There’s been a lot of talk around poker about the last hand of the main event. Most criticize the play of both players, calling Greg Merson’s 4bet shove with K5s spewy and Sylvia’s call with QJs even worse. Some have speculated that they chopped heads up. While I have no idea if the latter is true, when I objectively and smartly analyze the play of both players, I find that the play of Sylvia or Merson was good.
First let us analyze the play of Sylvia. Whether the 3bet with QJs was goods on its own is debateable, but from what I’ve heard no one is heavily criticizing that aspect of the play. Personally, I could go either way depending on the player. But talking about hands in a vacuum–like most have done–instead of thinking about strategies in a hand range isn’t a great way to analyze poker play. When I look at that last hand I’m thinking of ranges, and here’s what they look like to me. Given Merson’s aggressive play, I assume he’s opening a lot of buttons. This means as a counter strategy we’re going to want to 3bet a wide frequency. I would say at 35bb an effective, unexploitable 3betting range will be anywhere from 25-35% depending on his opening frequencies. Once we’ve determined a 3betting range, lets be conservative and use 25%, we have to determine what we want to be calling a 4bet shove with. Merson, being a great player, is not going to be very predictable and it will be hard to assign a good range for his 4betting. Because of this, its incredibly important to have an unexploitable calling range otherwise a good player, like Merson, has a great opportunity to crush us. In my opinion, QJs is probably the bottom of our unexploitable calling range when using a 25% 3betting strategy, along with hands like ATo and 88 as well as AK and AA. At worst, it’s just outside the very bottom of an unexploitable range.
If you want to argue that playing an unexploitable range is terrible, go ahead, I probably won’t listen. Playing an unexploitable range here is what Sylvia should be doing and you’d have to give me compelling evidence if you wanted to argue otherwise.
The most foolish players of this whole debate are the ones who criticize Sylvia’s call as well as Merson’s shove. If Sylvia should not be 3betting or 3betting and calling off with a hand like QJs, like some are arguing, then his 3betting range is going to exploitably weak. Because of this, Merson is going to want to 4bet shove wide and Kxs is a pretty damn good candidate. To advocate Merson not 4betting when you think the other player should 3bet a polarized and exploitable weak range, is very bad. And even if you disagree with me on this, can you argue that K5s is a terrible shove? Will it be significantly -EV? I doubt it was -EV at all. The bottom line is that Merson’s shove was mediocre at worst.
All of that being said, given Sylvia’s standard for small 3bet sizes, I would have preferred a call from Merson there. He’s getting such good pot odds that a playable hand with good equity against Sylvia’s range, like Kxs is going to be more +EV than a 4bet shove will probably be. But Sylvia’s 3bet shove, Merson’s 4bet shove, or Sylvia’s call were not terrible. And I doubt anyone of you out there can refute this logically.
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