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Final Table Takedown: Michael Jozoff

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Apr 20, 2022

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Michael JozoffMichael Jozoff, 22 years-old, recently graduated from the University of Southern California with degrees in communication and finance. He started taking poker more seriously as a freshman in college, playing $20 dorm cash games with friends.

He loved watching old school TV cash games, such as High Stakes Poker, and applied what he saw to improve his game. Michael also started learning more from YouTube videos and reading a myriad of strategy books to take his game to the next level.

To test his newfound skills, he jumped online, and has since accumulated more than $1 million in earnings. In late February, Jozoff entered the $2,200 six-max no-limit event at the L.A. Poker Classic at the Commerce Casino, and after striking a deal heads-up with Chance Kornuth, walked away with $20,165.

A few weeks later, he entered the $1,700 World Series of Poker Circuit main event at the Bicycle Casino. Once again, he found the winner’s circle, but this time it was worth $161,500. Card Player caught up with Jozoff break down his breakthrough victory.

Stacks: Michael Jozoff – 2,600,000 Andrew Ostapchenko – 1,500,000
Blinds: 30,000-50,000 with a 50,000 big blind ante
Players Remaining: 6

Craig Tapscott: Set this hand up for us Michael.

Michael Jozoff: The first hand is against Andrew Ostapchenko, who is on my direct right. I had a bit of history with him. He was at my starting table at the LAPC, six-max event [that I won] a few weeks ago. We also were at the same table at various points throughout day one and two of this tournament.

CT: What’s your take on his game?

MJ: He’s a young guy who I viewed as a strong, thinking, capable opponent. Our stacks in this hand were 30 big blinds effective. He was the effective stack. The hand is immediately interesting because…

Ostapchenko opened to 150,000 from the cutoff.

MJ: He opened to 3x the big blind. This was strange to me.

CT: How so?

MJ: Because of his stack depth, I would have expected him to min-raise or 2.2x as his open size, especially when he could have faced re-jams from the short stacks. He had been opening to those [more traditional] sizes all day at this stack depth. When he did raise this hand, it tripped me up a bit. I wasn’t sure if he misclicked or if he was going for some sort of live exploitive play or what. Then I looked down at KSpade Suit QDiamond Suit and had to decide how to proceed.

CT: What was your best option given that you were in position?

Michael Jozoff Credit: WSOP CircuitMJ: With this combo at this stack depth, I would three-bet with a small sizing (something like 2.7x his raise) most of the time. However, given the fact that I was a little confused by what his open raise size meant, I opted for just a flat this time, since I’m allowed to mix three-bets and calls anyway with my combo.

Jozoff called with KSpade Suit QDiamond Suit on the button. The blinds folded.

Flop: JSpade Suit 6Spade Suit 5Diamond Suit (pot: 350,000)

Ostapchenko checked.

CT: From your prior experience with this player, how did you interpret the check?

MJ: He would have done that with most, if not his full range, on this texture out of position. I figured that I have a good combo to start bluffing with, given that I double block him from having a jack, since he would open Q- J offsuit and K-J offsuit from the cutoff.

Also, with the KSpade Suit in my hand, I could keep blasting a flush completing turn as a bluff, which would have allowed me to stay balanced when I fired the turn with a made flush for value. So, I bet…

Jozoff bet 115,000.

CT: Why that bet sizing?

MJ: I bet about 33% pot. I don’t have a huge sizing on this flop because he can have all of the sets and overpairs, whereas I can only have fives and sixes as my sets, and none of the overpairs.

Ostapchenko called.

Turn: JDiamond Suit (pot: 580,000)

MJ: Once the top card on the board pairs, he naturally would check to me.

Ostapchenko checked.

CT: Was that a good or bad card for you to continue?

MJ: This is a terrible card for me to continue barreling on. He can still have all the jacks, sets which are now full houses, and overpairs. And the jack didn’t improve any of my draws or backdoors on the flop. I expected to get called a lot here if I had barreled, so…

Jozoff checked.

River: 9Heart Suit (pot: 580,000)

Ostapchenko checked.

CT: It seems he has given up on the hand here. What range did you put him on? And what hands do you think he might have had in mind for you after your call preflop?

