Analyzing Mark Newhouse’s WSOP Main Event Bust-Out Hand

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One of the most memorable hands of the WSOP Main Event was Mark Newhouse’s bust-out hand. It deserved the attention. Newhouse, after finishing ninth the year before, placed his tournament on the line by turning his pocket tens into a bluff. He made a decision few of us could make, and fewer would know if it were correct.

Some, like Antonio Esfandiari while commentating, heralded Newhouse for his heart. Others decried his handling of his second Main Event final table in as many years. All enjoyed seeing some of the ballsiest tournament poker ever played.

In this article, I hope to shed some light on what both players were thinking and also offer my own analysis of what could have been going on under the surface. It is good to preface this hand deconstruction by saying I think both players played their hands well. Newhouse is largely going to be the focus of this piece and I admit he is a far better player than I am. I am only guessing at the logic going on between both players and hoping to entertain and educate you all in the process. None of this is meant as a corrective for either player.

The hand started with Newhouse having roughly 22.5 million in chips. Blinds were 250K/500K, so Newhouse started with 45 big blinds. Van Hoof raised to 1.1 million and Newhouse decided to call. We could debate just this call for the entirety of the article. I can understand why a player of Newhouse’s caliber wouldn’t want to play a huge all-in pot here by three-betting. He has a distinct advantage going to flops. Others would argue him flatting this bet a disproportionate amount of the time makes his three-betting-in-position range a hard sell later, as it becomes too polarized.

A pair of tens is a hand that in a multi-way pot is more likely to lose, while it does very well heads-up. However, it is difficult in many players’ minds for Van Hoof to four-bet fold here. I disagree with these players. I still think it is possible Van Hoof would four-bet/fold here. It wouldn’t be a bad move given how little it would cost him and how it would put Newhouse’s entire stack at risk. Van Hoof showed a propensity to make gutsier plays and he certainly had the chips for it at this point.

That said, 45 big blinds is a lot given the stack distribution at the table and laddering up a few spots means millions of dollars at this final table. A little discretion is more than understandable ICM-wise.

Furthermore, according to those who tracked statistics as the players played down to the November Nine, Newhouse had a 1.7% three-bet percentage. That is insanely low. It is probably much harder for him to sell a three-bet bluff here.

After Newhouse flats, it’s folded around to the big blind, William Tonking, who re-raises to 3.75 Million. A live cash game veteran, Tonking had shown considerable prowess playing post-flop. He hadn’t three-bet much leading up to the final table, but his propensity to play tons of hands on Day 7 shows he can be creative and mix it up.

While it wasn’t extremely likely Tonking was three-bet bluffing here, he certainly had the skills to do so. Newhouse, in my view, correctly called. Given the great price Mark Newhouse was getting and the superior position he had, he needs to call. He shouldn’t four-bet because the call/re-raise move is the strongest in Hold’em. It would be hard for Tonking to make a light five-bet.

The board comes J-4-2 rainbow and Tonking makes a small continuation bet of 3.5 million into the roughly 9.5 million-chip pot. The sizing is great here. This is a very hit or miss board. Most players are not capable of raising a top pair here for value. It’s unlikely Newhouse would raise a set either on such a dry board. It’s anyone will raise this small bet; they know they will be representing nothing. This bet also keeps in smaller pairs and J-X.

Newhouse makes a good call on the flop. He is calling 3.5 million to win 13 million. To find out how much equity he needs to call here, we divide 3.5M by 16.5M because that’s the size of the pot (with his call added in) which he will receive should he win the pot. 3.5/16.5 = 0.2121. Newhouse needed 22% equity or more to flat on this flop. Even if we give Tonking a three-betting range which contains no under-pairs, but only TT+, AKo+, A-Qs+, half the combinations of AQo, and one suited connector bluff, Newhouse has 44.9% equity on this board. He has more than double what he needs to call on the flop.

Now it’s worth noting that AQo offsuit here in Newhouse’s position has about 22% equity. Does that mean you should call? Well, realize if you’re calling with 22% equity and you needed 21.21% equity, you need to realize your equity close to 100% of the time here. This can be difficult, as No Limit Hold’em isn’t a one street game. If he ever bets you off of your outs on the turn, you’re not realizing that equity.

