Not alas, the hand: Paul Newey, Vannessa Selbst, Sam Trickett, Igor Kurganov (Einhorn already departed)

Anatomy of a $1 Million Bust Out

Former UK Footballer Sam Trickett draws first blood & busts NY Hedge Fund Trader David Einhorn from the WSOP Big One for ONE DROP poker tournament.

Early action in the $1 million buy-in One Drop centers around ex-British footballer Sam Trickett, who gets a critical double up against New York hedge fund trader David Einhorn. This is hardly their first high stakes confrontation— Trickett and Einhorn earned 2nd and 3rd place in the 2012 One Drop and both have played extensively in the Big Game in Macao.

The hand begins with Trickett calling Einhorn’s preflop raise holding 4–5 off suit. The flop comes out a slam dunk for Einhorn’s pocket jacks, 2-J-6. Trickett smooth calls Einhorn’s 75,000 lead-out with a well-hidden inside straight draw. The turn brings a miracle three for Trickett, completing his nut straight. When you wonder why ever call a continuation bet with a draw you are very unlikely to hit, this is the exact reason—if you do connect somehow, no one will put you on the nuts. With stacks so deep, the results can be a jackpot if your opponent also holds a monster—say, top set.

David Einhorn in happier times, before the tournament with fellow hedge fund trader and One Drop participant Stanley Choi

As there was no obvious straight draw on the flop, Einhorn feels very comfortable betting out 175,000 with his top set. Trickett takes a good look at his cards and, making sure that he does indeed hold the stone cold nuts, re-raises to 475,000. While some players will slow play a made hand like this in position, hoping to induce a river lead out, there are several reasons for betting here. First, if Einhorn is simply semi-bluffing or even value-betting with middle pair, Trickett is unlikely to pick up much more value on the river. By betting out, he puts Einhorn to the test and sees how committed he is to the pot.

Second, by increasing the pot size, Trickett makes a large bet on the river much more callable. If Einhorn happens to wake up with a premium hand in this situation, Trickett’s straight is so well hidden that his opponent will never guess what he is holding (short of possessing the ESP that some top pros seem equipped with). Two pair or a middle set (or worse) seems a much more likely holding for Trickett than a straight—in which case Einhorn has the dominating hand.

A final reason for Trickett to bet out is that Einhorn almost certainly does not realize it, but he is on a draw. As a corollary to getting maximum money into the pot when ahead, you always want to make it expensive for the opponent to draw out. In this particular hand, Einhorn is not content to smooth call and see what develops and (unfortunately for him) reveals the true strength of his holding by coming over the top of Trickett’s reraise for 775,000.

Tricket: chuffed

This three-bet is like a godsend to Trickett and it is here that he can feel very comfortable about under-repping his hand by smooth calling. Not only is calling a hedge against the board pairing on the turn, in which case Trickett will need to shut it down and get out with minimal damage, but with a nice Hollywood tank (of exactly the type Trickett provides) it can be made to look like a crying call. It appears to Einhorn that Trickett has been priced in with a dominated bottom set or over-pair, and simply cannot escape the hand, given the amount of money in the pot. As it happens, the river blanks out for Einhorn with a queen and Tricket now possesses the absolute nuts on this board.

Reinforcing the action-junkie reputation of hedge fund traders, Einhorn does not see any reason to slow down (as many seasoned professionals might have, given the warning signals of Trickett’s reraise-and-call activity on the turn). Not only does a straight have Einhorn beat, but an overpair such as pocket queens (which would have rivered trips) is well within Tricket’s range. Failing to heed these warnings, Einhorn fires 850,000 and when Trickett shoves over the top, he snap calls and receives the bad news.

With the blind structure so deep at this point in the tournament, Einhorn could arguably have survived the storm with about 1 million chips intact—more than enough for creative play going forward—simply by respecting his opponent’s range and checking to him on the river. While a Trickett all-in shove would certainly be possible in this situation (in which case Einhorn would presumably have to call), Trickett would most likely seek to extract value with a pot-sized bet of around a million—which is more likely to be called by the range of hands Trickett would put Einhorn on.

Despite this difficult to swallow loss, Einhorn sends out a relatively upbeat tweet: “Ok. That didn’t go well. First one out. Couldn’t make it an hour. Tough hand. … Try again at the main event. ☹

Trickett stacks a mountain of newly minted chips.

If Einhorn is not super upset about busting so early in the tournament, one can only assume it is because he has wads and wads of cash. Indeed, a quick Internet perusal places his net worth at $1.2 billion—at age 43, he is 14th on the Forbes 400 list of Youngest Billionaires. Einhorn definitely has his head in the right place—he not only earned a significant share of his wealth taking positions against Lehman Brothers before the investment firm tanked (and almost took the American economy with it), but he donated his $4.35 million prize-money from the 2012 One Drop to the Boston-based nonprofit City Year, which seeks to boost high school graduation rates.

Having heard a flurry of oohs and ahs, and seeing Trickett stacking chips, Phil Ivey calls out from the next table “How you doing?” Ever the consummate poker pro (read: glib liar), Trickett says “He had A-K and I had K-7, and we got it on in a K-7–2 flop.” Thinking better of a level in this particular situation, where facts can so easily be checked, Trickett amends his statement, “No—straight versus top set jacks—it was a sick setup.”

Trickett regales Scott Seiver with tales of a sick hand. Next in line for bad beat against Sam will be the bearded Kurganov and Vanessa Selbst (hand on mouth)

[From the forthcoming e-book “A One Drop Companion: Inside Poker’s $1 Million Tournament and the Players Who Risk It All.”]

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.