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Final Table Takedown: 2017 World Series of Poker Final Tableist Jack Sinclair Captures a 2018 Aussie Millions Event

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Mar 14, 2018

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Jack Sinclair currently sits 50th in all-time career poker earnings for Great Britain. Before Sinclair started playing poker he was a musician playing drums. Most recently he finished in eighth place in the 2017 World Series of Poker main event, cashing for $1.2 million. Before the WSOP event he was mainly an online player, but now travels the live tournament circuit. Sinclair has more than $1.9 million in tournament career earnings.

Event: 2018 Aussie Millions $2,500 AUD no-limit hold’em
Players: 229 • Entry: $1,970 • First Prize: $99,730 • Finish: 1st

Key Concepts: ICM; Limping strategy

Craig Tapscott: Set this hand up for us a little bit.

Jack Sinclair: This is the first hand that comes to mind when I think of this final table. Partly due to its significance, and partly due to the fact that it involved busting Shane Warne.

CT: Please explain.

JS: Well the way I played this hand was entirely based on the particular Independent Chip Model (ICM) situation I found myself in. That is, there were four players remaining, I had around 35-40 big blinds (BBs), and the two players to my left (Simon Burns and Shane Warne) had about 15-22 BBs each. Gianluca Speranza on my right was the overwhelming chip leader with almost 100 BBs.

CT: In this hand you had positon on the chip leader?

JS: Yes. It was very fortunate that Gianluca was on my immediate right, as I was always acting after him. That is except when he was in the big blind and I was in the cutoff (UTG four-handed). It was in this scenario that this hand took place. 

CT: Set us up.

JS: I am in the cutoff and was dealt pocket tens. This is really the only interesting decision point in the hand – Should I raise or limp in?

The problem with raising in this spot is that the two short stacks are heavily incentivized to fold, and once they do, the big stack is heavily incentivized to three-bet at a high frequency. The short stacks want to fold because they benefit from me playing pots with the big stack, where I might bust and allow them to move up the pay ladder.

CT: What’s going through your mind of how best to play the tens?

JS: If they fold and the big blind three-bets, then I am in a very ugly situation. For a 35-40 BB stack this is normally a very easy shove, however busting in fourth place with two short stacks at the table is an ICM disaster. It’s also possible that Gianluca simply shoves over my raise, which puts tens in a very tricky spot, as versus some shoving ranges tens are losing money by calling, and versus others they are printing money. This is a small consideration though, as very few players will shove on you in this spot these days. So, raising is still a fine option of course, and if the big blind three-bets it’s a shrug-get-it-in spot, but I think there is a better option.

CT: I’m all ears. And very curious.

JS: Well my strategy in this spot is to play a pure limping strategy, and I don’t raise any hands. By limping I keep the pot small and avoid this situation happening in the first place. If the big stack raises I can call and play post-flop in position with a decent amount of stack behind, which is a good situation to be in. This disincentives the big stack from raising versus my limp, as he has less leverage versus my stack, and there is also less money in the pot to be won.

CT: And this is an advantage against the short stacks too I assume. They might make a move with a wider range.

JS: Yes. Limping also has an effect on how the short stacks play. Players generally perceive limps to be a wide range with weaker holdings. As a result, they are more likely to shove over a limp because of the perceived higher fold equity. Also, if I raise they know I will be playing a bigger pot versus the big stack, so I am slightly more likely to bust after they fold. There is also a psychological effect at play, people seem to think you are getting away with something when you limp and see a cheap flop, so they feel like they must ‘punish’ you for the cheeky limp.

CT: Limping seems the way to go then.

JS: Yes. And widening the short stacks’ ranges is good on two counts. 1: I get my good hands in versus a weaker range. 2: Even when I have a hand I’m folding the short stacks are all-in more often and can bust versus each other or against the big stack.
CT: So, you limped.

JS: And one of the short stacks jammed.

Sinclair limps in holding 10Diamond Suit 10Spade Suit. Warne moves all-in from the small blind. Sinclair calls. Warne reveals KDiamond Suit QClub Suit.

