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Hand 2 Hand Combat -- Mike McDonald

Mike ‘Timex’ McDonald Shares Strategy for Big Buy-In Events at the Early Levels

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: May 28, 2010


Event: 2010 European Poker Tour San Remo main event
Players in the Event: 1,240
Buy-in: $7,436
First Prize: $1,691,874

Hand No. 1
Players at the Table: 10
Stacks: Mike McDonald – 27,000; Villain – 45,000
Blinds: 100-200

Michael McDonaldMike McDonald raises from the hijack position to 525 with the 10Diamond Suit 9Diamond Suit. Villain calls from the big blind.

Craig Tapscott: It’s early in day one of this main event. Set up your read on the villain at this point.

Mike McDonald: The villain in the big blind seems to be a pretty decent player. (I later found out that he was online professional Darren Elias.) He’s been active, but hasn’t done anything too out of the ordinary. At one point, he had a set and bet 950 into a four-way pot of 1,200 on a 5-3-2 board. He then bet 2,500 into a pot of 3,100 on a 3 turn, holding fives full. So, with this information from past hands, I’d assume that his bets are more likely to be with stronger hands in his value range.

Flop: 10Spade Suit 10Club Suit 7Spade Suit (pot: 1,150)
Villain checks. McDonald bets 625. Villain calls.

Turn: 4Club Suit (pot: 2,400)
Villain checks. McDonald bets 1,600. Villain raises to 4,600.

CT: That card seems to be pretty much a blank. So, what’s up?

MM: Yes. The 4Club Suit is about as much of a blank as possible, which probably means that he thinks I’m two-barreling light less than most cards, and a check-raise here will include plenty of semibluffs. But when he’s doing it with a value hand, my 10-9 is in pretty poor shape. Sure, there are lots of draws out there, but I think doing anything but calling here is tough to argue with.

McDonald calls.

River: QHeart Suit (pot: 11,600)
Villain checks.

MM: The dealer says that he checked. I have about 21,000 behind and am thinking about whether or not he’s check-jamming often, and whether I should value-bet or not. Also, I’m thinking about how much to bet. But then I see a bet of 8,400 out there. Apparently, the dealer was wrong.

Villain bets 8,400.

CT: Did that throw you off?

MM: The river action definitely threw me off a little. The combination of him taking so long to bet, the confusion during the hand, and his river bet-sizing definitely made me believe that he had a solid hand.

CT: So, what now?

MM: Well, I took into consideration that every draw missed, and my range probably looked quite strong at this point. I don’t think he expects me to fold a substantial hand here. So, after he bets quite a large percentage of the pot, I think he’s almost always value-betting. I don’t think he’s defending with 10-6 suited or 10-8 offsuit. So, other 10-9 combos and 10-8 suited hands that he may be holding are about all I’m afraid of when making my case for folding. Folding the river against those hands would be a mistake, since I could be winning or chopping. I’d call with K-10 here and hate my life with J-10, but I was pretty comfortable with this fold.

McDonald folds. Villain wins the pot of 11,600.

MM: When the table broke, he told me that he had the AClub Suit QClub Suit, which I believe, but don’t really understand. I presume that Darren is a player who places a lot of stock in his reads, and assumed that I had 8-8, 9-9, or J-J.

CT: Could he have been betting a missed draw?

MM: He definitely could be betting missed draws. I just assumed that he’d shut down a good chunk of the time, and bet the river faster a lot of the time. I also thought that he’s never trying to make me fold a strong hand, and if he bluffs, he’s likely trying to bluff me off a better marginal hand (for example, he has the 6Spade Suit 5Spade Suit and thinks I have lots of better missed draws). I think that if that was his goal, a 5,000-6,500 bet would be much more likely. The higher the percentage of the pot he bets, the greater the percentage of the time I need to fold for it to be profitable. I also figured in this spot that the bigger he bet, the more likely he was value-betting.

CT: What could you have done differently?

MM: I’m quite happy with how I played this hand, and I don’t really think I could do much different in the future. The table was really passive, so I think it’s a mandatory open. On the flop, I definitely could have sized my bet a little bigger, or I could have bet a touch smaller on the turn. But without being extremely nit-picky, I think I played the hand well.

Hand No. 2
Players at the Table: 10
Stacks: Mike McDonald – 30,000; Villain No. 1 – 25,000; Villain No. 2 – 60,000; Villain No. 3 – 36,500; Villain No. 4 – 32,100; Villain No. 5 – 47,200
Blinds: 200-400
Antes: 50

Villain No. 1 opens for 950 from under the gun. Villain No. 2, next to him, calls. Villain No. 3, in the hijack seat, calls, as does Villain No. 4, from the button.

MM: Villain No. 5, in the small blind, is about 55 years old and is wearing a jacket. He tanks for a while, and I think he’s contemplating a reraise, but then …

Villain No. 5 calls from the small blind.

MM: The pause that he made before calling will come into play, as I use it to make a read on the flop.

McDonald calls from the big blind with the KHeart Suit 6Heart Suit.

MM: I think most people instinctively defend with lots of stuff like this when one or more players have already called. I definitely err on the side of defending less, but think this spot merits a call.

Flop: 8Heart Suit 5Heart Suit 2Spade Suit (pot: 6,200)
Villain No. 1 bets 1,650.

CT: That’s kind of a small bet into that pot. Could he have a monster hand, like a set?

MM: I think that means fairly little. I think he’s unlikely to bet this small with a big hand, and I think it’s tough to read into his range too much.

Villain No. 2 folds. Villain No. 3 calls.

MM: When Villain No. 3 calls, I think he’s relatively weak.

Villain No. 4 folds. Villain No. 5, in the small blind, raises to 6,050.

CT: What does he have?

MM: I think most people would have snap-called preflop from the small blind with 2-2 or 5-5. I also think it’s unlikely that he’d think about squeezing with 8-8. So, in my mind, it’s quite likely that he has an overpair.

CT: Is it profitable for you to shove in this situation?

MM: Well, I was considering my options out of the big blind when the under-the-gun initial bettor folded out of turn.

Villain No. 1 mucks.

MM: I have no idea whether it helps or hurts my case for a shove. On one hand, it’s very unlikely that Villain No. 5 could stand up against a cold three-bet after his flop bet-sizing. But it also may look like I’m shoving lighter after the under-the-gun player (Villain No. 1) had mucked.

CT: Could the villain in the small blind be capable of folding an overpair to your shove?

MM: I thought it was possible that he’d fold 9-9 to Q-Q, but unlikely, and my flush draw wasn’t that strong. With the 9Heart Suit 6Heart Suit, AHeart Suit 6Heart Suit, or KHeart Suit JHeart Suit, I’d have shoved. But in a tournament this soft, and with a fairly uncertain decision, I elected to …

McDonald folds. Villain No. 3 folds. Villain No. 5 wins the pot of 9,500. Spade Suit

Canadian Mike McDonald, 20, started playing poker while studying math at the University of Waterloo. Shortly after turning 18 years old, he won the EPT German Open for $1,300,000, and has cashed for more than $2,800,000 in his professional poker career. He is a member of Team CardRunners and plays at Full Tilt Poker.