MJ: I believe his range was quite capped here when he checked the river after I had checked back the turn. Of course, he could have a small frequency of nutted hands in his range played like this, but when he checked all three streets, he reduced the frequency of those significantly. I’m now thinking about the ICM pressure I had on him because he’s the third-shortest stack.

CT: Were there other really short stacks at the table?

MJ: There were two stacks at the table that were quite short in chips at that moment. Also, I could still have had some (albeit less) J-X hands when I checked back the turn. And I could have had all of the 8-7 suiteds which checked back the turn as well and now made a straight.

I think it’s likely he has an ace-high or one-pair type hand, which I can get him to fold. Since I’m targeting hands as strong as non-overpair pocket pairs to try to make him fold, I moved all in for about a 135% pot jam. He tanked for three minutes, before finally making the fold face down.

Jozoff moved all-in. Ostapchenko folded. Jozoff won the pot of 580,000.

Stacks: Michael Jozoff – 6,500,000 Eugene Tito – 4,500,000
Blinds: 40,000-80,000 with an 80,000 big blind ante
Players Remaining: 3

MJ: This is an interesting hand because I completely switched gears against this opponent from theory to pure exploitative poker.

Jozoff opened from the button to 210,000 holding JClub Suit 10Club Suit. Eugene Tito raised to 600,000 from the small blind.

CT: How well did you know Eugene’s game?

MJ: Essentially, Eugene is a very tight, solid player who does not three-bet anyone ever. Especially in a situation where he had roughly the same stack as Iris (the other remaining player).

I’m the chip leader, so he had to have been three-betting me extremely tight here. Here, I know that I’m likely up against an overpair to my JClub Suit 10Club Suit (Q-Q+) or A-K against this opponent. However, his three-bet sizing was quite small, not even 3x my raise from out of position.

CT: So, you should take a flop with this hand, correct?

MJ: Well, given how well my hand plays post-flop, my position, and the fact that mucking JClub Suit 10Club Suit would be too much of a deviation for me to look at myself in the mirror, I decided to make the call.

Jozoff called.

Flop: 6Heart Suit 5Club Suit 3Club Suit (pot: 1,200,000)

CT: That was a pretty good flop for you.

MJ: Yes. I flopped the flush draw, but he has a relatively clean board for his overpairs given that I could never have straights here. And I probably would have mucked all the low pocket pairs that would make sets, since we’re not deep enough to justify set mining in this spot.

Tito bet 475,000. Jozoff called.

MJ: I have nowhere to go but call here. I have no fold equity against his overpairs. And given how condensed I perceived his range to be in this spot, overpairs are something like half of his entire range.

Turn: 10Heart Suit (pot: 2,150,000)

CT: Not a horrible card.

MJ: I turned top pair to along with my flush draw. This time, Eugene checked to me. This is where I faced my first real decision point of the hand. Against his perceived range, I could easily have checked this turn back to take my equity and see a river. However, against this opponent, I have the read that I’m never getting check-raised ever on the turn if I bet. I also didn’t feel he would lead the river in that situation. So, I decided to bet…

Jozoff bet 1,200,000.

CT: What was your plan?

MJ: The plan was to check back rivers where I don’t improve. I essentially set my own price for the amount of chips I want to put into this pot. Old school, right? He tanked for a while and looked genuinely torn before he made the call.

Tito called.

River: 10Diamond Suit (4,550,000)

MJ: I now have made trips and beat literally every hand in his range.

Tito checked. Jozoff moved all in.

CT: So, you squarely targeted the big pairs.

MJ: Yes. I shoved for about 3 million effective, and targeted Q-Q+ to make the call. He tanked for two minutes before he showed a spectator his queens face up, and then folded it.

Jozoff won the pot of 4,550,000.

MJ: I gave him a huge amount of credit for finding that fold, as exploitable as it might be.

CT: You seem to be on a bit of a roll. What do you attribute the success with your tournament game?

MJ: I attribute my success thus far to really just hard work and studying. I keep improving and I’m so much better than I was just a year ago. I study using different software and I run my own sims.

The main thing to take away from studying the game is pattern recognition and understanding why the solver does what it does in certain spots. You’re never going to be perfect in trying to replicate a solver. But if you understand the key mechanics in most spots then your mistakes won’t be losing too much EV.

From there, you’ll have a nice baseline understanding of what optimal play is roughly supposed to look like, and you’ll know how to deviate accordingly when live players are making substantial mistakes.  ♠