Flop: 7Club Suit 5Spade Suit 2Spade Suit (pot: 612,000)

Turn: 8Heart Suit

River: 2Diamond Suit

Sinclair wins the pot of 612,000.

JS: My hand holds to eliminate him, and I am three-handed with a decent stack. I don’t know if Shane would have shoved K-Q offsuit if I had raised. This was the third time I had limped in and the previous two times Gianluca had not raised, so I think it may have appeared that I was trying to get another cheap flop.

CT: That is such a great hand to illustrate some ICM considerations and playing versus short stacks. Thanks. What has life been like after your final table in the WSOP main event?

JS: To say it changed everything would be an understatement. I’ve gone from playing exclusively online to traveling the world playing live tournaments. Prior to the WSOP I had only played one major live event, I was just your typical online mid-stakes grinder. Well, except for the fact I live with Phil Gruissem, so I guess not that typical. I think it’s fairer to say that moving in with Phil is what changed everything for my poker career, the WSOP just put the whole thing in fast-forward. Phil coached me up through the ranks online and prepared me for the live grind, I really can’t give him enough credit.

JS: This hand took place three-handed, by this point I am the chip leader, but not by a huge margin. Gianluca is second in chips.

Sinclair raises to 45,000 on the button holding ASpade Suit 6Spade Suit. Speranza calls from the big blind.

Flop: ADiamond Suit 9Spade Suit 8Heart Suit (pot: 109,000)

Speranza checks.

CT: Good flop.

JS: This is a flop I will be continuation betting close to 100 percent, so I will be betting pretty much all of my top pairs. Gianluca will be calling this flop slightly tighter than usual given the ICM situation, but not by much since he is still likely to get to showdown a lot. I expect him to also trap this flop a little more often since I should be barreling at a high frequency, and also to not raise as a bluff as often since putting his chip stack in on a bluff is very costly when it doesn’t work. And he has a fairly undefined range here, a lot of pairs, draws and some sets, and two pair. 

Sinclair bets 30,000. Speranza calls.

Turn: AClub Suit (pot: 169,000)

Speranza checks.

JS: This is obviously a great card for me. Gianluca checks, and I decide to bet slightly more than the size of the pot. The reason for over betting this card is that it doesn’t interact very well with Gianluca’s range for calling the flop. No draws get there and it’s impossible for him to have two pair now. It becomes very hard for him to defend versus an overbet with enough of his range. Obviously, when we have trips this isn’t an issue. We want action. But the other good thing about this card is that we can comfortably go big for value with any ace since so few hands now beat us. 
Sinclair bets 175,000. Speranza calls.

CT: What’s your feeling about Speranza’s hand?

JS: Well he thought for a little while before calling the turn, and I got the sense he wasn’t particularly happy with his hand. 

River: 6Club Suit (pot: 519,000)

Speranza checks.

CT: What’s the best way to play your hand to get the most value? And how do you determine the best bet sizing?

JS: Well the pot is now about 500,000 and Gianluca has around 900,000 behind. At this point I think for a long time about what size to make it. I eventually decide on 350,000, which I think was a mistake.

Sinclair bets 350,000.

CT: Why was that a mistake?

JS: The problem with this size is it’s big enough that he won’t be tempted to make a very loose call with a nine or something, but when he has a worse full house or trips he’s going to call a much bigger bet. I should have either bet so small that he feels compelled to raise worse boats whilst also getting a good price with one pair, or I should bet very large to extract maximum value from his strongest hands. I ended up betting somewhere in the middle, which kind of gets the worst of both worlds. I think at the time I felt my image was very aggressive. I wanted to make the bet look bluffy by betting big. But I was also trusting my instinct that he had a marginal holding and didn’t want to make it too big for him to call. If my read on the situation was 100 percent spot on then my sizing was good, however he tanked for over five minutes and eventually folded.

Speranza folds. Sinclair wins the pot of 519,000.

JS: He either made a very good laydown with a strong hand or was considering making a very light call. I hope it was the latter. ♠