Quality over quantity – that's the plan going into 2024 – and that's how it's been, and it's been working really well.
I won the very first event of the year. I've finished the year three times winning the last event:
1. 1999 US Poker Championship, which was a big one for me; $210,000. I still have that cheque somewhere. I don't know where. New house, new setup.
2. I also won the last event at the Bellagio, the WPT Five Diamond in 2004.
3. And then a couple of years ago, the Super High Roller Bowl was the last event.
This is my first time winning the very first event, so I figured we'd do a little mini-series on some of the hands that were played at the final table, my thought process, and maybe you guys learn a few things.
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The First Hand: An "Easy" Fold
I think this first hand that we're going to cover is really quite interesting for a lot of reasons, and we're going to get into the nitty-gritty of it. We're going to combine our understanding of solvers and how people use them.
This led to kind of an easy fold.
Alright, guys, so we are looking at hands from the PGT Last Chance series that started the year off,
We are at this final table. I start with about 32 big blinds.
Obviously, I'm not one of the deep stacks but doing okay. You know, at a final table, anytime you're above 20 BB, you know, you're doing okay.
Daniels Ponders Preflop Play
So this hand comes up with 20,000/40,000 blinds and a 40,000 big blind ante. Oya raises from the cutoff to 90,000.
Let's talk about Oya.
Oya is, I believe, at this point, the chip leader. He is a big-time chip leader with like four million in chips, so he's going to be opening relatively wide. He opens wide anyway, so on a big stack, just, you know, wide on steroids. Now we have a call from Justin in the small blind, and he calls the raise with , and I'm in the big blind with .
Here's where things get interesting.
Now, I mentioned my stack size was about 32 BB, so that's a little bit too much to push, right? You're going to face some traps from the small blind. You know, Oya is going to call a lot.
He's not the type of guy that is probably the ideal candidate for squeezes, generally speaking, based on my past history with him and understanding of how his approach to the game is. I don't think I'm getting him to fold , for example, which is important if you have and you want to squeeze. You want to do so knowing that you can get out, right? I don't think he's folding .
I elect with the to not squeeze here.
You know, is the worst suited you can have. You wonder why better? Because you can make a straight, , but , it's the lowest kicker that you don't have 40% of a straight with.
Alright, so I just decided to call.
Daniel's Feelings About the Flop
, so we have top pair and the nut flush draw. We have it all, right?
Obviously, we're behind any other that's bigger. You know, can still be there from Oya. You're looking at the range for Bonomo, and realistically, you'd think the best he can have, for the most part, is like , suited.
Justin checks, I check, and Oya goes ahead and bets 125,000, so a relatively small bet, about third pot. Now you have Justin calling from the small blind, and it's up to me.
So this is a spot where, you know, you're not folding, right? The question is, do you want to raise now, right?
Get raise, get it in, raise, deny equity against what? There are no real threats out here.
If you're behind, you're behind; you need to hit. So if, you know, if Oya has or something like that, then I just have a flush draw. That's it; that's the only way I can win the pot. So do I want to play for stacks with a hand where if I do play, I'm going to be behind?
The answer is no, right? So there's not a lot of concern about keeping Bonomo's range in from the small blind, and again, you know, we could be behind Oya.
So I think here, frankly, the best play by far is to just call.
Daniel's Thoughts on the Turn
The turn card is, in fact, the . Justin checks.
There's no point in me ever betting here. I mean, you could make some cases for a very small bet because I can have some here, but again, a lot of my folds on the flop when it's bet-call in front of me, right? So I don't even have a lot of that.
My hand is likely going to be here a flush draw, an , maybe a gutshot, backdoor flush, something like that, like suited, one of those types of hands, right?
So I checked and now Oya, who also has an , he smartly checks back, understanding that is not a great card. He can't beat a better and he can't beat any .
Daniel's Range Revelations on the River
Now, the river is the . Bonomo bets 450,000 into 685,000, so a pretty substantial sizing.
Now, yours truly, I look at my cards twice and fold pretty quickly here because when you're assessing the small blind range, there are several things to think about.
How much does he have in his range?
Well, based on a lot of suited , and the innovations and advancements with solvers, one of the their outputs showed people was that a lot of the hands people used to fold are actually defends from the small blind, and those hands, predominantly, are suited Kings: , , , , all these suited . Now you're seeing a lot more players who study defending here.
So with being a very big part of his range here, the question is, what else is in his range that's a bluff?
Okay, well, the bluffs are , , , it's about it, right? Like, is he—he's probably not betting an for this size; unless it's like , and then, or , which, you know, he's trying to get value from weaker , but even then, we don't beat that, right? All we have is just the .
So when you look at the bluffs, like, what bluffs just flatted pre and now are bombing big again? There are some combos, like, a off doesn't necessarily mean it will play unless it's suited, the same with , . You know, in an ICM spot, he may fold those hands. So then, you're left with just the suited ones.
Okay, and then all the suited ones probably do peel on the flop. That's the thing, so all those combos are there. But the one combo that is just screaming, so much more likely, is suited, right?
So yeah, it looks like I didn't think about it very long, because in the moment, I'd already thought about it.
I already thought about his range pre-flop when he calls from the small, then on the flop when he can still call, and now when he bets big on the river.
Okay, so as I said, the bluffs are the suited Broadway combos that missed.
I don't think he's doing a lot of calling with like suited, suited stuff like that, potentially, but again, it's not a ton of combos. And overall, I just felt like the mathematical problem being presented to me was pretty clear-cut based on the size. Now, if he bets smaller, the question is, what do you do there, right?
If he bets one-third pot, now you're getting a much better price. The question is, for one-third pot, will there be an equal number of bluffs? So there's a lot of things you got to think about when you play a poker hand, right?
With a larger sizing, you can factor in a lot more bluffs. But let's say, for example, use an extreme example, let's say somebody bet in that spot the whole pot, full pot versus 10% of the pot. Well, 10% of the pot's going to get called, right? So for 10% of the pot, there's almost no bluffs. Like, you're not going to do that with ; you're just wasting chips, right? So when the bet sizes get lower, you also find fewer bluffs. But, you know, then you have the dilemma of you're also getting a better price, so that's what you'd have to factor in.
In this case, it was quite easy because for the big size, as I said very strongly, it was a suited . I was right. I make the fold with the . Now Masashi, who's last in position, decides to keep Justin honest, if you will. And I was, as he was thinking, I'm like, 'This is going to be a payoff.' And again, part of it is, you know, just read, 30 years of experience, but part of it, as you heard, was a little bit of understanding what game theory has sort of advanced to. And that's one of the big things.
Like, when I, let's say if this was 2004, I'm not going to put them on , , . People didn't call with those hands, you know.
Today, you're seeing a lot more of that. So it made the fold rather elementary.
Our highlights from part 2 of Daniel's How to Win at Poker series will be uploaded soon.