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Final-Table Takedown: Waxman and Baldwin Face Off for a World Series of Poker Gold Bracelet

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Oct 01, 2013

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Matt Waxman has two Full Tilt Online Poker Series titles under his belt, including a main event championship. He is a WPT Paris champion and a WSOP Circuit title holder. You may also check out Waxman at www.BookAPokerPro.com.
Eric Baldwin won his first WSOP gold bracelet in the 2009 event #34, a $1,500 no-limit hold’em tournament. He has more than $4 million in career live tournament winnings. In 2009 he won the Card Player Magazine Player of the Year Award. You can follow him on twitter @basebaldy.
Event 2013 WSOP event no. 7 $1,000 no-limit hold’em
Players 1,837
Entry $1,000
First Prize $305,952
Finish 1st and 2nd

Hand No. 1
Key Concepts:
Eric — Building a pot with a premium draw, the importance of bet sizing early in a hand
Matt — Bluff catching
Baldwin raises to 120,000 from the button holding 6♦ 4♦.
Eric Baldwin: I am about 25 big blinds deep. This stack depth has a bit of a handcuff effect on the big blind. It is a much less attractive option for Matt to three-bet shove light than if I had 15-to-20 big blinds. Matt wasn’t giving up his big blind easily, so I figured he would call a large amount of the time. By raising instead of limping, I give myself the opportunity to represent a lot of hands when I whiff, and have a deceptively made hand when I hit.
Waxman calls holding 7♥ 6♥.
Flop: K♦ 7♦ 3♣ (pot: 260,000)
Matt Waxman: I defended and flopped middle pair. This is often the best hand playing heads-up.
Waxman checks.
EB: This is a must bet situation. If I bet and Matt folds, then fine. I take down a decent pot with six-high. If I bet and Matt raises, I can happily three-bet shove the flop with fold equity and likely a lot of real equity if called. If I bet and Matt calls, I still have the option of bluffing if I miss and value betting if I hit. For the times I hit, it’s important to continue building the pot so I can possibly get a full double up. So I chose to bet 90,000 to stay consistent with my bet sizing during the match for this type of flop.
Baldwin bets 90,000. Waxman calls.
MW: I’m just hoping to catch some of Eric’s bluffs which he will be continuation betting (c-betting) frequently.
CT: Eric, when Matt calls, what are you thinking in regards to hand range?
EB: I think his range consists mostly of A-x, weak kings, sevens, threes, and out-of-position floats looking for a cheap river bluff if I check back the turn. Pocket pairs and premium aces I would have expected him to three-bet preflop.
Turn: 5♥ (pot: 440,000)
Waxman checks.
CT: Matt, do you like this turn?
MW: Well it gave me a gutshot, was under a seven, and did not make the flush possible. I’m very happy with this turn, and I’m almost certainly going to check/call another bet, feeling very good about my hand on a lot of rivers. 
EB: I make the nut straight. If Matt is on an out-of-position float, all we are likely to get is one small stab from him. So this is a no-brainer spot to go for max value against his bluff catchers.
Baldwin fires out 220,000.
EB: In hindsight, I think my bet was too small. It sets up a pot of about 880,000 with 1,100,000 behind on the river. A bet of 300,000 would have set up a pot of 1,040,000 with 1,020,000 behind. This goes to show how seemingly trivial decisions earlier in a hand can have large implications on river play. In a bluff catching scenario like this, a bet of 300,000 is almost just as likely to be called as a bet of 220,000. I made a mistake here, and it may have cost me dearly. I blame the excitement of turning the nuts and a minor fatigue factor.
Waxman calls.
River: 8♠ (pot: 880,000)
Waxman checks.
MW: The offsuit eight is not bad. Sure Eric can have plenty of eights in his hand that he was bluffing with, but I’m sure he’s not going to be value betting them after I check, unless it made him two pair, but all those hands except for K-8 he would have been likely to check at least on the flop or turn. He knows if I call a river bet, I’d have a K-plus a lot of the time. But he decided to…
Baldwin moves all-in.
CT: Eric, why move all-in?
EB: I think Matt’s range is mostly one-pair hands, which in this case are pure bluff catchers. It’s time to make a value bet, one that looks as bluffy as possible. One option would be to bet something like 360,000 (about one-third of my stack). This might appear to Matt as one last desperate stab with air. I think moving all-in is a much better play, and for some unique situational reasons. First off, even if the smaller bet would get called 100 percent of the time, it would still be better to shove my whole stack if I get called over one-third of the time. I think a shove could also be interpreted as a desperate play. I had bet small twice and not gotten rid of him, so maybe, in order to get him to fold, I needed to change it up and make an overbet. A very unique factor here was that all Matt had to do was say the word “call”, and if he was right, the bracelet was his. After such a grueling three days of poker and an already long heads-up match, I figured if Matt had any significant suspicion that I was bluffing, he would take the shot at the title. He had no guarantee of having another chance like this, so I give him a ton of credit for having played the hand the way he did.
CT: Matt, can you call?
MW: Well, I went into probably my longest tank of the tournament. If I called and lost I think we would have been around even. I only had third pair, but was having trouble figuring out what type of hand Eric could have, and the idea of catching him in a bluff and the tournament just being over was very appealing. Although I wasn’t sure, I concluded that Eric could even be shoving K-J possibly for value and it was just unlikely he’d play this hard so long and decide to bluff off his tournament in a spot where it looks likely that I’m bluff catching with kings. So…
Waxman folds. Baldwin wins the pot of 880,000.

