Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


Final Table Takedown: 2016 WSOP November Niner Griffin Benger Takes Down the Irish Poker Open

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: May 24, 2017


Griffin Benger is a former top ranked online poker player from Toronto, Canada. He is a European Poker Tour High Roller, Shark Cage, and Irish Open Champion. He also final tabled the World Series of Poker main event in 2016. Benger has more than $9.3 million in combined online and live career cashes.

Event: 2017 Irish Poker Open
Players: 1,029
Entry: $1,358
First Prize: $212,000
Finish: 1st

Key Concepts: Table dynamics; ICM considerations; Meta-game

Craig Tapscott: How well did you know your opponent in this hand?

Griffin Benger: Michael Conety is a talented amateur and was last year’s second-place finisher in this same event. Michael and I had played a number of interesting heads-up pots at the final two tables, including one where I value bet thin on the river. He raised me, I folded, and he showed a bluff. This hand was fairly early on at the final table.

Conety raises to 400,000 from the cutoff.

GB: I’m in the small blind with ADiamond Suit JHeart Suit and currently I’m second in chips.

CT: So what’s running through your mind against an opponent who could be opening fairly wide?

GB: Against an opponent like Michael and the history that we had so far, ordinarily I would find myself more than happy to three-bet and call off 23 big blinds with A-J offsuit. However, due to the fact that I was by far the strongest player at the table, and that each and every hand was seemingly playing like a bubble in itself with the short stacks trying to ladder, I felt it wasn’t in my best interest to get in A-J here for nearly half my stack; even if I think I’m ahead a fair percentage of the time.

Furthermore, Michael should be aware of the ICM (Independent Chip Model) implications if he busts in this hand, so his four-bet shove range should actually be a lot tighter, which makes my three-bet call even more dangerous.

CT: So your best option is what?

GB: Well I could three-bet fold, which would be turning my hand into a bluff (and possibly folding the best hand). I can’t shove his effective stack, because the chip leader is in the big blind. So I decided calling was my best option.

Benger calls from the small blind holding ADiamond Suit JHeart Suit.

CT: Calling does have its advantages with the big stack in the big blind. And a good player is pretty much going to be able to narrow down your range with this call also.

GB: Yes. By just calling it does prevent a few potential issues going forward. It brings Anthony Wickert in from the big blind a fair percentage of the time, with a chance to squeeze against Michael’s shove or fold option, and freezing my capped range. Speaking of my range, it screams suited Broadway hands and occasionally 7-7 or 8-8, and I’m sure Michael is aware of this.

Flop: JClub Suit 4Spade Suit 3Spade Suit (pot: 1,120,000)

GB: This is obviously a gin flop for my hand.

Benger checks. Conety bets 425,000.

CT: An easy decision to check-raise here, correct?

GB: Yes. This is a clear raise for me, because Michael knows when I check-raise here I’m representing an extremely thin range that includes slow played Q-Q to A-A (unlikely), A-J, and maybe K-J. If I have J-10, J-9, or Q-J suited, I’m probably still check-calling, so my play here is to check-raise small and hope he puts in worse.

Benger raises to 950,000. Conety moves all-in. Benger calls. Conety reveals ASpade Suit 10Heart Suit.

GB: He dejectedly turned over As 10h, for nothing but a backdoor ace-high flush draw.

Turn: QClub Suit

River: 8Club Suit

Benger wins the pot of 7,480,000.

CT: I’m curious. What was the biggest gem of wisdom you walked away with after your deep run in last year’s World Series of Poker main event?

GB: When you play a marathon tournament for so many days like the WSOP main event, I think it’s important to prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and to stay grateful. To get deep in a 7,000-player tournament, you have to run good, and this is the most important tournament to run good in. So if you’re still in there with 2,500, 1,500, or even 700 people, stay grateful. And keep reminding yourself that this is an amazing opportunity that not many poker players get to experience. This can keep you focused and able to weather the inevitable storm that always comes in a tournament.

Key Concepts: Knowing your opponent; not overplaying medium premium hands; making tight folds to realize your edge in better spots

Benger raises from UTG to 450,000 holding ADiamond Suit QClub Suit. Wickert re-raises from UTG+1 to 1,275,000.

