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Final Table Takedown: Carlos Welch

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: May 04, 2022


Carlos WelchCarlos Welch grew up near Atlanta, Georgia and earned a degree in finance, eventually becoming a web designer at the University of Georgia. It was there that he fell in love with poker, and realized he had a knack for the game. After stops in real estate and even teaching, Welch ultimately decided to play poker professionally.

In 2021, Welch won his first World Series of Poker bracelet, taking down the $888 buy-in online event for $124,369. The 41-year-old has excelled online as of late with more than $1 million in cashes. When he’s not playing, Welch is teaching the game as a coach and strategy columnist. He is the co-host of the popular Thinking Poker podcast alongside Andrew Brokos and can be found on Twitter @HipHop101Trivia.

Stacks: Carlos Welch – 1,300,000 (44 BB) Villain – 750,000 (25 BB)
Blinds: 30,000-60,000 Ante: 3,000
Players Remaining: 2
Action: Welch raised to 120,000 from the button holding JHeart Suit 6Club Suit. Villain called.

Craig Tapscott: Can you set up this hand for us?

Carlos Welch: Sure. Although my opponent was good, I almost always assume I have an edge when I don’t know who I am up against on Bovada (an online poker site with anonymous tables.) The players on this site are generally not elite. When I expect to have an edge, my coach Ryan LaPlante taught me to raise 100% of hands heads-up if my opponent is not punishing me for doing so.

CT: Tell me about your thoughts on opening with a min-raise.

CW: Well with a range this weak, I had to use the small open to control the size of the pot. I did not want to bloat the pot too much when I would rarely have a hand strong enough to fight on later streets.

CT: How do you go about choosing bet sizing in general and in various scenarios in a heads-up battle?

CW: I usually just min-raise. On the very rare occasion where I find myself heads up against an elite player with deep stacks, I will raise anywhere from 2.2x to 2.7x BB. If the effective stack is around 25 bbs or less, I min-raise even against an elite player.

Flop: JClub Suit 9Club Suit 3Club Suit (pot: 246,000)

Both players checked.

CT: Wait a second. Why no continuation bet with top pair. What was the plan?

CW: Since I knew my opponent was leaning towards being aggressive, I could not continuation-bet this flop with my entire range. Top pair with a weak kicker and a weak flush draw was a great hand to check back with in order to protect the rest of my checking range. It would have been very hard to get three streets of value from worse, and I could easily call bets on most run outs.

Turn: ADiamond Suit (pot: 246,000)

Both players checked.

CT: You still checked it through. Was it not worth a stab here because of your perceived range?

CW: I did not bet this time because the ace on the turn was so good for my flop check-back range that J-6 was no longer high enough up in my range for me to bet it. More importantly, I did not have great value targets because there were a lot of strong hands in my range for hands like 9-x or worse to be afraid of if I’d bet the turn on this run out.

River: 2Club Suit (pot: 246,000)

Villain checked. Welch bet 60,000.

CW: When he checked to me a third time, I expected to often have the best hand. I think a lot of his one club hands would have led the turn or river and his line makes a lot of sense with hands like 9-x or J-x. I decided to go for a small value bet because it would be very hard for him to fold a decent pair heads-up for a quarter pot sized bet.

He only needed to be good just over one time out of six in order to make the call profitable. It would have been a mistake for him to assume I always have it and fold to that size. In fact, I bluffed him off of ace high for a similar sizing with four high in the hand prior to this one.

Villain called with 8Club Suit 7Heart Suit and won the pot of 366,000.

CW: This time, he called my bet with a higher flush than mine. Despite this loss, I like my bet. A river value bet only needs to be good just over half the time when called for it to be profitable and I think he had enough J-x and 9-x he’d call with to meet that threshold. If you’re almost always good when your river value bets get called, then you’re probably not betting thinly enough.

Stacks: Carlos Welch – 1,250,000 (42 BB) Villain – 800,000 (27 BB)
Blinds: 30,000-60,000 Ante: 3,000
Players Remaining: 2
Action: Villain raised to 120,000. Welch called with JClub Suit 9Club Suit.

CT: I’m curious. Is this hand ever a reraise from the big blind? What determines the hands you will call or reraise with in this heads-up battle versus this specific opponent?

CW: My opponent had around 27 BB. Given that effective stack, all of my three-bets would have been all in. The medium-to-large suited connectors and one gappers like this one are the best unpaired hands to play post flop because they flop the most equity, so shoving them can often feel like a waste. I’d much rather shove with more vulnerable hands that do not play as well post flop and a few bluffs for balance.

Flop: 10Club Suit 7Spade Suit 4Spade Suit (pot: 246,000)

Welch checked. Villain bet 80,000, and Welch called.

CT: What was your thinking behind this call?

CW: This hand had too much equity to raise-fold on the flop and not enough to raise-call, so I decided to just call. I’d rather raise the flop with some of my spade draws that could call a jam or weaker draws than this one that wouldn’t mind folding to a jam. Secondly, if I were to raise all my draws on the flop, then my check-calling range would have been so strong that I would not have enough bluffing candidates on later streets.

Turn: 7Heart Suit (pot: 406,000)

Welch bet 200,000, and Villain called.

CT: Why did you pick that card to lead into the Villain here?

CW: Since we both started with very wide ranges and got a dynamic flop; our equities were somewhat close. This means he’s less likely to have bet a weak seven with few value targets than I was to have called with such a hand. For that reason, this card was much better for my flop calling range than his c-betting range.

CT: Then what range of hands did you put him on?

CW: I expected a polarized betting range consisting of strong hands that would not mind getting called or raised as well as some bluffs that would not mind folding to a raise. A range like this called for a larger bet size. When he chose a small size, I thought he might have too many vulnerable hands in his range. This, combined with the favorable turn card, gave me the green light to lead the turn a decent percentage of the time.

My J-9 suited was a particularly good hand to lead with because it had outs against top pair, it was not strong enough to call another bet, and it had clear bluff targets like Queen and King high. 

River: QSpade Suit (pot: 806,000)

Welch bet 400,000. Villain folded and revealed AHeart Suit JHeart Suit. Welch won the pot of 806,000.

CT: Please share more about your thought process on that river?

CW: I bet the river because it was a great scare card for his bluff catchers that did not contain a spade. I expected folds from most of his ace and king highs as well as any pairs below the ten or busted straight draws that may have bluffed had I checked.

This hand illustrates why my flop call was so important. Many players either check-raise the flop with too many hands like this and only call with mostly pairs or flush draws. This leaves them with too few bluffing candidates to lead with when the pairs improve to trips and the flush draws get there as was the case in this hand. Against a turn lead and river barrel from these players, ace high, and maybe even a weak ten, would be trivial folds in my opponent’s shoes.

After another 25 hands, I won the tournament for just over $25,000.

CT: Would you please share some of your overall pointers for players when it comes down to heads-up play? What are the three main mistakes most players make?

CW: Most players open fold too often, do not three-bet often enough, and have unbalanced ranges on later streets. If your opponent makes these mistakes and you think that you’re the better player, you should never give them a walk. Playing in position for a good price against a weaker opponent is just too good of a spot to give up with any hand.

I drastically improved my heads-up game by studying the matches my coach Ryan LaPlante played while explaining his strategy. They are available on his training site♠