Ryan Leng has had an excellent showing in the 2021 World Series of Poker. Leng has seven cashes in the series, including three top-two finishes. He also booked a win in the $1500 Eight Game Mix event, and finished runner up in both the MONSTER STACK (Event #30) and the Poker Players Championship (Event #60). Yet despite Leng’s excellent play throughout the series, the hand that gets the most attention out of the thousands he has played is one that he agrees was “the worst fold in the history of poker.”
Leng folded top pair getting 11-to-1 on his money
The fold in question occurred during a Limit Hold’em hand in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship. With the blinds at 150,000/300,000, Leng raised to 600,000 with A♥5♠. Dan Cates called with K♦Q♣. The flop came A♣J♠7♦, giving Leng top pair and “Jungleman” a Broadway straight draw. Leng surprisingly opted to check with top pair and called Cates’ bet. The 9♥ on the turn prompted a check from both players and the K♣ on the river gave Cates an inferior pair of kings.
Leng bet 600,000 on the river, and Cates moved all in for his last 900,000. After Leng had taken such a weak betting line with his top pair, Cates thought his king-queen was good on the river and went for value. Instead, the raise shockingly worked as a bluff. Leng was getting 11-to-1 on a call, needing only to put 300,000 more into a pot of 3.3 million. What many considered to be a trivial call sent Leng into the tank.
“I’m never good here. What did you make kings and sevens or something?” Leng pondered out loud. “Should I save one bet?” Leng eventually showed his fold face up, prompting Cates to burst into laughter and triumphantly table what should have been the losing hand.
Eventual third-place finisher Paul Volpe and Ryan Leng were both stunned. A call would have eliminated Cates, securing a nice pay jump and heads-up play for those two players. Instead, Cates had new life with a 3.3 million chip stack, and went on to win the Poker Players Championship.
Ryan Leng took to Twitter to explain his mistake
Leng addressed his mistake in detail in a thread of tweets on Twitter. Instead of making excuses or trying to defend the play, Leng admitted that the fold was terrible. “It was atrocious, abysmal, absolutely horrendous, bottom line.” But he still wanted to thank those in the poker community that offered their kindness and support, and to evaluate what lessons could be learned from his poor play.
One lesson was the importance of physical and mental stamina. He pointed to players like Jason Koon, Alex Foxen, and Chance Kornuth as examples of excellent poker players who have great stamina at the table, due in part to the attention they pay to their physical fitness.
“I was absolutely mentally drained by the end of that tournament,” Leng tweeted. “And there is no doubt that physical fitness, or the lack thereof, played a part in that. Playing long hours several days in a row, especially vs elite players in games that I’m not confident in and don’t have years of repetition and a well of knowledge to fall back on, is going to require a lot of endurance.”
Leng also discussed the importance of not being afraid to make mistakes. “DO NOT be afraid to look stupid sometimes! Fear of doing something dumb hinders experimentation and growth. Look dumb, laugh about it, move on.”
Everyone who plays poker makes mistakes. Phil Ivey famously mucked the winning hand in the 2009 WSOP Main Event when he made a flush on the river and folded to no bet when his opponent announced top pair at showdown. Leng owning up to his mistake, trying to learn from it, and then quickly moving on is something all poker players can learn from.
Featured Image Credit: Haley Hintze