Masterclass: Mike Sexton Makes a Great Call

By Donovan Panone | July 12, 2009

Situation: 3 handed at the WSOP Tournament of Champions final table
Blinds: 10k/20k + 3k antes
Stacks: Unknown, but no one seems too short

Let’s play this hand as if we are Mike Sexton. What reads do you have on the action for each street? What hand ranges do you start with for your opponents and how do those narrow down as the hand plays on?


Matusow limps in on the button with kh2h, Negreanu completes the SB with 8d7h and Sexton checks his option with 7d3s.

Hand Ranges: Since Matusow didn’t raise pre-flop, he is likely limping in with a hand that he wants to see a flop with but is too weak to raise with. While it’s possible he’s looking to trap with a monster, he also knows that Negreanu will complete the SB with a wide range of hands and he probably doesn’t want to play a big hand against 3 people. Based on this, we can most likely put Matusow on suited connectors, one/two gappers from 56+ and unsuited connectors 78+, as well as low suited Kx and possibly very small pairs (although he is still more likely to raise these).

Negreanu is likely to complete the small blind with almost any two cards, so if he had a big hand, he would have most likely raised here so as not to be three handed.

The Flop:


Everyone checks.

Hand Ranges: With both a straight and flush draw on the board, Matusow would have bet a pair on the flop 3 handed in position in order to not give a free card. Because of that, we can most likely eliminate Qx. Connectors with a 9 are possible, but since he has position and would likely have the best hand, he probably would have bet here to end the hand. Negreanu’s hand range is still wide open since he was first to act and may have checked to see what the others did before acting.

The Turn:


Negreanu checks, Sexton checks and Matusow bets 20K into a 42K pot. Negreanu folds and Sexton makes the call.

Hand Range: Matusow would have likely raised an Ace pre-flop. In addition, his bet is less than ½ the pot, so if he had an Ace he would probably bet more with all of the draws present. Also, Matusow is likely to position bet with any two cards here based on the weakness shown on the flop and turn thus far by the other two players. At this point, we can narrow his range to suited and unsuited connectors that missed, a heart draw and possibly a pair of 9s. A pair of 9s are still unlikely because he would be turning his hand into a bluff by betting here, although he could be betting for information to determine the strength of everyone’s hand.

The River:


Sexton checks, Matusow fires 60K into the pot and Sexton makes the call with bottom pair.

Hand Range: With 82K in the pot, Matusow bets about 75% of the pot on the river. What does this say about his hand? The Jack on the river should be a possible scare card, so Matusow probably thinks that Sexton will fold to a river bet. However, Sexton knows this and also knows that Matusow probably would have raised KT pre-flop. In addition, if this was a value bet he would bet less since Sexton hasn’t shown that he has a strong hand.

What about a pair of Jacks or pair of 9s? Matusow could hold a hand like jhth, but with the Ace on board and Sexton’s turn call, he would have more than likely checked it down since his hand would have showdown value vs. other hands Sexton might call with.

Matusow knows the only way he can win the pot is to bluff and doesn’t think that Sexton can call a pot-sized bet with the hand range he puts him on. Sexton also knows this and is willing to take a shot that his read is right. The other benefit of calling here is the meta-game implications that send a message not to bluff him. This can prevent bluffs on future hands (since much of three handed play will be without made hands).

In conclusion, this was a great read and a great example of how sometimes you have to make a gutsy call on the river in order to win a big pot. This hand was also a pivotal moment that catapulted Sexton onto victory.

By Donovan Panone

Donovan started playing poker in 2004 and is an experienced tournament and cash game player who has a passion for teaching and helping others improve their game.


One Response to “Masterclass: Mike Sexton Makes a Great Call”

  1. Jesus
    July 21, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    I love this play… I have had some success making the bluff but the mistake here was it came to late and therefore wasnt convincing enough!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.