WSOP School of Poker Strategy: Jesse Sylvia Weighs in on Trio of Circuit Hands
By: Chad Holloway
In 2012, Jesse Sylvia finished runner-up to Greg Merson in the World Series of Poker Main Event for $5,295,149. More recently, he won the World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open for $821,811 for in September 2016. He’s one of the best in the game, and I recently had the opportunity to pick his brain.
During the 2017 WSOP Circuit Potawatomi stop in Milwaukee, which was the tour’s first ever stop in Wisconsin, Sylvia graciously offered to discuss the big hands and tricky spots I might encounter. As fate would have it, I played three and thought I’d share them with you here.
Hand #1: Why Didn’t I Shove?
In a $365 no-limit hold’em event, blinds were 250/500/75. I was sitting with around 17,000 and looked down at the A♦9♥ in the small blind. The player on the button limped, and I did too as the ever-aggressive Valentin Vornicu was in the big blind. I had played a lot with Vornicu in the 2016 WSOP Main Event and knew there was a good chance he’d raise.
Both players had me covered, and sure enough Vornicu raised to 1,500. The player on the button called, and I considered moving all in. I figured I was ahead of the button, who had simply limped and flatted. At the very least, I didn’t figure he’d call a shove. Likewise, I knew Vornicu was aggressive and would raise there with a large range. However, I second guessed myself and just called.
When the flop came down A♠5♦4♦, I check top pair and Vornicu continued for 2,000. The button just called, and I had a decision to make. Either raising or moving all in was my first instinct, but then I worried myself one of my opponents might hold a better ace. I decided to just call hoping a diamond would come on the turn and give me the nut flush draw.
It didn’t though as the dealer burned and turned the 8♣. Two checks saw the player on the button bet 4,000, and I was thoroughly confused. He wasn’t what I considered a very good player, but it was hard to put him on hand given how things played out. I decided to call, Vornicu folded, and the 2♥ appeared on the river.
I checked for a third time and surprisingly my opponent did with the A♥3♠ for a rivered wheel. I hated the way I played the hand.
Sylvia’s Take: I think I like limp/jamming preflop here. A lot of players would check the big blind a ton, but if you think Valentin is going to raise a lot, then by all means go for it. The button’s limp-calling range basically never has you beat. Seems like you had a good plan then bailed on it and changed plans. We’ve all done that, it happens. I like your play post. I could see folding the river to a jam if you think the button doesn’t bluff enough.
Hand #2: Tighten Up My Hand Selection
In another $365 no-limit hold’em event, the blinds are 300/600/75 and I am sitting with 18,000. Player A min-raised from early position and I call from the hijack with the 9♦7♦. I like hands like these oftentimes they’re easy to play postflop – either you hit it big or bail.
Player B then called from the cutoff and three of us saw the 10♦2♦8♣ flop. This was great for me as I not only flopped a flush draw, but an open-ended straight draw to boot. Player A moved all in for 8,000, I go all in over top, and Player B called off for 13,000 with the K♦Q♦. Player A held the Q♣10♥.
I thought it was a good spot for me, but because Player B held a bigger flush draw, I was in trouble. Neither the turn nor river changed a thing, and Player A took down the pot with a pair of tens.
Sylvia’s Take: I fold preflop. I think we need to play tighter on a 30 big-blind stack. I would continue with 78s/98s+ for connectors and something like J9s or Q10s+ for gapers. I could be convinced that we should be even tighter than that. Also, if you do play this hand, it’s because you think the early-position player is opening light, so a three-bet is almost always better, unless he’s a big fish and doesn’t ever fold to three-bets. Anyways, not a big mistake or anything, but when you have 30bbs or less, you want to start tightening your preflop range accordingly. Postflop you obviously can’t ever fold and that’s such a dumb flop for the three hands you guys have.
Hand #3: The Meaning of Bet Sizing
In the same tournament, I worked my stack up to 9,200 at 400/800/100. An early-position player raised to 2,000, same Player A three-bets to 8,000, and I look down at the 10♣10♥ on button. I move all in for 1,200 more, the original raiser four-bet all in for 25,000 with what turned out to be the Q♥Q♠, and Player A called with the A♠K♣.
My preflop read on the three-bettor, based on player, bet size, and way he put his chips in was that he had a decent hand, but trying to protect it. He just seemed a bit scared, like he didn’t want to three-bet, but knew he should with his hand. As such, I put him on either 77-JJ, AK or AQ. I could’ve folded preflop, but given quick structure I opted to play the tens. In the end, an ace spiked on the turn and I was out.
Sylvia’s Take: This is a pretty player dependent hand. I know what you mean with the sizing, but I wouldn’t count on him not having QQ+ due to sizing until you have verified that he went smaller with those hands in previous three-bet spots. For instance, if you see him 2.6x the original raise size with aces, then 4x, we can assume he’s more likely to have AK/bluffs/something weird like 88, etc.
For more knowledge from Sylvia, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MrJesseJames888.