In one of our older episodes, we reviewed the best fold in poker history when Doug Polk managed to fold a flopped straight against Phil Hellmuth.

Today we take a look at possibly the worst fold in poker history. Not surprisingly, this hand was played on a Hustler Casino cash game stream, where players call 10 big blind raises with hands like 87o and J9o.

Stream comment:

Five people see the flop! Nick raised preflop and now has two overcards and a gutshot. Mike has an open-ended straight draw and Patrick has a gutshot. But the action is up to the Dark Knight, and he bets $2,000 into a $2,575 pot – with a pair of threes against four opponents!

Nick and Mike call. Guess which of the three has the best hand – the Knight! Who else in his place could extract so much value from a pair of threes? Only the Dark Knight!

Oh oh. On the turn, Nick Vertucci made a Broadway straight with a redraw to the nut flush. Can the Dark Knight slow down? Yes, he succeeds – he checks! It's on Nick who bets $4,400 into an $8,575 pot.

Mike still has an open-ended straight draw, got a pair, got a flush draw. However, he has no outs, and after a little thought, he makes a good fold.

Will the Dark Knight be able to get rid of two red threes now? I don't know if I could have done it in his place...

(“4,400?” the player clarifies and thinks.)

No, we can't blame him for these thoughts. In the end, he hass a pair of threes.

– Can you count? – the Knight is interested and points his finger in the direction of the opponent.

“He put in 44 hundred,” the dealer informs.

– I understood that, but how much does he have in the stack? Count! the player demands.

After receiving no response from the dealer or opponent, he check-raises to $15,000.

Wow! Nick shakes his head. Well, if he's behind, he has a draw to the nuts. But he is not behind. You just need to fade...his cards falling off the table somehow, I guess. He redraws to the nut flush. His opponent has had 14 shots of tequila. I think we should call and call the river.

“Fold,” Nick says, not releasing any cards.

– Fold? – the Dark Knight clarifies and, having received confirmation immediately turns over his cards.

– Nice hand, – the opponent says softly.

– Thank you.

OK. Seriously though, I don't think this was the worst fold in poker history, although it's pretty bad. We see the cards of the players and we see a monstrous bluff, but if we try to put ourselves in Nick's place, it's not so difficult to explain his decision. This is the most common exploit fold.

Preflop, the player in first position limped (with A8o) and the Dark Knight limped in next. Nick made a big raise. Two players in late position called, and the limper and Dark Knight also called. What does the Knight's range look like at this point? Yes, it's often difficult for live players to put in a reasonable range, but these lines are often played with small pocket pairs and not the strongest suited hands. Something like that:

On the flop, Knight donk bets into four opponents using a large 78% pot sizing. Players like him pick similar lines with top pair or draws, such as , or a flush draw.

The turn is a jack. Knight checks and Vertucci bets a little over half the pot, and then Knight raises 3.4x. And Nick folds. What could have prompted him to fold the cards?

Most likely, he considered the probability of a bluff from the Dark Knight to be very low. Such a line will be mainly used with value hands, that is, with flushes. If his conclusion about Villain's play is correct, it's entirely possible that in the long run, this insane fold from a GTO point of view would be profitable even if Nick was bluffed in this particular hand.

Obviously, the Knight will not check-raise a queen or two pair on the turn. If he check raises straights, then we should call with the nut straight. But the flush hit on the turn, so check-raising with a straight for value also looks unlikely. Moreover, flushes in Nick's range are also quite enough. Let's add that the king in Nick's hand blocks some opponent's straights, for example, . So if the Dark Knight only check-raises flushes, Nick's straight even with the nut flush draw is just a bluff catcher. And if the Knight doesn't have enough bluffs, calling with a bluff catcher won't be profitable.

Our explanation may seem far-fetched. In general, it is. A bad fold is a bad fold, there's no getting around it. However, it is also a case study of the dangers lurking in operating lines.

Of course, history shows a lot of players who built their poker careers mainly on the exploitative game, so this strategy cannot be completely meaningless. However, if we take the weakest half of all poker players in the world, about one hundred percent of them will say that the GTO is the best model.

In other words, while there is much to be gained from playing the exploitative game, if you use this strategy incorrectly, you run the risk of falling into a truly bottomless well. By deviating from a balanced strategy in order to outplay the opponent, we open up and become vulnerable to counter adjustments. Many people tend to underestimate this risk, believing that if we overfold in a given situation, for example, it won't matter in the long run, since we will most likely never find ourselves in it again. This is partly true. However, if we overfold in many situations, it is clearly visible from the outside, and opponents may well adjust and crush us with aggression.

You see, an unbalanced player rarely consciously seeks to move away from the balance. As a rule, it is a systematic defect in its decision-making process, which, time after time, leads to mistakes in a variety of situations. And you can’t hide a systematic defect at a distance.

If the Dark Knight had a flush in this hand that he could very well play in the same way, Nick would look like a genius with his tight fold.

However, when the same player folds one tight fold after another, it takes minimal effort to notice this pattern. Perhaps no one at this table has that, and Nick's exploit works.

We tried to come up with a rational explanation for Nick's bet-fold, taking into account how, in our opinion, his opponent would have played this hand. However, any far-reaching conclusions about unfamiliar opponents are a very risky thing. People are very different, they have different knowledge bases, and different decision-making methods at the table. We, alas, do not know how to read minds (especially when our opponent has been drinking a lot), and until there is a sufficient sample, we have to guess and make mistakes quite often.

The beauty of the GTO game is that we don't need to know absolutely anything about the strategy of our opponents! We can play exactly the same against a nit or a maniac and still win.

Let's say we've never played the Dark Knight before and don't know anything about his style. Until we get solid evidence of obvious leaks in his game, we can stick to the GTO strategy, and it will save us from blunders. With the advent of new information, you can start to make small adjustments. If Knight is found to be loose and aggressive, calling with many good bluff catchers will allow us to hold against his aggression. If he looks like a nit to us, we'll try to show him only with the best bluff catchers for a while, which will allow him to pay off the nuts less often, but save us from worse mistakes if our first read turns out to be wrong.

The nut straight that beats all bluffs and the ace of clubs that blocks the nut flush and gives us outs to improve if our opponent isn't bluffing, this is the king of all bluff catchers, a perfect call candidate.

It is true that GTO strategies will not give us the maximum expectation against an unbalanced player. However, although we know that perfectly balanced players do not exist, it can sometimes be difficult to understand what kind of mistakes this or that opponent is prone to. Playing close to the GTO won't show the same win rate as a great exploit master, but he is much more immune to failures.

And, of course, the fact that you understand GTO strategies does not at all prohibit you from choosing sharply exploitative lanes. But if all you know is an exploit, you will have nothing to rely on until you figure out how your opponent plays.

That's all for today, thank you for your attention, and keep the balance!