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Capture the Flag: Matt Glantz

Capture the Flag: Matt Glantz

by Brian Pempus |  Published: Aug 10, 2011


Matt GlantzPoker pro Matt Glantz has been one of the most consistent players in the world over his poker career. The 39-year-old cash-game regular competes in some of the largest mixed games in the world, usually at the Borgata in his home area of Atlantic City or at Aria in Las Vegas.

Glantz has nearly $4 million in career tournament earnings, including two final-table finishes in the $50,000 Players Championship mixed-game event at the World Series of Poker. He made his first final table in the event back in 2009, and at this summer’s Series, Glantz finished fifth for $376,000.

He clearly falls on the best-without-a-bracelet list and unfortunately will have to wait until the World Series of Poker Europe before getting another chance at a piece of poker history.

Glantz had a brutal table draw on day 1 of the main event — a stacked group of nine that included Card Player’s own Barry Shulman, North American Poker Tour Mohegan
back-to-back champion Vanessa Selbst, former Seinfeld star Jason Alexander, and a couple of experienced Internet pros. Despite the experience level of those around him, he survived the day with 18,000.

Glantz took to Twitter to vent his astonishment at the luck of the draw in a field of thousands: “This random table is tougher than most of my tables in the five days of the $50K,” Glantz wrote. “Main Event Day 1A: I recognize every single player at my table. Is this even possible?”

Card Player caught up with Glantz during a break in action at the 2011 main event to discuss the Players Championship — including a hand in which Phil Hellmuth folded two pair on the flop against Glantz’ flush and straight draw — the big mixed games he frequents, as well as the importance of favorable table draws in tournament poker.

Brian Pempus: So, first off, how has your WSOP gone so far?

Matt Glantz: Before the $50,000 event, I was in danger of a break-even summer, so I was kind of bummed. This is a big percentage of the poker-playing year for me. The games are much bigger here than they are back home in Atlantic City. So, I was at risk for having a wash for the summer and only had the $50,000 event and the main event to go. Luckily, I did well in the Players Championship and had a nice cash. I’m having a good summer now. I’m out here for five weeks, away from my family, and the last thing I want to do is break even or lose for the summer.

BP: What is your opinion of the Players Championship switching to exclusively no-limit hold’em for the final table? Some of your peers were tweeting that they thought you would have won if there hadn’t been a switch.

MG: I definitely would have been the favorite if it had stayed with the same mixed-game format, but it’s a tournament, and anyone could have won. There were a lot of great players at the final table. The $50,000 event is the easiest tournament of the year for me. I think it’s the softest, from my perspective, which sounds odd because it’s all the best players in the world. However, most of the players don’t play all of the games, so almost everyone has weaknesses. I don’t feel like I am the best player in any one discipline in poker, but I’m probably one of the best in all of the games combined. I don’t really have any weaknesses. I am certainly not a favorite against the 10 best in the world at a given game, but if you put them all in a mixed format, there aren’t many out there who have a bigger advantage.

With the mixed games at the final table, the limits would have been high, and it still would have been random to see who would have taken the title. There is very high variance in the late stages of a mixed-game tournament. I actually like it being no-limit hold’em at the final table, because when you get to a final table with a mixed game, the structure is very fast. You are forced to play certain hands certain ways. However, with no-limit hold’em, you pretty much always have a choice, unless you are getting cold-decked. In limit, there are some standard spots in which you don’t have much discretion. Plus, no-limit hold’em is better for TV.

BP: What do you think of Hellmuth’s fold of top and bottom pair against your J♥ 10♥ at the final table of the Players Championship?

MG: I think it was an excellent fold versus my range. Most people wouldn’t understand why it was a good fold (in the hand, the flop came A♥ Q♦ 7♥). When he folded top and bottom pair, originally I thought it was crazy, but when I thought about it after the tournament, I changed my mind. Whenever a great player makes a play that I don’t understand right away, I always break it down and think about it. I don’t chalk it up to it being a terrible play, I think about the hand, and put it on paper, and really study it. When I thought about it after an hour, I realized it was an excellent fold. When Minh Ly opened up small five-handed, my calling range in the UTG+1 position was very limited.

So, when the flop fell A-Q-7 with two hearts, and I shoved after Phil bet and Minh called, it narrowed down my range to very specific hands. I never am shoving there for 2 million with a random bluff. I either have A-Q, two sevens, two aces, or a combo draw. Against those ranges and the most-likely combo draw, Phil is only a 60-40 favorite with his A-7. He doesn’t have to worry about Minh behind him, because he never would have flatted with a big hand on the flop. Phil only is worried about my hand. Against my range of hands, it was a great fold. I don’t know if most players would make that play.

BP: Let’s talk about table draws. How important is it to get a good draw on day 1 of a tournament?

MG: My day-1 table draw in the main event wasn’t a dream table. Usually, coming into the main event, I am used to not knowing anyone at my table. Here on day 2, I know absolutely no one. I had a lot of really tough starting tables this summer, and that is really the luck that is involved in tournament poker. People always debate about the luck factor in tournaments, and in my opinion the biggest one is your table draw. The cards are secondary.

BP: Did anything interesting happen in the cash games for you this summer?

MG: I have learned two new games this summer: baducey and badacey. They are great games, and I am hoping to get them spread on the East Coast. I think there are a lot of edges in those games, and they are definitely a lot of fun. In Vegas, people are inventing new games all of the time, and it’s a good challenge for me when I’m out here.

BP: Can you talk about what seems like a shift to mixed games among the high-stakes community?

MG: Most people started playing no-limit games from the beginning. I would say 90 percent of players got their start in no-limit, and eventually the games just dry up. People go broke faster in no-limit than they do in limit games. The losing players lose more slowly in limit games, so it logically has to be mixed games for the future. The growth of live poker is in the mixed games, and it’s pretty consistent because all of the young no-limit kids are trying to learn the new disciplines. With that being said, it’s always hard to grow a game’s popularity in the long run, because it’s survival of the fittest, and the weak players eventually will move on. However, with Internet poker going down, there has been an influx of younger players in the mixed games. It’s been nice, but it’s probably a short-term fix.

BP: Can you talk about some of the problems that arise when people jump into a cash game after busting out of a tournament?

MG: I know when I bust out of a tournament and go immediately into a cash game, there is about a 90-percent chance I am going to lose. I don’t know why, and it’s not as if I feel like I am steaming. I always wonder why I played. This pattern seems fairly consistent. It’s probably something that isn’t smart to do, but everyone does it out here because they want to stay in the action during the summer. I am working an average of 12-15 hours a day, sometimes more, so I don’t get any breaks. The only break I get during my day is going out to dinner. I don’t go out to clubs, and I don’t go out drinking or partying. It’s tournaments or cash games, and sleep, and that’s it. It’s just work. I do spend a lot of time discussing hands with smart people, though. It’s good to have a lot of friends in poker.