Today I am going to write about one of the more famous hands in poker. We will look back at my famous hand 12 years later and see what decisions I may have changed. I am going to discuss my thought process in the A-A/J-J hand versus Jon Duhamel during the 2010 WSOP Main Event. Running through the hand, I will give my thought processes on the hand from the my current day lens.
Turning Back The Clock
To set the stage, there were fifteen players left in the tournament. I had roughly 20 million chips to start the hand and Duhamel covered with around 30 million. We were first and second in chips at this point, ICM would state that we should probably be avoiding playing big pots at this point in the tournament with three players away from the next pay jump. I was fortunate enough to have direct position on Duhamel at the table.
The Preflop Action
At this point the big blind is 250k. Duhamel is in the cutoff and raises to 575k, and I make a standard three-bet to 1.55 million on the button with A-A. Nothing out of the ordinary yet, although I should be sizing up my three-bet to around 1.8 or 2 million chips looking back. Duhamel responds by four-betting to about 4 million chips, creating the first and most interesting decision in the hand.
Duhamel is not incentivized to be four-betting here very often. His four-betting range should really be only A-A/K-K and polarized with the correct frequency of bluffs. If he is four-betting, I really think he should be four-bet folding A-K given the stacks in the tournament at the time considering ICM. At the time, I thought Duhamel could only stack off with AA/KK but would over four-bet bluff. Duhamel would be pretty unbalanced here and be bluffing too often since he should have little value. This led me to my decision to just flat the four-bet, I wanted to give him a chance to hang himself post-flop.
Looking back today, I still think it is close between flatting and five-bet shoving the A-A. I think I would still flat given that I think Duhamel can only stack off with A-A and maybe K-K here preflop given the ICM model. On the other hand, shoving preflop has a couple added benefits. First, I can win a large pot now, and deny equity to Duhamel. Second, I allow him to make a big mistake and call off. I would be more incentivized to shove with hands like K-K and A-K to generate folds and take the pot now. These hands need more protection than A-A does.
One of the main benefits of calling preflop is how easy the hand would play post flop. After calling the 4 million, stacks would be 16 million with a 8.5 million chip pot. If Duhamel bets say 3-4 million or any reasonable amount on the flop, I can simply shove all-in, denying equity while gaining a few million extra chips from his continuation bet post flop. Back then, I don’t think population was slow playing A-A preflop as much as they do now. My hand would be very disguised and I would still stack many strong hands.
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Playing The Flop
After calling preflop, the flop comes T-9-7. This board may seem very scary, but if you break is down by ranges, it is not too bad. Duhamel should never have T-T,9-9, or 7-7 preflop. The only possible hands that could beat me now are the occasional T-9 suited, 9-7 suited, J-8 suited or 8-6 suited that four-bet preflop. Looking back now, the combined likelihood of any of those is probably less than 1%. Duhamel surprises me with a check. With an SPR of 2-1, we have a couple of bet sizing options looking back. I think we can bet around 4-5 million chips setting up an easy river shove. I also think shoving for 2x pot is viable with parts of our range. Hands like J-J and Q-Q probably benefit from shoving 2x pot to deny equity from Ax hands and overs. With A-A specifically, I don’t have a ton of protection issues, so I think my sizing of 5 million is solid.
Praying He Doesn’t Have Queens
Once Duhamel called and the turn came a queen, my poker mind probably wasn’t at the best to think about ranges. At the time I was probably focusing on just my specific hand, A-A, and I had a super easy decision. I remember my exact thought process on the turn before I shoved all-in. “Please don’t snap call”. That was the end of the thought process. With almost 20 million in the pot and 11 million behind, my decision was already made in the hand. I just had to pray that he didn’t have Q-Q. After shoving and not hearing him call right away, I knew I was golden.
Duhamel probably tanked for a solid 6-7 minutes. I wouldn’t be able to tell you how long, I was just staring at the board trying to control my breathing. After a while, I was thinking he had K-K. It took me a while to realize just how many outs he had when he turned over J-J. In terms of Chip-EV, I think it is a clear call with J-J. In terms of ICM, it is probably a bad call. Without running the ICM numbers, I’m fairly confident I want him to fold his hand. The extra 11 million chips is not worth the 20% chance of busting the tournament.
In conclusion, I think the hand was played well by me back in the day. I think flatting A-A is likely by far the most profitable play, and I can shove with hands like A-K and K-K/Q-Q preflop to deny equity. As far as after the hand, I’ll save that for another article.
Best of luck at the tables