IDLE HANDS: When Discretion Is The Better Part of Valor

Each month Dan O’Brien takes an in-depth look at one hand from a major tournament and breaks it down street by street. This month he’s keyed in on one hand from the 2015 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Super High Roller between Steve O’Dwyer and Bryn Kenney.

Steve O'Dwyer found the ability to fold in a tough spot on his way to a $1.87M win (Photo courtesy PokerStars/Joe Giron)

Steve O’Dwyer found the ability to fold in a tough spot on his way to a $1.87M win (Photo courtesy PokerStars/Joe Giron)

The first $100K Super High Roller of the year kicks off in The Bahamas at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. The record field has been whittled down to the final five, and the remaining players are as tough as you’d expect. This month, we get to break down a very intriguing hand between two players who have been at the top of the high stakes tournament game for a long time, Steve O’Dwyer and Bryn Kenney.


Steve O’Dwyer 8 6
Bryn Kenney K Q


Steve O’Dwyer 2.6M
Bryn Kenney 4.1M

Blinds 30,000/60,000 with a 10,000 ante

Kenney starts this hand two off of the button in the hijack position with only folds in front of him. He has king-queen offsuit and plenty of chips to work with, so a standard raise is in order.

Kenney raises to 135K

O’Dwyer has a substantially less than premium hand in eight-six offsuit, but with his big blind already posted, it’s just 75K more chips into a pot of 245K. Getting slightly over 3 to 1, but out of position against a very tough opponent, this hand just misses the cut for me. I’d defend with its suited variety, or even 8-7 offsuit, but against Kenney, I’d probably just fold this cusp hand. It’s close though, and O’Dwyer elects to call.

O’Dwyer calls 75K

FLOP  8 3 2

O’Dwyer flops fairly strong with top pair. A lot of less-experienced players would recommend leading out here with a bet to gain some information, but against world class opponents, this is just a terrible play in this situation. There are precisely zero two-pair holdings that O’Dwyer would have defended with, leaving his only potential big hand being a rare set. Kenney is going to be able to outplay that weak lead far too often, making a check best.

O’Dwyer checks

Kenney flops only overcards and a backdoor flush draw, but the flop is exceedingly unlikely to have helped his opponent either. This is a very standard spot to continuation bet and hope to pick up the pot with no resistance.

Kenney bets 160K

O’Dwyer is likely in the lead, but check-raising isn’t viable for many of the same reasons leading out wasn’t. He’s representing only weak hands, flush draws, and total bluffs. Better to call and react to what develops.

O’Dwyer calls 160K


This is a pretty bad card for O’Dwyer, even though Kenney is unlikely to be holding a nine in his hand. It completes the two-card flush draw, but, more importantly, gives his opponent many backdoor opportunities, including a one-card flush and now some fairly likely straight draw and overcard combos with hands like jack-ten, queen-ten, and queen-jack.

I’d like to see O’Dwyer lead with a bet here on the turn. It’s somewhere in between a value bet and a bluff, but more important than classifying it as one or the other is what it achieves. If Kenney does have a big pair, it freezes him and makes it tough to do any more than just call the best, since O’Dwyer could certainly have a flush, turned two-pair, or even that unlikely set. If his opponent is drawing, he’ll likely get a call and charge Kenney for trying to run him down. Of course, Kenney could outplay him here with a raise as well, but it’s much more of an investment and thus less likely to happen.

O’Dwyer checks

Just as this isn’t a good turn card for O’Dwyer, it’s a fine card for Kenney to continue betting. His most likely value hands are overpairs that were already ahead, but he could have made the flush or be drawing with a high-equity hand like Q-J with one spade that can win with a flush, straight, or pair on the river. O’Dwyer’s most likely holding is one pair, whether it be the eight on board or a smaller pocket pair. I’d love to see Kenney put some pressure on those hands with a sizable turn bet.

Kenney bets 370K

This is a call that a lot of players make without having any sort of plan for the river. If Kenney had just bet his last 370K chips here, this would be an easy call for O’Dwyer. He’s getting over 2.5 to 1 on a call, and he knows his opponent is betting a wide range of semi-draws in addition to his made hands. However, the potential river play is far more troublesome than the turn. Any spade or any card over a nine could give Kenny the best hand, and that’s assuming he doesn’t already have the best hand!

Let’s count up the river possibilities. Only knowing his own two cards, O’Dwyer can count twenty-five remaining cards that are either a spade or a Broadway card and only twenty-one safer cards. If one of those threatening cards falls, he can likely count on a bet from Kenney, whether it helped him or not, and he’ll be behind too often to find a hero call. Only three outs improve O’Dwyer’s hand without bringing a fourth spade, and the remaining safe cards could still cost him the pot if Kenney was ahead all along. This is a brutal spot for O’Dwyer, and, as frustrating as this may feel, I like the fold.

O’Dwyer folds

Kenney executed perfectly, and O’Dwyer wasn’t able to win this battle. However, his calculated fold kept him in position to win the war. He eventually went on to win the trophy along with $1.87 million.

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Dan O'Brien

Dan O’Brien is a professional poker player who has earned nearly $2.7 million in live MTTs and became known for his spot-on analysis with his ability to break down advanced plays into simpler concepts.
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