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Final Table Takedown with Mike Leah

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Apr 16, 2014


Mike LeahMike Leah is a member of Team Ivey. He is one of the most accomplished mixed game players on the poker circuit today. The former sales manager was introduced to the game in 2005 and by 2006 he was already crushing live poker tournaments. By 2008, he left the corporate world to become a professional poker player. The last three years, Leah has seen a lot of success at the World Series of Poker. He cashed 16 times at the WSOP from 2011-to-2013 including three final tables in 2013. Leah has two six-figure wins already in 2014, having taken down a $5,000 turbo side event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, bringing his live tournament earnings to a total of $1,990,00 and making his combined tournament earnings more than $4.44 million.

Follow Mike on twitter @GoLeafsGoEh.

Event: 2014 World Poker Tour Fallsview Poker Classic Main Event
Players: 649
Entry: $995
First Prize: $107,084
Finish: 1st

Hand No. 1

Key Concepts: Using information from previous hands; Reading hand ranges; Inducing an aggressive opponent

Craig Tapscott: I understand that this final table was very aggressive. Set this table up for us and your strategy going in.

Mike Leah: It was very aggressive. Jeremy Rose had been one seat to my left the previous day for the last few hours as well, so I knew that every open of mine was going to be flatted or three-bet by him. We had had numerous three, four, five, and six-bet pots. I knew this final table was going to be a tough battle between us. I also knew that the other players would be trying to outlast each other to move up in pay jumps. With that in mind, my initial strategy was to attempt to pick on the middle stacks by three-betting their opens and trying to force Jeremy out of the pot.

CT: That’s crazy, five and six-bet pots. When a table is that aggressive what are some of the ways a player can deal with all the three and four-betting?

ML: With a hyper-aggressive player on your left, it is usually best to tighten up your opening range or be prepared to four-bet light. You can also try to three-bet opponents on your right to force out the player on your left. I would definitely not be happy to get into a flip situation. I would always be trying to get into a spot where I am more likely to have my opponent dominated.

CT: Let’s talk about the first hand.

ML: OK. A couple early hands into the final table I tried to implement my strategy by three-betting one of the middle stack’s opens. He promptly four-bet shoved on me. A couple of orbits later I tried and failed again with a light three-bet, getting four-bet shoved on once more. Things were not going well. I had numerous failed opens, all of the short stacks were doubling up, and Jeremy Rose had chipped up to more than 2 million chips while I had slipped down to about 700,000.

CT: So you are at about 30 big blinds now. How has your strategy changed now that you are not as deep stacked? Or has it? Share some stack strategy at this size as compared to being below 20 big blinds?

ML: Being down to 30 big blinds handcuffs me a bit, as I have a lot less room for preflop moves. With my table image as such, it would have been best for me to tighten up while still looking for good spots to take advantage of, but I still thought that I could pick up a lot of pots because of players trying to ladder up the payouts. It was tough with a hyper-aggressive player on my left. I knew that my stack was ideal for four-bet shoving on his three-bets, so I continued a fairly wide opening range as you can see in this hand.

CT: Back to the hand.

ML: OK. Finally a couple of bustouts came and then one of the biggest hands of the final table happened.

Leah raises to 60,000 from early position holding ADiamond Suit 7Spade Suit. Freitas calls from mid-position.

CT: Do you have any read on Freitas?

ML: I had played with Danny quite a bit the previous day as well as during the final table. At this point I knew that his range here was fairly wide, from middle pairs to even 10-9 suited type hands.  He was also very likely to float the flop whether he hit or missed.  

Flop: KHeart Suit 7Heart Suit 4Diamond Suit (pot: 205,000)

Leah bets 65,000. Freitas calls.

CT: As expected.

ML: Yes. I was pretty sure I had the best hand at this point, although I thought I could’ve been behind to 8-8, 9-9 or K-Q, K-J, K-10 suited type hands.

Turn: 5Diamond Suit (pot: 335,000)

Leah checks.

CT: Why the check?

