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Final-Table Takedown -- Matt Graham

Matt Graham Plays Smart and Patient Pot-Limit Omaha to Capture Second World Series Bracelet

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Sep 04, 2009


For years while growing up, Matt Graham excelled as a hockey player, but while playing at the collegiate level, he injured his shoulder and had to hang up his skates. Being a natural competitor, Matt ended up finding the game of poker, and now he cross-checks his opponents at the tables. In the early days, he turned a $50 deposit into more than $1.5 million online, and at the 2008 World Series of Poker, he won his first bracelet in the $1,500 limit hold’em shootout event. In his free time, Matt enjoys firing up Guitar Hero, and contends that he is one of the best at the game.

Event2009WSOP No.40

Key Concepts: Pot odds; table-talk reads; hand ranges.

Vengrin limps in from under the gun for 16,000. Graham raises to 56,000 from the big blind with the AClub Suit ASpade Suit 2Club Suit 2Heart Suit.

Matt Graham: With the stacks somewhat shallow, I go ahead and pot in a raise to nearly commit myself to the pot.
Hand No.1
Vengrin calls.

Craig Tapscott: Do you expect Vengrin to reraise you here with these stack sizes?

MG: I believe that Matt has a strong hand here, since he limps from under the gun with close to 25 big blinds.

CT: Share with us how the stack sizes can determine what is the most +EV [positive expected value] play in PLO [pot-limit Omaha] preflop?

MG: Playing preflop with medium to short stacks in PLO is all about avoiding spots in which you advertise your hand in a way that allows your opponent to exploit you. In this hand, we were short enough that going ahead and potting with my hand was OK, even though my hand was sort of faceup. With deeper stacks, you really don’t want to build big pots when out of position while advertising your hand.

CT: Can you give us an example?

MG: Well, an example of this was at the final table on the hand that Barry Greenstein and I got in preflop, both holding aces. There were a few limps, and I had aces in the small blind. I chose to complete the small blind rather than raise, since those limpers were going to be able to crush me in position, given the deeper stacks. Barry potted his aces from the big blind, which I felt was a mistake. It worked out, though, since one limper called and I was able to repot out of the small blind for a substantial portion of my chips, and Barry was able to isolate the pot heads up. We split the limpers’ chips, so I was fine with the result.

Matt Graham

CT: So, if he reraised you here, it would be pretty standard?

MG: I would not have been overly surprised if he had limped and reraised here. I would have been happy to get our stacks in the middle preflop with my hand. I have enough chips that I may have to check-fold some flops if they’re too coordinated, since those flops are just way too likely to have hit my opponent. It’s not a great spot. I will be out of position, and Vengrin will know that I have a huge hand 100 percent of the time.

Flop: 8Spade Suit 6Heart Suit 3Diamond Suit (pot: 120,000)
Graham bets 75,000.

MG: This is a pretty dry board that will have missed my opponent’s range a large percentage of the time. So, I go ahead and bet, expecting Matt to fold his hand at a pretty good frequency. It’s standard until Vengrin instantly announces …

Vengrin bets pot — 345,000.

MG: This has gone from an awkward situation to a terrible situation quickly. I ask the dealer to pull in the pot, and I see that Matt has about 24,000 behind his pot-sized bet.

CT: And you said that you knew with your raise preflop that he would probably have you on a big hand, and then he makes this move. What do you think your equity is in the hand?

MG: Had his bet been exactly pot, I would have been offered exactly 2-1 to effective call his all in. Since he had extra money behind, I was being offered less than 2-1, so I needed better than 33 percent equity. I was bigger than a 2-1 dog versus a wrap, and a very big dog versus two pair, since that two pair will likely include a gutshot at the very least, but likely an open-end straight draw.

CT: So, is it time to preserve your stack and fold?
MG: I did begin to seriously consider folding. My inexperience at PLO was really showing here. I just didn’t know what to do.

CT: Did you have any read at all on Vengrin?

MG: Well, it was about then that Matt began to try to talk me into folding.
He tells me to fold and save my chips. I start to think he may have a little bit weaker hand now. With the money in the pot and my inexperience in PLO, I decide to put my money in.

Graham moves all in and covers Vengrin. Vengrin calls off his last 24,000 and flips over the KHeart Suit JDiamond Suit 10Spade Suit 9Heart Suit.

MG: I was very happy to see that my read of the table talk was accurate.

Turn: 10Heart Suit (pot: 858,000)
River: 2Spade Suit (pot: 858,000)
Graham wins the pot of 858,000.

Hand No.2

Key Concept: Pot control.
Lunkin raises to 240,000 from the button. Graham calls from the big blind with the 10Spade Suit 10Diamond Suit 6Spade Suit 5Diamond Suit.

MG: I have a decent pair, two flush draws, and the connectors. My hand is very playable heads up, even out of position.

Flop: 10Club Suit 9Club Suit 3Club Suit (pot: 480,000)

CT: I assume that the correct strategy is to proceed with caution.

MG: Right. Top set is a great hand, but in this situation, its relative strength to the board is not that great. I don’t want to get this pot too big yet.

Graham checks. Lunkin bets 200,000. Graham calls.
Turn: JHeart Suit (pot: 880,000)

CT: Not your dream turn card.

MG: No. If I was ahead on the flop, my chances of being ahead on the turn just got lower. I check again, hoping that Vitaly checks behind.

Graham checks. Lunkin bets 400,000.

CT: That bet seems to be begging for a call.

MG: This is a very small bet, especially for Omaha. I’m pretty sure I’m beat at this point, but I call simply to draw to the full house.
Graham calls.

CT: So, what’s your take on Lunkin’s consistent pressure on you even after your smooth-calls?

MG: My read is that Vitaly has a huge hand and may get stubborn even if the board pairs. I intend on checking the river if the board pairs. This allows him to continue bluffing if he happens to be bluffing. Also, if he has the nut flush, I believe that he may go ahead and value-bet it on the river, even if the board pairs. I would obviously check-raise, and he likely would have to fold, but people always like to make hero calls, especially heads up.

River: ASpade Suit (pot: 1,680,000)
Graham checks. Lunkin bets 1,000,000. Graham folds.

MG: I fold fairly quickly. I just could not see him bluffing in this spot, given that I have called two bets already. Spade Suit