Well its not often I get to critique a pros blunder, but this one stood out as a whopper, which turned the tables at the 2005 WSOP and propelled a young internet player to the final table in place of Greg Raymer who was on a miraculous path to challenge for the WSOP main title for the second consecutive year.
Down to 26 players, Raymer is one of the chip leaders with around 4 million. With the blinds a very comfortable 20 and 40 thousand, he picks up KK in middle position and puts in a raise to 100 thousand. Does that seem small to you? It does to me, even though it is a well concealed 2 and a half times the blind, it literally invites a draw out. Raising that small, compared to your stack in an internet tournament is tantamount to limping in. What it also negates is being able to judge what your opponent may have later in the hand when it could become crucial, as it did in this case.
With a small raise you are inviting low pairs, low connecters, weak suited aces, weak suited kings, and unpaired big cards. With such a variety of possibilities, you are essentially playing blind, and hoping your kings hold up. Kanter calls in the cutoff followed by Ivey and Hechem folding the blinds. The pot is around 300 thousand including the antes. The flop comes 6c, 3h, 5d. Raymer could look at this as a good flop, assuming Kanter called with big cards. Myself, I see straight chemistry, and definitely something that could jive with a call of ace, 4 suited or 8, 7 suited. When there is chemistry on the board you need to get your opponent out. If he calls a big bet, or re-raises, I am apt to let the hand go if I am playing another big stack. If my opponent is significantly shorter, I will put him all in without fear of jeopardizing my tournament.
Raymer follows up his wimpy preflop bet with an even more pathetic flop bet of 150 thousand. When assessing this flop, you need to bet big, and cut your losses with that. With an over bet here, you either eliminate the danger, or you determine that you are beat, or on way to being beat. But this is also your stop-loss bet. Once a reaction is taken by your opponent, you will know to fold, or check it down, save for other intelligence factors. Curiously, Raymer moves rather quickly through this hand, failing to assess this game critical intersect properly. Clearly, at this point Raymer failed to realized he was not the favorite in this hand anymore. Turn card is 7h. This is a great card for Kanter as it gives him his heart draw, and puts a scare card out there him to take it at the river. Raymer simply seems not to notice.
The odd thing about this hand is that Raymer was in fact, ahead all the way. Kanter played this hand like an internet rookie calling the flop bet with only a back door flush draw, and over cards. He could have been planning to take this pot from Raymer with a bluff on the river, but that doesn’t explain his rash all in call after reraising Raymers 300 thousand turn bet. But when Raymer does make his turn bet and gets reraised, in that spot, with my tourney on the line, and that board, I am out of the hand, even if I still feel I am ahead. It is simply too risky, and too probably that your kings are beat. You think I am over analyzing? I have laid down aces in this spot, several times in money play in online tournaments. Maybe just a couple thousand was on the line, not millions!
I take this situation to reiterate several things here. Play back the hand, and figure your opponents possible hole cards. Investigate the flop by knowing what the nuts are at all times. Do not go up against another stack in marginal situations while moving up the pay scale. Raymers actions here would have been perfectly fine if he were up against someones last 700 thousand chips, but as it turned out, and I quote Norman Chad from ESPN, Kanter makes an horrendous play and puts a big hurt on Raymer. The heart came for Kanter who should have really never been in the hand, but his awful play was surpassed by Raymer in that particular exchange.