There’s no denying Scott Seiver is one of the best poker players in the world. He does have nearly $21 million in tournament earnings, after all. Seiver recently put his skills on display in the $500,000 Super High Roller Bowl, a tournament that took place back in July but is just now airing on NBC Sports Network.
That tournament attracted 43 players and created a prize pool of $21,500,000. I happened to be live reporting the event for PokerNews, and I remember thinking at the time Seiver was running circles around his opponents. Sure enough, recent episodes of Super High Roller Bowl have confirmed that he was playing his “A” game.
In my opinion, Seiver played stellar poker throughout, but one hand on the broadcast stood out above the others, a hand demonstrating poker being played at its highest level. The hand happened with 11 players remaining, of which just seven would get paid. At the time, Seiver was sitting on a big stack and the blinds were at 20,000/40,000.
“The atmosphere is a really interesting combination of both tense and fun because we’ve all been here before, and it’s just a nice fun atmosphere,” Seiver said at that point in the tournament. “But it’s also a ton of money, so it’s extremely tense right now.”
In the hand, action folded to Ben Lamb on the button who had around a million in chips, and he raised to 90,000 with . Sevier opted just to call with from the small blind. Then online superstar Timofey “Trueteller” Kuznetsov, who had roughly 700,000, called the additional 50,000 as well from the big with .
The flop saw all three players check, and then Seiver checked the turn despite picking up a flush draw. Both his opponents followed suit, then the completed the board on the river.
They say the best players in the world rarely give up on a pot — instead they try to figure out a way to win. Here it would seem Seiver, who opted to check to see the river for free, would wave the white flag, but that wasn’t the case. With 290,000 in the pot, Seiver began to count out chips.
“It feels like bad timing for him, but he is cutting out a huge bet,” said commentator Jesse Sylvia, who you may recall finished runner-up in the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event.
Seiver then slid in an overbet of 410,000.
“I love this size by Scott,” Sylvia said, seemingly changing his tune. “He puts a queen or bad ace in a really bad spot. He ensures a ten is going to fold. And if your Kuznetsov or Lamb, you have to wonder why he’s making it so big when it’s actually really hard for him to show up with a bluff here.”
Here’s why I was so impressed with the hand. Seiver had the luxury of working with a big stack, and he recognized the situation was right to steal the pot. He saw that both his opponents were short-stacked with an $800,000 bubble looming, and that if they did pair the ace, it would likely be with a weak kicker. After all, if they held strong aces, chances are Kuznetsov would have shoved preflop and Lamb would have at least continuation bet. Furthermore, if either of them had made a strong hand on the flop and were slow playing — such as with two pair or a set — they would have bet it on the turn.
Seiver no doubt knew his hand was no good, but he had the presence of mind to know that he could win with a bet. However, in order to do so he’d have to make it a big bet. If either of his opponents did in fact pair the ace, they’d probably call a standard bet — say anything from half to a full pot-sized bet. To drive them off, Seiver would have to find the sweet spot.
As Sylvia pointed out, Seiver’s bet of 410,000 was no doubt suspicious, but what could his opponents do? If they call and Seiver had the goods, they’d be crippled, and Seiver’s bet didn’t exactly scream bluff. Instead, it came across as if he knew one of his opponents paired the ace and he wanted a call. It really was a brilliant bet.
Now here’s the thing… a move like that likely wouldn’t work in your run-of-the-mill tournament. Remember, this was a $500,000 buy-in tournament filled with the best poker players in the world. When they think about the game, they go several levels deeper than the average player does.
If you were to try Seiver’s move in a nightly tournament, I can almost guarantee you someone would cling to their weak ace and make the call. They would be thinking, “Hey, I paired my ace. It must be good.” Not “Why is he betting so much. Is my hand really good?”
This hand was a great example of a top poker pro leveraging an entire situation to win a pot. It also goes to show you that the best players find ways to win. You likely think you’re a decent poker player, but ask yourself — would you have bet the river in this hand after missing your free flush draw? I’ll admit I would have checked. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a bad player, but it shows me there is room for improvement. Again, to hammer home the point, always be thinking of ways to win.
For what it’s worth, Seiver went on to finish runner-up in the tournament for $5.16 million while Brian Rast took it down for $7.525 million.