CT: I checked with the intention of pot controlling, inducing bluffs, possibly check/shoving or check/calling, all depending on the bet sizing and my read. But to my surprise…

Freitas moves all-in.

CT: Wow. What could he possibly have to be shoving in this spot?

ML: Well I tanked for quite awhile trying to figure out his complete range of hands, because if I called and lost I would be crippled. I eventually decided that I was more likely to be ahead mostly due to his bet sizing. He had shoved 450,000 into a 300,000 pot. I eliminated two pairs and sets from his range. I felt I was only behind some kings and possibly a semibluff with 8-8 or 9-9. So I made the call.

Leah calls. Freitas reveals AClub Suit QSpade Suit.

River: 2Spade Suit (pot: 1,285,000)

Leah wins the pot of 1,285,000.

CT: Let’s talk about the over-shove on the turn and some variables. If he had simply bet half of the pot, how would you have perceived his strength? And if he then he fired a half-pot sized bet on the river? Would this have looked like value to you and you would have folded?

ML: I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen when I checked to him; my decision was really going to be read dependent. I knew that based on his floating tendencies he was likely to bet, and I was leaning towards check/shoving on his turn bet depending on the sizing and my read. It is interesting because it could be a value shove or a semibluff shove that possibly could have folded out a hand like 8-8 or 9-9.

CT: Your options were a bit limited because you were not that deep. Correct?

ML: Yes. There wasn’t going to be much room to just check/call, but if he bet small, that would have been an option as well to pot control or bluff-catch. But my hand was quite fragile and there could have been some tough rivers for me to check/call another street. If he bet about one half the pot on the turn, I would have most likely had to make a decision to shove or fold at that point, as the pot would have been quite inflated in comparison to our stacks.

Hand No. 2

Key Concepts: Momentum; Knowing your opponent; Table dynamics

ML: The table was crazy aggressive, which illustrates the dynamic between Jeremy and me. There had been two days of aggressive play between us. There were numerous light raises and reraises. The fact that I was opening 100 percent of my buttons led to the results of this hand.

Leah raises to 60,000 from the button holding 9Diamond Suit 9Spade Suit. Rose raises to 150,000 from the small blind.

CT: What’s going through you head when he reraises you?

ML: Pure joy (laughs). I was opening close to 100 percent of buttons and Jeremy was three-betting quite often. Given our history over the last couple of days of both showing multiple three, four, and five-bet bluffs, I knew there was a great chance of him five- bet bluffing, shoving or even five-bet calling with a hand that I have dominated. I knew I had to give him a chance to put more money in so I four-bet instead of flatting like I might versus. a different player in this situation. If he was three-betting with a smaller pair, there was no chance he would be folding, even a hand like A-9, or A-x suited.

Leah four-bets to 290,000. Rose five-bets to 500,000.

CT: So there is never a chance you are folding here?

ML: No.

CT: Isn’t his range more weighted towards 10-10 through A-A or perhaps 6-6 through 8-8. And of course A-Q and A-K? Would he do this with A-J or an underpair to yours? I am just trying to understand the crazy aggression between the two of you. But he didn’t shove all-in. It has to make you think a bit harder.

ML: I honestly would have preferred him to shove, as I think that would include smaller pairs and A-x combos. But due to the fact that he could be five-bet folding quite a high percentage and inducing with 7-7, 8-8 and flips, there was just way too much money in the middle to consider folding given the strength of my hand.

CT: And is this normal for most tournament play these days?

ML: Not that many tournaments are deep enough at this stage to leave room for four-bet, five-bet, and six-bet bluffing. Plus, of course, you need to have players capable of making moves like that. You see more aggressive play like that in main events where the structure plays deeper and there are more players willing to make moves like that.

Leah goes all in. Rose calls. Rose reveals ADiamond Suit QSpade Suit.

Flop: 7Heart Suit 3Diamond Suit 2Spade Suit

Turn: 4Club Suit

River: 8Diamond Suit

Leah wins the pot of 2,245,000.