Vanessa Selbst versus Prahlad Friedman

The following hand between the 2 poker pros Vanessa Selbst and Prahlad Friedman is without a doubt on of the most entertaining hands from the series Pokerstars the Big Game. In this article we will analyze this hand and reason why Vanessa Selbst is doing what she is doing. We also calculate how much Friedman should be bluffing for Selbst’s bluff to be profitable. But let us first watch the video. The hands starts at 5:46.

Reasoning why Vanessa Selbst is 6bet bluffing

The reason that Vanessa Selbst 6bets J7s is because she thought Prahlad Friedman is 5bet bluffing here frequently. Factors contributing to Vanessa’s reasoning might be:

  1. Vanessa knows that Friedman knows that this is a 4bet bluff spot for Vanessa and therefore a good spot for Prahlad to 5bet bluff.
  2. Prahlad’s bet sizing. Vanessa puts this herself as an argument. By 5betting to $35,000, Prahlad is risking relatively little, while Vanessa is risking a lot by continuing.
  3. It’s near the end of the session and both players had a profit. Often players try to hold on to a profit near the end of session. This might induce Prahlad to put more pressure on Vanessa.
  4. Some other unknown reasons.

In conclusion, Vanessa thought that Prahlad was 5bet bluffing enough to 6bet bluff profitably. But how often should Prahlad 5bet bluff in order to be this 6bet bluff-call play to be profitablel? Lets calculate this, such that we have more insight in the profitability of Vanessa’s play.

How often should Prahlad Friedman be bluffing?

Before we calculate this we have to make an assumption.

Assumption: Prahlad is 5bet calling AA, KK, QQ, AK.

I think this assumption is reasonable, although some might argue that he will sometimes call a 4bet with QQ and AK, instead of 5betting these hands.

Now we have to calculate Vanessa’s equity against this range. Using Pokerstove we calculate that Jd7d has 26.8% equity versus a range of {AA,KK,QQ,AK}. Effective stacks in the beginning of the hand are $169,500. Vanessa 4bets to $13,200. By 6bet calling she puts $156,300 more in the pot. When all in she can win $183,900 ($49,400 already in pot and Prahlad’s remaining effective stack of $134,500).

So Vanessa’s EV in an all in pot is:

Vanessa’s EV when all in = (0.268*$183,000) + (0.732*-$156,300) = $49,044 – $114,411 = -$65,367.

If Prahlad is 5bet bluffing Vanessa picks up a pot of $49,400. We define Prahlad’s bluffing frequency as x.

Putting this in formula, we get:

Vanessa’s EV = (x)*$49,400+ (1-x)*-$65,367.

The play is zero EV, when EV = o. So

0 = x*$49,500+(1-x)*-$65,367.

0 = x*$49,500 -$65,367 + x*$65,367

$65,367 = $114,511*x

$65,367/$114,511 = x

x = 0.571

So Prahlad should be bluffing at least 57.1% . This is high, but not absurdly high. I can’t tell whether Prahlad is bluffing at least 57.1% in this spot, but when Vanessa thinks this is the case, her 6bet bluff might not be so bad.

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