If you can bluff on future streets, it is possible you can realize more than the equity you need, but this is a pretty hard board to bluff typically. It’s very dry. Small pairs stick to people’s hands. If you’re not going to be able to bluff much, you need to know your opponent has a turn and river betting frequency of 0%. That is a tall and unrealistic order.

Newhouse’s hand only needs to realize it’s equity around half the time. That seems plausible. After Newhouse’s call, the turn comes a four, putting two hearts on the board. Tonking curiously checks.

I say curious because that card is a decent blank. It’s unlikely Newhouse (pictured) has a four. It makes it much less likely he connected with a small pair on the flop. Newhouse has shown a propensity to call down before. He’s very loose post-flop. You’re probably still getting a call from J-X, 8-8, 9-9, 10-10, and maybe 7-7 if you double barrel here.

Of course, many do not like betting because then if you check the river out of position you are waving a white flag that says, “I likely don’t have much better than one pair.” The hope is that the turn will get checked through and you can play a smaller pot with one pair, but sometimes that’s not realistic.

I humbly believe the check is ill-advised. You should go for three streets. It’s possible Newhouse slow-played aces or kings, but statistically that’s a very small part of his range. If you check to a great player like Newhouse as well, he will have a better idea of where you’re at. Your double-barrel range will be more difficult to interpret.

It’s likely that Tonking would double barrel a flush draw here, so when he checks, he’s telling Newhouse a river heart or overcard is a great card to bluff, as he’s probably not check calling ace-highs all that often. This is a very dangerous situation to put yourself in.

Mark Newhouse makes a 4.5 million bet into the pot, which is pretty small. I don’t mind it’s sizing because it’s unlikely to encourage Tonking to check-raise bluff; the stacks are too shallow, and there’s too much money on the line.

I refer to these kind of bets as a move to “buy the showdown.” When Newhouse bets small here, he could get value from smaller pairs, flush draws, and ace high, while also insuring his opponent normally checks the river to him.

The problem with this bet is did Tonking really three-bet that many smaller pairs? His three-bet percentage didn’t crack 4% before the final table. Also, is he calling down with ace highs? I’m doubtful of both of these scenarios.

Tonking calls. The river comes an offsuit jack, pairing the board, and we realize one of the benefits of Mark Newhouse’s turn bet: if he wishes to fire the river as a bluff, his “value” line is more credible.

Tonking checked. This is where the hand becomes really interesting and debatable. Many said Tonking didn’t look that confident when he saw the river. I would wonder if he would have taken a few seconds more to consider shoving the river if he did indeed have a jack in his hand. You could certainly see why Newhouse wanted to bluff this card.

Newhouse declared all-in fairly quickly. He threw his body into it a bit. In my experience, this is players having to get their nerve up. This is why I commented after I saw the hand that, “Newhouse isn’t going to regret this shove. He’s going to regret he didn’t think through the river more.”

However, that doesn’t help Tonking much. He is left with essentially a bluff catcher. Newhouse isn’t jamming tens assuming nines or eights will call him. That would be too thin of a value jam.

It’s hard to believe Newhouse would have the gall to bluff here, which gives the play credibility. He said frequently how much he didn’t want to go out ninth again. He’s betting 10.8 million into 25.5 million. His jam isn’t even for half the pot. Tonking would have to call 10.8 million to win 36.3 million. That’s an insanely good price. He will only need to be right 23% of the time to make this call.

However, contextually there’s much going against Newhouse here: His history of blowing millions shows others he’s capable of riskier moves. His itchy and constant movement at the final table. His active image. His admittance he didn’t play any poker before the final table. His kneejerk reactionary way he shoved. This is a guy who does what he wants, when he wants. If you know you made an obviously dejected check here on this river, then it stands to reason Newhouse could be bluffing more than a quarter of the time.

That said, this is not an easy call. Esfandiari said he loved the shove and that it showed an incredible amount of heart. I agree completely. This showed Newhouse had the attitude of a winner; he was going for it, his last year’s finish be damned.

