Under the gun with Dan O’Callaghan as he plays the WSOP

Dan O’Callaghan makes an expensive mistake at the end of Day 1 of the 2016 WSOP Main Event

If there’s a lesson I learned the hard way, it’s that everyone is different. Take ‘fight or flight’ for example… Pop a balloon behind the wrong person and you might receive something a little more painful than a wide-eyed gasp and a musky sweetcorn smell. Just compare my girlfriend and I… I’m not going to say she’s violent (because usually she’s not) but let’s just say it took a few dead arms for me to realise that fake-spider-themed practical jokes weren’t +EV.

My reflexes, however, tend to be a little more passive. In fact, aside from a little sibling GBH, I’ve managed to wiggle my way out of every altercation to date. Rachael’s fight, I’m flight. Guess who wears the trousers?

Just like a practical joke, poker forces people out of their comfort zones, meaning ‘fight or flight’ type situations can happen on the table. It’s good to realise this, but we must also remember that everyone can react differently to the same situation. This is vital because blindly assuming your opponents react in the same ways you do can cause you to misconstruct their ranges and make some pretty huge mistakes, just as I did at the WSOP this year.

The hand

It’s the last hand of the 2016 Main Event Day 1. We have around 120BBs, after running our table over for most of the day. We’re covered by a solid Chinese regular, who opens to 2.2x from UTG. We flat with pocket Threes from MP.

On some squeeze-happy tables this might be a little optimistic but, since our table hadn’t been particularly aggressive, I figured we would be able to see a flop pretty often, especially since it was the last hand of Day 1, which makes people a little more cautious. A splashy player on the button flicks in a call, and is quickly followed by a tight big blind.

We go four ways to the flop, which comes down K♦-J♦-3♥.

It checks to us and I make the first questionable decision of the hand. I think for a moment and then check in order to induce some action from the splashy payer on the button.

In hindsight, I think this is a mistake since this is the kind of board that the button will both connect with fairly often and bluff very rarely. This means that he is likely to call our bet with everything he bets himself, but can also take a free card with hands such as Q-9 or 9-T when we check. Our check basically achieves little other than allowing him to realise more of his equity for free.

The button then decides to bomb harder than a teenager in the deep end, throwing out more than three-quarters of the pot. Already salivating at the thought of the Earl of Sandwich I was heading to eat after the hand, it’s safe to say I was all-out drooling facing this bet.

Not only was the board wet (which means our opponents will stack off lighter than usual), the button hadn’t made any bluffs this big, so I was pretty sure we’d be able to make a big check-raise, and get all of the marbles in, in good shape.

The big blind snap-folds before UTG throws a spanner in the works, making a huge check raise, putting us to a shove/fold decision. Since the UTG player has just committed himself to the hand, this kind of spot becomes a maths problem. If we think our hand does well enough against our opponent’s ranges we shove, if we don’t, we fold.

Back to school

Since it doesn’t look like the button is folding, I expect UTG’s range to be pretty strong here. In our opponent’s spot I’d almost always lean towards protecting hands such as A-K or A-A with a c-bet here, so I figure a check-raising range in this spot will probably consist of sets, two pairs, and some strong combo draws.

Excluding top set (which would three-bet preflop), I expect the button’s continuing range to be similar too – J-J, K-Js, A♦-T♦+, Q♦-T♦, and T♦-9♦ all make sense.

In this spot pocket Threes are in poorer shape than a 2007 Britney Spears front cover, boasting a measly 23% equity. We’re in slightly better shape if we get it in heads up (around 42%), but we’d still be getting our chips in as a pretty substantial underdog, even if we are getting the correct pot odds.

After a couple of minutes in the tank, I shrug and slide my cards towards the dealer, confident that I’m making the right decision. Unfortunately though, I’d made a pretty huge mistake, with the button tabling K-J and UTG flipping A-K. The board ran J♠-2♥, and K-J headed into Day 2 with a cheek-to-cheek grin on his face.

So, where did it all go wrong? Well, the problems stemmed from my range construction. I’d assumed my opponents would react to the situation in the same way I would, and assigned them the same range I would use myself in that situation. I incorrectly eliminated A-K and A-A from UTG’s range, and this caused me to vastly underestimate my equity and make a pretty major mistake.

If we add A-K and A-A into UTG’s range, we can have as much as 72% equity here, proving how vital it is to understand your opponents.

Remember, we’re all unique and this means your opponents’ ranges don’t always mirror your own. Keep this in mind and you’ll minimise the odds of making mistakes like this in the future. I messed up so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

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