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WSOP 2013, Event 17, Part One

by Matt Matros |  Published: Sep 04, 2013

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Matt MatrosI started out this summer’s World Series of Poker, in atypical fashion, by going 0-for-my-first-eight events. Such a streak is, of course, completely normal — in fact, eight events barely even constitutes a dry spell. But historically, the WSOP has been my luckiest stretch of every year, and part of me always expects it to continue. Since I started playing WSOP events in 2004, I had never gone more than eight in a row without a cash. Still, I wouldn’t say I was feeling pressure entering event 17 — a $1,500 no-limit hold’em special — but I was eager to make my first deep run of the summer.

I knew things would be interesting when the player to my immediate left flatted my opening raise during his very first hand at the table. I had two jacks for an overpair, bet them on every street, and ended up folding to a raise on the river. This fold seemed questionable in hindsight, after the same opponent proceeded to flat my raise every time I played. During the hands I folded, he took it upon himself to enter the pot almost every time. Clearly, this guy was a maniac. Fortunately for me I caught an insanely good run of cards, and to the other players at the table I probably looked just as crazy as the other guy. In the midst of this good run, I opened with two queens, the maniac three-bet, and I four-bet intending (of course) to get it all-in. He folded. A few hands later I opened with K-Q suited, and he three-bet again. The flop came down K-7-2, and my buddy fired a continuation bet after I checked. Normally I might call in this spot, rather than expect to get action from a worse hand, but this time I check-raised, intending (of course) to get it all-in. Sure enough, my opponent pushed all his chips to the middle, and I beat him into the pot. His J-7 offsuit failed to get there, and I doubled up.

I rode this chip stack for a while, until I called with K-Q offsuit in late position behind a raiser and a flatter. The big blind, in an ideal squeeze spot, three-bet to about 20 percent of his chips. The original raiser and flatter both folded, and I decided there was enough chance the big blind would fold, and enough showdown equity if I got called, that I had a profitable play to move all-in. Unfortunately, the big blind had the goods — A-Q offsuit — and he even made a flush on the river. Fortunately, that river card also made me a full house, and the big blind was eliminated. Every time I’ve done well in a massive field, I’ve had one major suckout or cooler along the way. I feel no shame in this.

A while later, I check/called an aggressive button player on all three streets with just a small pair, even when the flush came in on the river. I knew my opponent would open his button with a lot of hands, and then when he bet big on the turn I thought his range had to be pretty polarized (meaning strong hands or bluffs, but not, say, a flush draw). Then, when he bet the river, seemingly unscared of the flush, I reasoned that there were far more bluff hands than value hands left to him. Who knows if my logic was correct, but this time he was bluffing, and I won a big pot.

Shortly thereafter, a player moved to my immediate right with a mountain of chips. It folded to him in the small blind, and he started making a speech. I took out my ear bud and told him I hadn’t heard anything he said. So he repeated, “I promised myself I wouldn’t play a hand against you out of position.” And then he raised. After his strange comment, I figured my opponent had a reasonably strong hand, but still I happily called in position with the 8Diamond Suit 7Diamond Suit.

The flop came down 9-2-2 with one diamond. My opponent checked, I made a small bet, and he called. After telling me he didn’t want to get involved out of position, I felt mortally certain he didn’t have a deuce in his hand, and almost as certain that he wouldn’t have played an overpair this way. Either he was slowplaying nines-full, or he had some kind of ace-high hand that he didn’t want to let go of just yet. The turn brought the KDiamond Suit, giving me a flush draw. My opponent checked and I bet again, expecting to win. But my opponent surprised me by check-raising. Either this was a bluff or, more likely, my opponent had hit the king. I wasn’t sure if he would fold it if I moved in right then and there. I also thought there was the potential to win an extra bet on the river, and also to gain some more information before I committed my whole stack. I called.

The river brought an offsuit six, and my opponent bet 7,000 into what was now a 12,000 chip pot (quite big, for the 150-300 level). I moved all-in for 17,500 total. As the small blind deliberated, I sat there feeling quite angry at myself for trying such a hopeless play. I had basically put my opponent on A-K on a 9-2-2-K-6 board, and decided that because he told me he didn’t want to get involved out of position against me, that he probably wouldn’t call a raise on the river with just top pair. It seemed wishful thinking, especially since I was facing the only player at the table who had me covered.

He could afford to call, and I felt sure that eventually he would. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his chips move forward, and I backed my chair up a few inches as I prepared to leave the tournament area. But no — it wasn’t his chips. It was his cards! My opponent had folded, and by some miracle my bluff had worked. Even I thought my play was crazy, but I rationalized it by telling myself that if the small blind hadn’t said anything at the start of the hand, I never would’ve tried anything so risky against him.
I ended Day One with 96,000 chips — more than twice average. Come back next time to learn of the trials and travails of Day 2! ♠

Matt Matros is the author of The Making of a Poker Player, and a three-time WSOP bracelet winner. He is also a featured coach for cardrunners.com.