Hand No. 2
Key Concepts:
Matt — Deducing your opponent’s range; Being on the right side of coolers
Eric — Checking back to avoid ugly situations; Using blockers to aid in range analysis; Choosing a deceptive raise size.
Baldwin limps in holding 5♠ 4♣.
CT: Why the limp?
EB: Matt has a good stack size to three-bet shove with, so I limp to maximize my chances of seeing a flop with position and a connected hand. I believe sometime during the marathon I had limped and shown down a premium hand, so I didn’t think Matt would pick on my limp too often.
Waxman checks his option holding 9♠ 5♦.
MW: I noticed Eric had begun limping more buttons. This is a good adjustment considering that his opens were vulnerable to a three-bet shove now that stacks were so shallow. It would also allow him to continue to play pots in position. I remember earlier in the match he limped a big ace and caught me shoving in some garbage.
Flop: 9♥ 7♦ 4♥ (pot: 360,000)
Waxman checks.
MW: I think I was short enough and the board texture was drawy enough where I would be pretty comfortable getting all the chips in with top pair. So I went for a check-raise. At this point I have him on a hand that has some equity, not a complete bluff, but it also isn’t strong enough where he wants to get stacks in.
Baldwin checks.
CT: Eric, why not bet your bottom pair after he showed some weakness?
EB: Matt has a good stack size for check-shoving, and this flop lends itself to that option for a lot of hands. With bottom pair here, the last thing I want to do is put myself in that spot. His range would be mostly hands that beat me and semibluffs. The problem with having just bottom pair with a five kicker here is that his semibluffs are sure to have overcards that are also outs, so I’m rarely in good shape. I check mainly because betting sucks.
CT: Matt, what is your read?
MW: I’m fairly confident my nines are best and he doesn’t have a flush draw or 8-6 or 10-8. I assume he would have bet both of those in position and gladly get stacks in. 
Turn: 5♥ (pot: 360,000)
Waxman bets 230,000.
MW: I bet, because if I check-raise, he may fold hands I can get two streets from for value. I’m sure there are a lot of hands he’ll check back with plenty of equity from straight and flush possibilities. I was expecting him to call and was already determining my bet sizing on different types of river cards. To my surprise, Eric…
Baldwin moves all-in.
CT: Why the shove?
EB: I don’t expect Matt’s bet to be a pure bluff very often here, as he shouldn’t expect me to fold very often on such a coordinated board. I’m not worried about sets (pairs would have raised preflop) and I have blockers to higher two-pair combinations.
CT: His range?
EB: Matt’s range consists mostly of flushes, straights, top pair, second pair, pair plus draws, and draws. I chose to raise all-in for a couple of reasons. If I’m beat, I’m likely to pay off a big bet on the river. Since our stacks are so shallow, it’s not a much bigger mistake to get all the chips in than to pay off a big river bet. If I’m ahead, there are a ton of river cards I might not like. I chose the overbet-shove instead of a standard raise for a bit of deception. I was trying to look like I had a big draw, which would encourage Matt to call with made hands that I beat and fold decent draws that have a ton of equity against me.
Waxman calls.
River: 9♦ (pot: 4,200,000)
Waxman wins the pot of 4,200,000 and eventually goes on to win the tournament. ♠