CT: What now?

GB: Well all things considered, A-Q offsuit is obviously a premium hand, but an absolute monster given my image at the table.

CT: That’s right. You could see everyone’s hole cards eventually on the live stream. So I assume you had been running the table.

GB: Yes. Everyone had access to a 30-minute delay with hole cards exposed, and by now had seen how wide and liberally I’d been coming into pots. However, Anthony had played very honestly and too tightly against me over the course of the two days I’d played against him. He had made folds like A-10 offsuit and even 9-9 to my opens at the final table (the 9-9 fold in particular had made my guard go up, now that he decided to re-raise my first position open).

CT: You can’t fold this hand. Or can you?

GB: Well I have a few options against Anthony’s 43-big blind stack. I could turn my hand into a bluff and four-bet, which would put huge ICM pressure on Anthony. But this hand is a bit too strong to do that. There’s also a strong argument for folding; he’s never three-bet me light in the two days I’ve played with him. So I know that my A-Q is slightly behind his range. And his three-bet is quite large, I’ll be out of position if I continue, and I really don’t need to fight for this pot. 

CT: So a pretty easy fold then? Taking into consideration your history, dynamic, and read of Wickert.

GB: Yes. But I thought a bit longer. I took the 30-minute delay revealing my hole cards on this hand into further consideration. I felt like it would be extremely counter-productive for the rest of the final table if my opponents found out I would make such a super tight fold to a three-bet, and there’s still a chance Anthony wanted to assert some table captaincy. And he had just won the previous hand and eliminated an opponent. So I decided to defend.

Benger calls.

Flop: AHeart Suit KDiamond Suit 3Diamond Suit (pot: 3,000,000)

Benger checks. Wickert bets 775,000.

CT: Easy call?

GB: This is a clear call. I’m actually relieved that he decided to make such a small continuation bet, because this is a particular board texture that could get expensive. I could easily get coolered on, given the strength of my hand.

Benger calls.

Turn: 6Club Suit (pot: 4,550,000)

Benger checks. Wickert bets 1,425,000.

CT: After he barrels the turn can you continue in the hand?

GB: Well this is extremely problematic. While I’m getting an incredibly good price here, there are a bunch of different factors at play that don’t make it a clear call. If I call, there’s almost 8.5 million in the pot, and Anthony will have just 5 million behind. I don’t think he’s bluffing, and I don’t think he will continue with any hand I’m losing against.

CT: What range are you putting him after the turn bet?

GB: I did consider he could also have A-Q, but less likely since I block it. I expect him to have K-K, A-K, and the occasional A-A. So even though 1.4 million is only one-third of the pot, it represents seven big blinds on a final table where there aren’t a lot of big blinds in play with six players left. And I certainly had to take into consideration that I have a huge edge on the rest of the field. So I decided to…

Benger folds. Wickert wins the pot of 4,550,000.

GB: I decided to make a pretty tight fold, but I thought it was the proper play.

CT: What did you find out that Wickert was holding after the 30-minute delay stream?

GB: That Anthony did in fact have A-Q, a hand he certainly would have checked back on the river. So we would have chopped the 8.5 million pot. But I stand by my fold.

CT: In these types of confrontations with an opponent with a stack that can almost cripple you, what mistakes do you see many inexperienced players make in the heat of the moment?

GB: I think it’s important to really put yourself in your opponent’s shoes in these types of situations. What do I know about my opponent? What is he representing? Why is he betting so small if he’s ever bluffing? That last question may be the most important in this particular hand. If I don’t think he’s ever bluffing, and I’m losing against three of his four hand combinations (and I’m blocking the only one I’m not losing against, and I’m still only chopping), it has to be a fold, even though it hurts. I think that inexperienced players may get caught up in the moment like, “I still have A-Q on an A-K-3-6 board and I’m getting an amazing price; I can’t fold this.” But why not? Is this really the spot you want to be in, battling out of position in a three-bet pot against the other chip leader with six players left? Fold your hand, tip your cap, and find out if he pulled off some heroic bluff in 30 minutes on the replay. ♠