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    World Series of Poker Main Event Heads Up Hand Analysis

    Posted by Dave Consolazio November 19, 2013

    Ryan “The Beast” Riess came out on top of the November 9, topping a field of 6,352 players to become the 2013 Main Event Champion. The win secured Riess his place in history, a bracelet and a handsome $8,361,570 payday.

    Jay Farber came up just short in the Main Event, finishing runner-up while picking up $5,174,357. Farber played well at the final table and put up a good fight heads up, but couldn’t quite tip the scales in his favor at any point.

    Farber did make some big moves though, and these moves led to some of the premier hands of heads-up play. A big river bluff with 6-high on one hand set the tone for two more big hands that would be among the highlights of this heads-up battle. Here’s a look at those spots.

    Final Table Hand #195: Ryan Riess (112,275,000) vs. Jay Farber (78,400,000)

    The Hand:

    Just four hands ago, Riess had taken the chip lead away from Farber on what ended up being a pretty big cooler. Riess took the lead with AK on an A 8 4 flop against Farber’s 74. The turn brought a 7 to put Farber in the lead and in position for a potentially huge pot, but a river Ace put Riess back in the lead and forced Farber to fold his hand to Riess’s river bet and lose a big pot.

    This may have factored into Farber’s decision to make a move here. With blinds at 500,000/1,000,000 ante 150,000, Riess had the button and raised to 2.5 million. Farber called, and the flop came 337.

    Farber check-called Riess’s continuation bet of 3 million chips. Farber checked again on a 2 turn, and when Riess fired 5 million, Farber came over the top to the tune of 13.45 million. Riess thought for a bit, and then called.

    The river brought the 9, and Farber put in a bet of 24.5 million. After a long tank, Riess decided to fold his Q7. Farber mucked the 65.


    This was a heck of a play by Farber on the river. Feeling confident that Riess didn’t have a three in his hand, he decided to represent that he was holding it instead. Had Riess held the three, he likely would have 3-bet on the turn or called faster if he was setting the trap. Of course, the thinking so long on the turn could have been a reverse tell, but Farber’s read in this case was spot on.

    And on the other side of the table, Ryan Riess is faced with one of the most common conundrums in no-limit holdem; the polarizing over-bet. A 9 picked up showdown value and is likely to just check-call, and any pocket pair was likely raising pre-flop or on the flop. The bet screams “3 or nothing”.

    Riess tanked for over five minutes. If Farber had a three, why would he bet so much here? What could Riess call with? And when faced with a polarized range of a huge hand or nothing, the odds usually points to nothing. On the other hand, Farber knows all of this too, and could be disguising this value bet as a bluff to induce a hero call.

    I don’t mind Riess’s decision to fold and find a better spot at all. He obviously had the right idea and was leaning towards a call, but decided to pick a better spot to stick so many chips in. My only gripe with the fold is the call on the turn. This call was obviously made with the intention of making a call on a river blank, and the 9 is about as blank as you can hope for.

    The huge pot put Farber back in the chip lead, but he didn’t hold it for long.

    Hand #204: Ryan Riess (105,125,000) vs. Jay Farber (85,550,000)

    The Hand:

    Jay Farber had the button and put in a raise to 2 million. Riess 3-bet to 5 million, and Farber made it 8.8 million to go in position. Riess called.

    The flop came 843. Riess check-called a bet of 6.7 million from Farber. Riess checked again when a 2 fell on the turn, and Farber fired another bullet of 13.6 million. Riess called.

    The 7 completed the board, and both players checked. Riess was thrilled to see Farber check on the end, and happily flipped over his JJ to scoop the 58.5 million chip pot. Farber held A4.


    On this hand, Riess used Farber’s aggression against him perfectly to extract max value. Despite holding a super-premium heads up hand, Riess elected not to 5-bet and instead to see a flop with his pocket jacks. The board came about as safe as can be, as did the turn.

    I think many players would be tempted to check-raise or lead out on the flop or turn. Jacks are a tricky hand to slow-play, as any Q, K or A that falls is going to serve as a big scare card. But Riess correctly deduced that there wasn’t any real advantage to raising; he was minimizing the damage if he was up against a cooler (QQ, KK, AA, or set) while also allowing Farber to continue his bluffs.

    On a night that Riess took the betting lead on many hands, this was an excellent spot to give it up, and it paid off nicely.

    Hand #234: Ryan Riess (149,800,000) vs. Jay Farber (40,900,000)

    The Hand:

    With the blinds now up to 600,000/1,200,000 ante 200,000, Jay Farber was on the button and raised to 2.5 million. Riess called.

    The flop fell K32. Riess checked and Farber put in a bet of 2.5 million, which Riess called. The turn brought the 9. Riess checked-called Farber’s bet of 6 million, setting up a 23 million chip pot on the river. The 3 on the turn completed the flush draw and paired the board. Riess checked and Farber fired out a 13 million chip bet. Riess went deep into the tank, and eventually found a call. Farber flipped over the 97, and Riess mucked QJ; queen high!


    This hand briefly put Jay Farber back in the match, shrinking Ryan Riess’s chip lead back down to 2-to-1. It goes without saying that the 6-high bluff from earlier in the match was going through both players’ heads in this one. While the hand played out differently, the end result was the same; Ryan Riess was facing a polarized bet on the river.

    There was a major difference in this hand though, and that is the fact that in the previous hand, Riess was actually holding a bluff-catching hand. With the Q7, he was beating all A-high hands, and even pairs turned into bluffs like A2 and pocket 4’s, 5’s, and 6’s. Even out-kicking some 7’s that Farber might be turning into a bluff.

    In this hand, Riess holds Q-high. You could make a case for folding on the turn, but I like the call; the 10 makes the straight and the jack and queen are very often going to give you the best hand too. On top of that, if Farber gives up on the river, you can turn a blank into a bluff on the end.

    But facing the 13 million chip bet on the river here, this has to be a fold. Even if Farber is bluffing, there is an excellent chance that he’s doing it with the best hand. Riess is getting roughly 2.75-to-1 on a call, meaning from a mathematical standpoint he has to be right 36% of the time here. Is Farber bluffing with less than Q-high nearly 40% of the time? And from a tournament strategy perspective, Riess has such a commanding lead that there is no reason to make this stand with such a marginal holding here.

    I honestly believe that this call was 100% due to the fact that this heads-up battle was televised. While the other decision was a legitimately tough one, this was a pretty easy lay down from a purely poker perspective. Riess had to know this, but must have thought to himself how embarrassing it would be to be bluffed out of huge pots twice by total air. On top of that, if he were right, and took down this pot with Q-high, this hand would immediately go up on YouTube as one of the best hero calls of all time.

    Lastly, Riess probably figured, even if I’m wrong I’ll still have a 2-to-1 chip lead and take this thing down eventually. And in that regard, he was certainly correct.

    About Dave Consolazio

    Dave Consolazio (@DavesDime) is a live-game cash and tournament player in the Los Angeles area. He works as a sportswriter and posts original content on his webpage, www.DavesDime.com.

    View all post by Dave Consolazio Visit author's website

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