I have been in Tonking’s spot and have folded, many times. I think many high stakes regulars have. It certainly not inconceivable that Tonking decides, given the stakes, Newhouse is not bluffing here ever and lays down his hand.

This is the part of poker that is so difficult. This river play is not easily defeated with numbers. It does come down to a feel. This guy doesn’t like his hand, but can he fold given this great price?

Nothing Newhouse did in the hand wasn’t explainable or necessarily incorrect. Like many hands where he’s profited greatly from, he was operating on the margins, the gray areas. It just goes to show how difficult it is to really paint the black and play for a championship when everything is on the line.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. i disagree with allot of this article. the only Jx hand newhouse can have in his range is JJ which he is going to flat preflop. he is folding AJ,KJ,QJ preflop and will only continue with 1010 me personally i would fold 10s here given that tonkings preflop raise from the SB is going to consist of top 3% of hands and it is pretty large. the way he played the hand postflop he has to call atleast 1 street with his pair of tens given tonking can be firing a bunch of AK. newhouse calls the flop which is correct. once tonking checks back the turn when a 4 rolls off is newhouse really going to fire Jx hands? i dont think so. you open yourself with the chance to get check jamd on now you have an even harder decision and with ICM to take into Consideration newhouse is always going to check back the turn with Jx and should have with his 10s. Jx rolls off on the river which in my eyes is a really safe card. is newhouse really leading a set of jacks on the turn “quads”? that is the only hand he can have in his range and he is less likely too with the stack sizes. once newhouse jams the river he is jaming 10.8 into 25.6 and tonking a tight agressive reg is never going to call the river . IMO i think this was a complete blow up from newhouse and was a ICM disaster. if you watch the hand replay the speed and confidence when newhouse flips his 10s over shows that he was obviously value jaming and wanting calls from ace high. he was not turning his hand into a bluff.

    • Looked like Newhouse had been up about 3 days running. Tend to think guys lose the zone they were in with the big layoff leading up to the FT. It’s like playing 3 quarters of the SB and waiting a month to play the 4th qtr. The continuity seems to get lost and makes for bad play imo. Gutsy play but agree with the OP that he probably wishes he had thought the river through some more.

    • why would u ever write an article about a hand from the nov 9 and put a picture of urself playing poker at the top of it?

    • Only good reason for playing TT like that on the river is that he actually thinks that there is some chance greater than zero that Tonking calls with A high. And i think the whole meta game of Tonking thinking that Newhouse would never bluff, in such a poor spot to bluff, that it has to be a bluff was a bit overblown. From what I learned by watching the WSOP coverage is that Tonking wasn’t the type of player to over think things.He even said to his rail that he woulda snapped if it wasn’t that spot. Just wanted to be sure. I think it was a pretty easy call for him. I don’t think he was just saying that to his rail to be a show off for the benefit of tv. I think that was a very honest reaction that came out naturally in the heat of the moment.

    • i disagree with allot of this article. the only Jx hand newhouse can have in his range is JJ which he is going to flat preflop. he is folding AJ,KJ,QJ preflop and will only continue with 1010 me personally i would fold 10s here given that tonkings preflop raise from the SB is going to consist of top 3% of hands and it is pretty large. the way he played the hand postflop he has to call atleast 1 street with his pair of tens given tonking can be firing a bunch of AK. newhouse calls the flop which is correct. once tonking checks back the turn when a 4 rolls off is newhouse really going to fire Jx hands? i dont think so. you open yourself with the chance to get check jamd on now you have an even harder decision and with ICM to take into Consideration newhouse is always going to check back the turn with Jx and should have with his 10s. Jx rolls off on the river which in my eyes is a really safe card. is newhouse really leading a set of jacks on the turn “quads”? that is the only hand he can have in his range and he is less likely too with the stack sizes. once newhouse jams the river he is jaming 10.8 into 25.6 and tonking a tight agressive reg is never going to call the river . IMO i think this was a complete blow up from newhouse and was a ICM disaster. if you watch the hand replay the speed and confidence when newhouse flips his 10s over shows that he was obviously value jaming and wanting calls from ace high. he was not turning his hand into a bluff.

