Idol Hands … The Double Check-Raise

When king-high just won’t cut it

Lance Bradley

Pasi Sormunen Ac5h
Kevin Vandersmissen KcJh

Pasi Sormunen 251K
Kevin Vandersmissen 414K

This month we take a look at an entertaining hand containing not just one check-raise, but the rare double check-raise. Both players take rather unorthodox lines, but we’ll try to get in their heads and see just what they might have — or should have — been thinking.

Blinds 2,500/5,000 with a 500 ante

Pasi Sormunen finds himself in the cutoff position with action folded to him and takes a look at A5 offsuit. It’s rather weak as far as playable hands go, but from this position most good players are going to make a raise. There are a few factors that could tilt the odds in favor of folding, including having an aggressive player or big stack on the button. Sormunen has both of those in the talented Belgian, Kevin Vandersmissen, on his immediate left but he decides to raise regardless.

Sormunen raises to 11K

Kevin Vandersmissen holds KJ offsuit on the button facing a cutoff raise from a shorter stack. Normally, this wouldn’t be a bad time to exercise your positional and stack advantage and put in a three-bet. However, Sormunen is aggressive and with about 50 blinds can make things very hairy by putting in a fourth bet. It’s better here to be happy with your advantages and just make the call.

Vandersmissen calls 11K

FLOP 5s 3h 9c

Sormunen flops second pair which is very likely to be in the lead, but also vulnerable to just about any turn card outside of an ace or a five. He should be betting here just about always, in the range of 15K to 20K. He decides to get a little tricky, however.

Sormunen checks

Being checked to in this spot, your betting frequency should depend entirely on your opponent. If your opponent is sticky and rarely folding, there’s little point to betting king-high unless you have an elaborate three-barrel bluff planned. However, if your opponent is often giving up, you should be betting nearly every time. Given the stacks and positions, I would be betting around 10K to 15K.

Vandersmissen bets 13K

I don’t love the guessing game that Sormunen has gotten himself into there. He could easily be behind a pocket pair or top pair of nines, and it’ll be very hard to discern his opponent’s holding by checking and calling. However, he certainly isn’t going to fold middle pair here and raising seems a bit crazy.

Sormunen check-raises to 29K

This is a play not often used in these circumstances and therefore Vandersmissen is unlikely to have much experience facing it. Check-raises often mean very strong hands or bluffs, and there just aren’t that many strong hands that Sormunen can make on a flop like this. Also, the raise size is very small, so I would “float” here and make the call to see what develops and potentially take it away on a later street.

Vandersmissen calls 16K

Turn 5s 3h 9c 5d

Sormunen hits gin on the turn making trip fives after his strange check-raise on the flop. He was representing a strong hand and then backed into one. Now, he should bet an amount that his opponent can call in hopes of picking off a bluff. A large bet here is likely to be too much pressure for most of the hands in Vandersmissen’s calling range. I’d bet around 40K into this 90.5K pot. The only way I’d ever check is if my opponent is overly aggressive and very capable of calling my flop check-raise without a pair.

Sormunen checks

Vandersmissen’s opponent has followed a check-raise with a check, which often means he is giving up. However, with the board texture changing and the turn bringing a paired board, Sormunen could just be playing cautiously with an overpair. Or, of course, he could have a monster and setting an extremely tricky trap. If Vandersmissen bets here, he’s basically trying to sell that he has a five in his hand or better, which is a difficult story to believe. He can check back here and bet if checked to on the river and take a less risky approach. Unfortunately, this may enable Sormunen to make a hand if he doesn’t have one already or just make the first move on the river and steal the pot. It’s a close call here for Vandersmissen, but the way he’s played it, he could very well have a five or better and betting gives him the best chance to win the pot. I’d like to see a bet around 30K.

Vandersmissen bets 24K

 Sormunen has his opponent right where he wants him. If he calls, his opponent will almost never follow through with a bluff on the river. He needs to check-raise again, and hope his opponent has a strong but inferior hand or just doesn’t want to believe him.

Sormunen check-raises to 86K

 This has to be annoying for Vandersmissen, but it’s also a pretty clear message from Sormunen. This hand is over. Sure, he may be getting bluffed, but it’s extremely unlikely. Even if he is, what can he do about it now? His opponent will only have a half-pot sized bet behind if he makes the call, and then Vandersmissen would be forced to risk another 125K by shoving the river. Even then, he needs to hope to be checked to. If he truly doesn’t believe his opponent he can shove, but now we’re just gambling in the pit. Easy fold.

Vandersmissen calls

River 5s 3h 9c 5d 6d

The river makes a couple of unlikely straights, but that’s far from relevant at this point. The pot is enormous and the odds of his opponent being on a wild double float are just too small to check again. Sormunen needs to shove and hope to be called by worse.

Sormunen moves all-in for 124,500

I don’t blame Vandersmissen for getting a little funky in this confusing pot, but he needed to retire that funk at the second check-raise. He can’t call with king-high now, and shouldn’t have called with it on the turn.

Vandersmissen folds

These two aggressive Europeans both took a tricky approach to playing their hands, but a lucky turn sealed the deal for Sormunen and Vandersmissen hung on a bit too long.

April 2014