Silva pot odd of 3.8-to-1 or about 20%.  De Silva will need to be right 20% to call this river bet and vs Fedor’s range, De Silva is having 37% equity.  But real life doesn’t repeat this situation 1 million times for the probability to reach the long-run.  De Silva is having his tournament (near the final table) on the line and he badly needs to be right this time and only this time counts.

How it turned out in the end? De Silva tanked for 10 minutes, Daniel Negreanu called the clock, the floor man came and made the count-down, and finally De Silva made the right tough call and double up.  That is a pretty sick call.  Fedor was down to a short-stack again with only 1M in chip (25BB) to follow up to Day 6.

After the hand and discussions

There are a lot of debates on if this is a good call or a bad call of De Silva.  But there is nothing I doubt about how good Fedor played this hand.  What an excellent way of playing a hand!  Given De Silva correctly call this River all-in, there might be leaks somewhere that make the story is not convincing enough for De Silva to unconciously insta-fold the hand.

I come up with two major explanations.

First is Fedor range is too thin when he shove the river.  Let’s re-look at his 3-Bet calling range preflop:

  • Middle pair: 8x8xjxjx
  • Suited connector: 8x7x suited to qxjx suited
  • Broadway: kxqx
  • Ace high: axqx suited and axjx suited

What in this range would call the Flop 2/3 pot bet, bet the 1/3 pot Turn, and shove 1/3 pot River with?

Group A – Let’s look at the not likely hands:

  • Middle pair turn Set:
    • 8x8xjxjx: Would have to bet 2/3 pot Turn to all-in the Turn for getting value from axqx and protect against ahkh.
  • Middle pair turn river Straight:
    • 10x10x: I don’t think Fedor bet 10x10x on the Turn because a bet here inflate the pot meanwhile 10x10x has show-down value and a straight draw.  He is more likely to check back.
  • Suited connector:
    • qxjx suited and 9x8xs: Less likely to shove river because the risk of De Silva two-pair with axqx is still a possibility.  These two hands on that board are more of a show-down value hands.
  • Ace high:
    • Same with qxjx suited – axqx and axjx is likely to check back the River because on this board two-pair is likely to have only show-down value.

Group B – Likely hands:

  • Value:
    • 9x9x: Float on Flop and bluff Turn with a gut-shot is reasonable, because on Turn this hand is so weak to expect to win a show-down.
    • jx10x suited: Float on flop and bet Turn with gut-shot fits too.
    • 10x9x suited: makes straight on Turn fit perfectly into the betting action.
  • Bluff:
    • kxqx, 8x7x suited

axkx vs the likely hands (9x9x, kxqx, 10x9x suited – jx10x suited) have 43% equity, a near even-money bet.  This of course took out certain hands Fedor can do this with specifically case if he read-hard De Silva has axkx  and go for the max value with unusual play with hands in Group A.  Might the Turn bet betray him? But if he checked the Turn, the River shove might be even more difficult to push De Silva off his hand.

Second explaination is the pot odd offered.  River shove only about 3.8-to-1 to call in De Silva perspective, and indeed because De Silva is so short that it is about 20% of the final pot size.  Make this call is quite mandatory in cash game situation (with the same odd).  If both De Silva and Fedor are deep (either in cash game or tournament) such as 100-150+ big blinds, a river shove here is a real stress test.  Indeed it is an insta-fold to me if this is a deep stack river overbet shove, unless I have a strong logic for this is a bluff from meta-game information.

Other explainations can be taken into accounts are:

  • If De Silva win this hand, he will have about 90+BB and it is a great shape for the final table.  Why not risking the remaining 20BB for a final table shot?
  • Fedor had been so aggressive, increasing the likelihood that he is bluffing.  Thus might widen calling range of De Silva.

Overall, this is an amazing hand that I like it very much.  Executed by two very talented players.  More information about this hand can be found below.

Pokernews Article about how Fedor thinks about the hand: Link

Day 5 developments (hands built meta game between Fedor and De Silva): Link

Tri Ton

Businessperson with private equity expertise. Interested in strategy and investment.

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