      Level 1 analysis for the win. If you think Newhouse’s range is as tight as you described then you’ve obviously never watched him play or played with him. He peels flops as wide as anyone.

    • “Furthermore, according to those who tracked statistics as the players played down to the November Nine, Newhouse had a 1.7% three-bet percentage. That is insanely low. It is probably much harder for him to sell a three-bet bluff here.”what is this? from the final 2-3 tables? how many hands could it possibly count? and how many of the hands were with the villains in this hand at the table? Final tables also play out differently than the final 3-5 tables so that % is overrated and doesn’t nearly as much as you make it out to be. Then later you argue that “he’s capable of riskier moves. His itchy and constant movement at the final table. His active image. His admittance he didn’t play any poker before the final table.” So he which is it? Is he capable of tricky moves and active or is he someone who can’t pass off a 3bet as a bluff? I’m not disagreeing with how you feel he should have played the hand, but the thought process seems contradictory. The part about him not being capable of 3bet bluffs b/c his low 3bet % over the course of 100 or so hands(it’s not like they can track his stats before every table is recorded late in the tournament) is laughable.

    • I’m a man of few words, as you can tell by the 22,000 or so I put in this article.But for real, I am pressed for time, so forgive me for not responding with a length of text, but I think the original post speaks for itself.It is possible to be tight in one part of a poker hand and loose in another part. I prefer everybody play the exact same way throughout each street, because that is easy to counter, but that does not happen often. Many people, for example, fire flop 100%of the time but never follow through on the turn. I cannot go, “wait, what do you mean he can’t fire turn, he fires 100% of flops!?”Usually someone who plays tons of hands postflop compensates for their weaker holdings with advanced play and more bluffing. That does not mean they are threebet bluffing preflop.

    • I loved your analysis, Alex!
      Very, very good and sober. I mean, just a guy like you, who thinks in depth about poker to come with conclusions like this.
      At the moment I just didnt understand why Newhouse has shoved there.
      Then I do realize he was trying to bluff the river, and could have worked. Tough call, more like a bluff catch, but not many bluffs on that river, tbh.

      Anyway, I myself am not a big fan to play this way and risk that much and he had showdown value anyhow.

      Thanks for clearing up all the players thought process and all of it behind the hand.
      Cheers.

    • Great article Alex, my only criticism would be the lack of focus on what Newhouse’s perceived range to A) flat pre flop, and B) flat the 3b pre flop. I think judging by ICM and the bevy of other considerations going on with 9 ppl left at the biggest FT of the year, his range to flat a raise and then flat a 3b from a solid villain is MUCH more narrow than usual, and as someone mentioned above, doesn’t contain any of the “Jx” that you mention.Arguably, the only J he should ever have, would be JJ or AJs, and even AJs I think he might be folding in this spot to the 3b. If we can rule out JTs-KJs in this spot, while Newhouse’s line shows incredible courage and balls, the bottom line is, there is just only one real hand he can have in this spot (also ruling out 44 flatting a 3b), and he is incredibly polarized here where he might not even be shoving a slow played AA or KK in this spot for value, and therefore has exactly AJs/JJ or a bluff. I think despite it being a difficult call at the WSOP FT, all of these players are capable enough to understand he isn’t repping anything credible outside AJs/JJ, and when given over 3:1, no one folds QQ-AA in Tonking’s shoes vs this shove.

    • he claimed it was a bluff to save face. i mean he got snapped off almost instantly by the notched hand. prob not a great bluff

    • Great article Alex, my only criticism would be the lack of focus on what Newhouse’s perceived range to A) flat pre flop, and B) flat the 3b pre flop. I think judging by ICM and the bevy of other considerations going on with 9 ppl left at the biggest FT of the year, his range to flat a raise and then flat a 3b from a solid villain is MUCH more narrow than usual, and as someone mentioned above, doesn’t contain any of the “Jx” that you mention.Arguably, the only J he should ever have, would be JJ or AJs, and even AJs I think he might be folding in this spot to the 3b. If we can rule out JTs-KJs in this spot, while Newhouse’s line shows incredible courage and balls, the bottom line is, there is just only one real hand he can have in this spot (also ruling out 44 flatting a 3b), and he is incredibly polarized here where he might not even be shoving a slow played AA or KK in this spot for value, and therefore has exactly AJs/JJ or a bluff. I think despite it being a difficult call at the WSOP FT, all of these players are capable enough to understand he isn’t repping anything credible outside AJs/JJ, and when given over 3:1, no one folds QQ-AA in Tonking’s shoes vs this shove.

      Great points sir. Yeah, I was always told he was a super peel monster, but I should have written more about that, and how that might not be true at this stage.

    • i disagree with allot of this article. the only Jx hand newhouse can have in his range is JJ which he is going to flat preflop. he is folding AJ,KJ,QJ preflop and will only continue with 1010 me personally i would fold 10s here given that tonkings preflop raise from the SB is going to consist of top 3% of hands and it is pretty large. the way he played the hand postflop he has to call atleast 1 street with his pair of tens given tonking can be firing a bunch of AK. newhouse calls the flop which is correct. once tonking checks back the turn when a 4 rolls off is newhouse really going to fire Jx hands? i dont think so. you open yourself with the chance to get check jamd on now you have an even harder decision and with ICM to take into Consideration newhouse is always going to check back the turn with Jx and should have with his 10s. Jx rolls off on the river which in my eyes is a really safe card. is newhouse really leading a set of jacks on the turn “quads”? that is the only hand he can have in his range and he is less likely too with the stack sizes. once newhouse jams the river he is jaming 10.8 into 25.6 and tonking a tight agressive reg is never going to call the river . IMO i think this was a complete blow up from newhouse and was a ICM disaster. if you watch the hand replay the speed and confidence when newhouse flips his 10s over shows that he was obviously value jaming and wanting calls from ace high. he was not turning his hand into a bluff.

      +1

    • Really interesting analysis Alex, only a couple of points I’d like to have seen expanded on. Particularly, Tonking’s turn check.
      The best explanation to me is that he does think Newhouse is still playing his usual style and is looking to get value from floats.

      A lot of the focus on Newhouse’s range in the comments seems very illogical to me. His flatting range initially has to be wide. The chip-leader is opening a lot and opens, Newhouse’s style is to call a lot. I don’t suddenly see him folding QJs in that spot.

      Then a tight player 3-bets, but there is a price to call and if Tonking’s range is so small, stack him a decent % of the time when we smash the flop, and also if we have ATs, AJo, win a nice pot when A comes and he has JJ, QQ, KK.

      But for me, crucially, if we ignore this logic and say Newhouse is flatting 88,99,TT,JJ because of ICM concerns… he is never going to flat KK or AA to Van Hoof’s open and then again to Tonking’s 3-bet. It seems completely counter-intuitive to be on the one hand be concerned about busting so much that you don’t just rip AA or KK at some point and take what is out there (which at this point is a decent amount with Tonking’s 3-bet). Plus if we think Tonking’s range is so tight, we can stack him with his QQ vs our KK/AA.

      So I’m thinking that Newhouse is much more weighted to his normal range than anything else. And the way Tonking plays it suggests that he is thinking that too.

      The question of whether Newhouse is bluffing on the river to me is moot. He does not look comfortable, and as you clearly say Alex, looks like he is throwing himself into the bet. He might well know what Tonking has at this point but it is like he suddenly says in his head ‘I can rep the jack’ and throws two stacks in. It is clearly not a value bet.

      But I think also that Tonking tanks for long enough before calling that Newhouse starts thinking that maybe he is good. Maybe Tonking is hero-ing with AK, or somehow has 88 or 99. And so he turns his hand over as if somehow, after a minute of tanking, it might be good.

      Obviously, the river is a complete disaster from Newhouse a blow-up on the biggest stage. As you say Alex, the only thing the turn bet really achieves is to buy the showdown and he then wastes this.

      It is the sort of thing you would think a pretty standard a blow-up in a $100 tourney, where one player compounds one mistake with an even bigger one.
      I’m sure we’ve all been there. But to me, that’s why this hand is so interesting.