Phil Galfond got on YouTube to break down a hand between two ultra-successful and ultra-strategic players, Ike Haxton and Linus Loeliger. He's humble enough to admit that both of them might play at a higher level, but Phil's analysis is still valuable. See if you agree with Phil or prefer the way Ike and Linus played the hand.

This clip comes from the Triton Cash Game in Montenegro back in 2019.

This is a very big game.

Haxton straddles to €8,000 and Linus opens under the gun to €16,000 with . It get's folded around to Ike in the straddle and he has an easy call with .

To The Flop

They head to the flop with two .

Linus flops the nut flush draw, two over cards. Ike flops just two over cards, but he has the . He has King-high. It's not nothing.

He checks to Linus, who bets about half pot. Ike has a close decision here. with the seems quite cuspy. If he has without a , he has a fold. Obviously, if he has , he has a call.

is potentially losing to some bluffs, but Ike decides that Linus is going to have some low pocket pairs, against which, he has good equity.

Linus is also going to have some hands like that completely whiffed. Ike is dominating those and can potentially take the pot away later depending on the runout.

Disguised Turn Card for Haxton

So, Linus bets about half pot. Ike decides to call and we head to the turn. Great card for Ike.

Haxton check calls, hits the top pair on the turn. Ike checks, as he's going to do with his whole range on this .

Linus has to decide if he wants to continue semi bluffing with his . We could see it was the best hand on the flop – it no longer is – but he doesn't know that.

I think his check is good. He's going to want to bet some nut flush draws and check some nut flush draws. I think the first ones that he wants to bet are going to be the , that have the gutshot, as well and straight blocker. He decides to check the here – and I think it's close. I think he should consider betting this hand.

He has some nut flush draws in his betting range. But if I were in this spot, I would be betting my weaker of and checking my stronger of for domination reasons.

What I mean by that is: If Ike has a hand like or that called the flop. He's probably going to fold the turn.

So, betting with , makes a lot of sense to fold out dominating . Whereas, if you have or , now betting and folding out and doesn't help you. It actually kind of hurts you, because those hands could have made top pair with you and put in more money.

Linus knows No Limit Holdem Theory better than I do. So, if he believes this is a check, then it's at least a reasonable check and probably a very good check – and who am I to question him. I just want to talk through how I think through these spots.

Practice your own No-Limit Holdem theory by getting into poker tools and playing more of the game (at the right stakes). If you're trying to progress further in poker, study and quality practice will be your best friends.

You can get the studying from different tools:

  • Hand2Note for analysis of opponents, plus your own habits.
  • ICMIZER for tournament players looking to hone preflop spots and understand ICM.
  • Simple GTO Trainer to solve postflop spots in a high-powered yet easy-to-use package.
  • Flopzilla for mastering (or starting to master) ranges and become a more strategic player.

And the quality practice?

That's going to come from using your skills at the right stakes, which is dictated by win rate and bankroll. If you haven't noticed consistent wins at the stakes you play at now, moving lower is probably a good move. Don't worry so much about winning smaller pots or playing at lower stakes – this is about development. When you dominate that level, you'll perform better in the next one. Don't try to jump multiple stakes, because the stiffer competition will make you regret it.

If you aren't happy with your current room, skip to another one and grab bonuses as you do. We've collected and reviewed plenty, but you can ask us directly about rooms if you'd like.

Register using this link to get access to GipsyTeam bonuses:
  • Increased first deposit bonus
  • Increased rakeback and reloads
  • Help with deposits and cashouts
  • Access to private freerolls
  • Round-the-clock support

Ike Makes Trips on the River

The rolls off on the river.

Obviously a big card for both of their hands and it spells trouble for Ike Haxton, given what Linus has.

Ike is first act. He has a hand, that I think is not strong enough to check raise. So, I don't think he should consider checking this hand. I think it's just a betting hand and he has to decide if he wants to bet small or big. I think he's going to have small bets here and he's going to have big bets. Again, if he bet small, he's not getting raised by a ton of hands that are worse than his for value. He's getting raised by some but not a ton.

I just think is a very clean big bet here, which is what Ike does. He bets 80% pot or so.

I think Linus has a very easy raise with the nut flush. Yes, sometimes he can be beaten by a full house, but Ike is really likely to check-raise the flop with sets. He's not very likely to have a ton of , , or . He's not going to have a lot of boats. I think Ike is going to have a lot of flushes when he bets this sizing. He'll obviously have trips as well, but he check-called flop and a lot of like and hands check-fold flop – especially, when they don't have a flush draw (which they couldn't have because the is here on the river).

So, he's going to have a flush more often than he's going to have trips in my opinion.

He could have a straight that he slow played flop with and obviously he could have some weird boats, but I don't think he has a lot of those.

Anyway, Linus with the nut flush has a very easy raise. It's very often going to be a flush over flush situation for him. As we can see here it's flush over trips. He raises it up to €260,000.

What a lot of players do in Ike’s spot here, is they try to make a read. Whether it's a physical tell or they think about their history with this opponent. Or they think, these are the types of things that have happened recently, so Linus is more likely to bluff raise now, or less likely to bluff raise now et cetera.

But, I think when it's Ike and Linus, two theoretically sound players matching up, I think they're both thinking more about what is theoretically sound, than exploitatively sound.

So, I think that what Ike is thinking about is essentially just:

Is this hand high enough in my range?

Does it have good enough blocker qualities that I want to call with this hand?

Poker Range Charts: Here’s What You Need to Know

Ike's hand has got some pretty good blocker qualities. He's often going to have a hand kind of like this. But to be honest, I think he has enough low flushes, that I would rather call all of my low flushes, because I think they have much better blocker qualities.

Not just Linus, but Ike also knows No Limit theory better than I do. And so, if he thinks this is a call and I don't, then he's probably right and I'm probably wrong, but that is how I would think through it.

I do think that the blockers are not as powerful as they look at first glance and because his value range is going to be so heavy on low flushes, mid flushes, high flushes. I think he has enough of those to call with and I wouldn't call . I hope you enjoyed this more theoretical approach.