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A Big Bluff Against A Familiar Face For A Poker Masters Title

by Ryan Laplante |  Published: Jan 01, 2020

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After coaching dozens of students to successful poker careers, Ryan Laplante has launched his own training site, aptly named Learn Pro Poker. Laplante’s new poker course gives a structured breakdown of game theory optimal (GTO) strategy, and explains when to deviate from those strategies to exploit players at the table. Sign up now for an always-expanding library of content that already includes 60+ videos and 40+ hours of expert poker training.

I’ve been very fortunate in my career to be able to play in some well-run, prestigious events. While still a newcomer to the tournament scene, the Poker Masters hosted this November at Aria Casino in Las Vegas is easily one of the most illustrious series I have ever played in.

The series takes place in the small, cozy space of the PokerGo studio, which, while located off the beaten path of the massive Aria property; says nothing about how well put together and impressive the layout is. The moment you step into the room it feels like you are entering a true battle ground, one built only for poker’s elite. It is a monument to poker excellence, and also an arena where even the best in the world can discover that their best efforts will end in failure.

The walls of the room display a continuous mural of some of the incredible players that have competed and won events in that room. Poker legends like Justin Bonomo, Fedor Holz, Rainer Kempe, Alex Foxen, Sean Winter, Ali Imsirovic, Erik Seidel, and many others had their faces plastered all over the walls. The tables, chairs, and rest of the décor are of a standard that only a property like the Aria has the ability to provide, and all of it was accentuated by the bright lights and many cameras there to film all of the action.

Walking in there, not just the first time, but for every event I played, I knew that I was testing myself in a way that I had never done before over my ten-year career. It was simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. I wanted to prove to myself that I was a worthy competitor against the best in the world. I knew I would likely fail, and honestly, I thought I would be okay with that failure.

Fortunately, I really enjoy the great game of pot-limit Omaha (PLO). I’ve played PLO my entire career, and while I’ve largely been a no-limit hold’em-focused player, it was as much because of convenience and volume offered as anything else. For the longest time my largest cash in a tournament, and currently my only World Series of Poker bracelet, came in a PLO event. I love the game, and greatly enjoy playing it in the tournament format.

So while I have rarely been able to compete at the level of skill or stakes required of the Poker Masters, I am far from new to the game and have been successful playing it. I was fortunate enough to get to heads-up in the $10,000 buy-in event, one where 62 of the game’s best tried to take my chips every step of the way. I was extremely happy and knew how big of an accomplishment getting to that point was, but I obviously wanted to cap it off with a win.

My opponent heads-up just so happened to be high-stakes pro and fellow WSOP PLO bracelet winner Chance Kornuth. Chance and I have known each other and been friends for years. I am even a coach for his training site ChipLeaderCoaching. So, we have discussed many hands over the last few years and he knows how skilled of a player I am. He also knows just how large of a heads-up match this is for me, with the difference between second and first being $62,000 and the title.

Ryan Laplante at the WSOP The two of us ended up playing a crucial hand which went a long way in determining the final outcome of the tournament. If you’d like to see the video and commentary for the hand, you can find it on PokerGo. The title is “Poker Masters 2019 Event #2 $10k PLO Final Table” with the hand starting at the 2 hour, 50 minute mark.

Ryan Laplante: 5,300,000
Chance Kornuth: 2,400,000

Hand: 9Club Suit 8Diamond Suit 5Club Suit 3Spade Suit
Blinds: 40,000-80,000 with an 80,000 big blind ante
Position: Small Blind/Button

Being on the button and heads-up in PLO you are supposed to have extremely few folds, only folding some of the absolute worst hands in the game, like trips or quads, or very disjointed non-suited hands like Q-7-3-2 rainbow, or mono-suit hands like KDiamond Suit 9Diamond Suit 3Diamond Suit 2Diamond Suit. With a big blind ante in play, we are certainly encouraged to put in a lot of raises, but due to the nature of PLO, there should be very few bottom of range opens. You should be mostly choosing a loose, linear range as an open and going with the top 40-60 percent of hands as a raise to 180,000-200,000. My hand certainly falls outside of the top 70 percent of hands, and because of that I want to use it as a call.

Action: I complete the button, and Chance checks his option.

Flop: KDiamond Suit 5Diamond Suit 5Spade Suit (Pot Size: 240,000)

Action: Chance checks, I bet 100,000, Chance raises to 260,000, and I call.
This flop is a board I want to bet very often, generally with a small continuation bet sizing. When Chance raises, it puts me into a somewhat uncomfortable spot. If he has a value hand, he has me beat, and against some of that value I am drawing completely dead. That being said, I also block his strongest hands and he can certainly have bluffs.

Turn: KDiamond Suit 5Diamond Suit 5Spade Suit 10Heart Suit (Pot Size: 760,000)

Action: We both check.

When he checks to me I have no reason to bet this hand, as it is possible I will be betting into strong hands, and it isn’t very likely that a worse hand will call. Also, if he is on a bare flush draw or similar, it is possible he hits his flush and I hit a full house, so I don’t really need to protect my hand here.

River: KDiamond Suit 5Diamond Suit 5Spade Suit 10Heart Suit JHeart Suit (Pot Size: 760,000)

Action: Chance bets 600,000, leaving himself with 1,400,000 behind.

Laplante Takes It DownWhile I do have trips and block full houses and my nine blocks a straight, my hand is still pretty weak relative to this bet size. I really only beat bluffs. Fortunately, I block some of the strongest hands that he can have, which includes quads, K-5, J-5, and 10-5. I also believe it is very likely if he did have a hand like K-5 or better that he would have bet it on the turn. Thus, I strongly believe that his most likely value hands are either 10-5 or J-5, or maybe a hand like Q-9. So, while my hand makes a perfectly reasonable call, if I believe it is likely that he will fold these to a shove, then instead of just using my hand as a bluff catch, I can actually turn it into a bluff.

Action: I raise all-in and he went into the tank. Eventually, Chance folded JDiamond Suit 6Diamond Suit 5Heart Suit 2Heart Suit for a full house, and I went on to win the tournament soon after when I flopped a full house against his trips for the rest of the chips.

Ryan Laplante is a WSOP bracelet winner. He has more than $5 million in tournament cashes and eight WSOP final tables. He is the co-founder of LearnProPoker.com, an easy to use GTO based training site. 

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