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Don't muck a winner! Learning an important poker lesson the hard way
Home / Features / Don’t muck a winner! Learning an important poker lesson the hard way

Earlier this week we were answering the question “Who shows first?” with a discussion of the showdown rule in poker. When action completes on the river, which player shows cards first?

Kudos if you know the answer already. If not, you can check that post and then return here for a hand in which the showdown rule may have actually affected the outcome of the hand.

As it happens, the PokerStars video team recently shared this one on their YouTube channel. They titled it “One of the Biggest Lessons in Poker,” and indeed it does teach us something important.

The Hand

The hand took place at EPT Barcelona back in 2010 (Season 7) and comes from the Main Event final table. It involves the two big stacks at the time, Germany’s Giuseppe Pantaleo and Jesús Cortes Lizano of Spain.

It’s a little over an hour into the final day. From a starting field of 758 entries, just eight players remain.

With the blinds 40,000/80,000, it folds around to Pantaleo who opens to 165,000 with J8.

Cortes calls from the big blind with J10, making the pot 400,000, and the flop comes 2Q6. Both players check.

The turn brings the Q, and this time Cortes decides to try and claim the pot with a 230,000 bet. However Pantaleo calls.

Partnering with James Hartigan for the commentary, William Reynolds surmises Pantaleo’s call to be part of an apparent plan to “float” the turn and try to steal the pot on the river.

With the pot up to 860,000, the river 2 puts two pair on the board. “They both have the same hand, queens and deuces with a jack kicker,” explains Hartigan.

Cortes bets again, this time 330,000, and following through on that plan Pantaleo indeed raises to 790,000.

It’s a tough spot for Cortes. In fact, Reynolds suggests he can’t simply call with his two pair and jack-high, but would have to reraise to continue. However Cortes does just call.

Time for the showdown. Take a look to see what happens:

The Lesson

Going back to the showdown rule, in this case there was betting on the river, which means the last “aggressor” is the one who is supposed to show first. That would be Pantaleo who raised, and that would also be why Cortes waits to see Pantaleo table his hand first.

(Incidentally, if the action had gone check-check on the river, Cortes would be the one to show first.)

But Pantaleo didn’t table his cards. He tossed them face down to the dealer, mucking his hand. Cortes won the whole pot, when it would have been a split pot had Pantaleo shown his hand. In the moment, Pantaleo had to have believed Cortes had something better than his jack kicker to go with the two pair on the board.

The fact that Pantaleo had to show his hand first probably mattered here. If Cortes had shown his hand first, Pantaleo undoubtedly would have also shown his and collected half the pot. But Cortes didn’t have to show first, and therefore benefited from Pantaleo’s decision to muck.

As we were saying before, if you have any doubt at all about whether or not your hand might be a winner, be sure to show those cards!

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