EPT9 Deauville Day 1B: *That* Vanessa Rousso bluff...in her own words

Yesterday's EPT Live coverage rapidly became the Vanessa Rousso show. The Team PokerStars Pro's table was moved beneath the cameras sometime during level four, with Rousso holding slightly more than her starting stack. She then proceeded to play what seemed to be every hand.

Rousso built her stack up to about 80,000, then watched it slip back to around 25,000 - a hazard when you're getting heavily involved. But she built it up again to finish with 81,700, comfortably the right side of average.

For all her yo-yoing, however, most online discussion, both in and out of the commentary booth, centred on one hand in particular that she played against Tim Reilly. It might have been the last hand Rousso played; she was all in on the river and was covered by her opponent. But Reilly folded to Rousso's shove, muttering, "If you show me a bluff I will be very impressed." Rousso flashed a card that had no connection with the board, intimating that she had indeed been shooting the angles.

Earlier today, PokerStars Blog caught up with Rousso to talk about the hand and hear her thinking about what went down. Our good friends at EPT Live located the particular hand among the hours of recordings and chopped it down into a bite-sized nugget. I strongly suggest you watch the hand again on the clip below, and then hear Rousso's rationale for every move she made.

It ends with Victoria Coren, in the commentary booth, admitting, "I don't understand anything at all about anything." But Rousso seemed to know precisely what was going on.

Here's the clip. The hand took place in level five, where blinds were 150-300 (25 ante). Rousso had a stack of 26,400. Reilly had 41,700. Paul Tedeschi, who started the action, had a stack of 14,000.













Here is Rousso's side of things, in her own words:

"Basically what went down was that I'm sitting across from another 'thinking' player (Tim Reilly) and I know he is looking to make moves. I've seen him make some three bets pre-flop that ended up showing down marginal holdings, which indicates that that player is making exploitative three bets not value-based three bets solely. When that player three bets in position, like on the button, it even increases the odds that it's a move rather than an actual hand. And when you take into account that he was three betting a short stack (Paul Tedeschi), who couldn't really afford to call the three bet--he would have to ship or fold--it's a really great spot to three bet. And I know he's thinking that.

"I'm sitting to his left in the big blind and...I showed a five, but I'm not going to say my other card. I had five-something. So I four bet and the short-stack quickly folds. But he calls from the button. (Reilly was actually in the hijack seat, but the point about late-position stands.)

"Once he calls there, and doesn't consider a five-bet, quickly calls like that, it's very clear to me that he has some kind of suited connector type hand. He could have a pocket pair, but it's not a big pair. And I don't put him on ace-king or ace-queen. The board comes great for me to represent top-pair kings with ace-king, or kings or jacks flopping a set. It's king-jack-something (the actual flop was K♠3♥J♥) and so I continuation bet and he min-raises me.

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Vanessa Rousso examines her options, decides bluffing is best

"I felt like his min-raise was very weak because he can't possibly represent the set of jacks or set of kings or the ace-king. So since those hands aren't in his range 99 per cent of the time--I just have to go with my instincts there--that means the raise is for one of two reasons. Either it's a straight bluff, or it's for information to figure out where he is at with a middle-value hand. Both of those situations are something that I can bluff if I properly represent my hand and run a bluff, making sure my bluff is credible. So at that point I considered re-raising, but there are draws also. He could have a queen-ten type hand and be willing to make a really, really aggressive ship on me if I re-raise him right here. So I want to control it and actually make my bluff even more credible by playing it like I would a top set.

"I had planned to raise the turn, but now the turn pairs the jack. So I check and he bets again. When he bets again on the turn, a couple of things happen. First it makes it hard for me to raise because a jack is something he could have raised with on the flop to represent. But I know I still have pocket kings within my range. It's very possible. So I have to ask myself, well, how would I play pocket kings here? I would probably flat and then ship the river. And I want to make a read, too, and see how he looks once I call.

"I felt when I called the turn bet--it was four or five thousand and I still had 12 or 13 behind--I just didn't read him for strength. I felt that he thought he was beat. And my read was right. The ten of spades came on the river, which is really good for me, because I could also have ace-queen and had just made a straight; the flush completed on the river. But I was really banking that he had put me on kings because the aces would never ship here but the kings would. And I really played it like kings full.

"It's a really rare opportunity that you have to run a very specific bluff, where you're really representing one hand. But it's rare that you end up in a four-bet pre-flop spot, relatively deep against another good player. So this is something I don't do very often, but there was logic in the hand.

"He said: 'If you show me a bluff, I'll be very impressed.' (Reilly claimed he had jack-nine when he folded, and even flashed the jack at Rousso.) And I was thinking: 'I don't need to show a bluff here, but to tell you the truth, the way I usually play, I could use getting paid off for value more often.' It ended up turning out that later in the day it would have been better for me not to have shown the bluff. My table really tightened up and there was a lot of exploiting I could do by raising a lot. But I ended up getting away with it, even though I had a loose image."

Rousso tried another big bluff later on, which was picked off by Andrei Stoenescu. Indeed Stoenescu caught Rousso at it three or four times in total, finishing the day with 131,800, which was third overall. But Rousso is still very much alive and said today that she was feeling exceptionally good about her play and looking forward to tomorrow.

One suspects she won't be getting quite so many big bluffs through. But who knows? This time she might have it.

You can find out what Tim Reilly thought about the hand here.

Follow the nitty gritty of the action from EPT9 Deauville on our live coverage page. Or tune in to PokerStars.tv for the latest live streaming.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour