Covering live poker tournaments for a living affords me the opportunity to see countless thousands of hands played out, many of which offer interesting and potentially valuable insights into how players — both amateurs and professionals — play the game. In this ongoing series, I’ll highlight hands I’ve seen at the tournaments I’ve covered and see if we can glean anything useful from them.
This week’s hand comes from the Mid-States Poker Tour Tropicana Evansville event that recently took place. It’s another $1,100 buy-in tournament, which drew 251 runners. Of those, just eight players remain. The next elimination pays $7,259, and first place will score $67,746.
The final table has a mix of successful tournament grinders like Alex Yen, Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler, and MSPT Team Pro Nick Pupillo, along with a few relatively lesser known local heroes. It’s Level 23 (10,000/20,000/3,000) and Yen has a hammerlock on the table with nearly half of the 5 million chips in play with 2.3 million. Pupillo’s in second with around 800,000, while Mike O’Neill (pictured above) has a bit more than 400,000.
We picked up the action on a flop of . It was heads up between Pupillo, who started the hand under the gun, and O’Neill, who was in the cutoff.
Pupillo checked, O’Neill bet 50,000, and the MSPT Team Pro fired out a check-raise to 130,000. O’Neill opted to flat-call — leaving himself 303,000 behind — and the two saw the hit on the turn. Pupillo bet 154,000, and O’Neill shoved all in.
Pupillo called and showed down for second set on the flop. Meanwhile O’Neill had flopped a flush draw with , then had turned an open-ended straight draw to go with it. The came off the deck on the river, and O’Neill doubled into second place while Pupillo was left with less than 20 big blinds.
Concept and Analysis
Disregarding preflop action that our intrepid reporter missed, both players see a flop they have to be happy about considering the hands with which they’ve come in. Given the way O’Neill played later in the tournament, his postflop bet was likely for around half of the size of the pot. When Pupillo check-raises, then, O’Neill is still getting a nice price of 80,000 more into a pot of around 280,000, plus he has position, so he calls.
On the turn, when O’Neill picks up the straight draw to go with his flush draw, he opts to semi-bluff shove over Pupillo’s turn bet of 154,000, despite having less than double that in his remaining stack. Pupillo, of course, snap-calls with his set.
Examining O’Neill’s shove, we see that he’s offering Pupillo a fantastic price on a call. The MSPT Team Pro has to put in just 149,000 more into a pot that’s ballooned to more than 600,000. Getting more than 4-to-1 on his money and given the draws on board, there aren’t many hands I can envision Pupillo folding considering he has shown significant strength on the past two streets and the board is draw-heavy.
On the other side of the coin, Pupillo’s bet of 154,000 is giving O’Neill more than 3-to-1 on a call. Since O’Neill has 14 presumed outs against many of Pupillo’s holdings, he’s getting correct odds to call the bet. Even if Pupillo holds the nut flush draw with something like , O’Neill is less than a 3-to-1 underdog.
In this case, I think it would be better to just call the turn bet despite the strength of O’Neill’s draw. Even if Pupillo doesn’t put another dime in the pot the times O’Neill gets there, the call is still mathematically sound. Plus, O’Neill likely has little if any fold equity given the size of the pot and the way Pupillo has played the hand. There’s no real reason to put the rest of his stack at risk unnecessarily without fold equity when he can just see the river with a call that has positive expected value.
The way it worked out, O’Neill did hit his flush to take down the pot, and he went on to take down the tournament as well.
Want to stay atop all the latest in the poker world? If so, make sure to get updates on your social media outlets. Follow us on and find us on both and +!