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Lawyer By Day, Poker Player By Night: Bracelet Winner Bradley Jansen Talks Six-Max

by Brandon Temple |  Published: Jun 01, 2022


Bradley Jansen was born and raised in West Bend, Wisconsin, and holds dual degrees in Psychology and Sociology of Law, Criminology and Deviance from the University of Minnesota. In early 2014, shortly after graduating law school, Jansen opened up his own practice and now handles cases for clients in the greater Milwaukee area. Jansen found his way to poker shortly after the Moneymaker boom began.

“I got started in poker after my friends in high school saw the coverage of the 2003 World Series of Poker and asked me to play. We played home games in basements and around kitchen tables, and then gradually some of the group began to take the game more seriously, and play online.”

Jansen also has roots for poker in his childhood and competitive spirit.

“It was something I was passionate about from the beginning. I always enjoyed playing card games growing up with my grandmother, and poker just fit that mindset along with my competitive personality. There wasn’t as much information available 20 years ago on how to improve, so it became a puzzle to try and solve. How do you get good at the game of poker?”

His first recorded cash came in 2014 in a six-max event at the Chicago Poker Classic. His six-max expertise continued through the years, and he was able to earn a WSOP Circuit ring in 2019 at the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee.

Just over two years later, Jansen one-upped himself by shipping his first WSOP bracelet. Once again, the win came in six-max no-limit hold’em. The 35-year-old took down event no. 15 at the 2021 series, topping a field of 1,450 entrants in the $1,500 tournament to bank a career-best score of $313,403.

Card Player caught up with the lawyer-turned-card shark to talk about six-max tournament strategy and break down some of the key points on his way to a bracelet.

Stacks: Bradley Jansen — 2,135,000 (85 BB) Mackenzie Kraemer — 700,000 (28 BB)
Blinds: 15,000-25,000 with a 25,000 big blind ante
Players: 6

Brandon Temple: What sort of strategy shifts do you make when switching from full-ring to six-max that are critical to finding success in the format?

Bradley Jansen: The most obvious adjustment is playing a wider range of hands. With the blinds and ante coming around at a faster pace, there is nowhere to hide in six-max. You have to be comfortable opening with weaker holdings and defending wider as well. Ranges in early position are especially going to be wider. Hands like K-10 offsuit, suited ace-rags, pocket deuces thru fives, hands that aren’t always going to be opens in a full-ring format are going to be standard opens off of an average stack size in six-max.

A second adjustment is understanding that most of the pots you’re going to play are often going to be heads-up or three-way pots. This magnifies the advantage that the preflop raiser has, because a continuation bet only needs to get through one or two other players to take down the pot. At a full ring tournament table, especially in the early stages, this is uncommon when pots are going off four-ways or more. With fewer players at the table, you can also be more selective in playing certain opponents more frequently (or infrequently). 

Finally, you’re going to play a lot more blind vs blind pots, especially if the players to your right are not making the proper adjustments and they are not opening the cutoff and button wide enough when you are in the blinds. Proper blind vs blind fundamentals are key to not only building a stack in six-max, but maintaining a stack that you can take deep in the tournament.

Mackenzie Kraemer raised to 50,000 on the button and action folded to Jansen, who held 10Diamond Suit 9Diamond Suit in the big blind.

BT: How does the short-handed dynamic affect your decision making with a hand like 10-9 suited here, compared to if this was full-ring and the same preflop actions?

BJ: I’m going to flat here in both formats based on the effective stack size. I was roughly 80 blinds deep to start the hand and Kraemer was a shade under 30 blinds deep or so. My hand plays well as a defend–if I three bet preflop to 5-7 big blinds I am going to: 1) open the action back up to an opponent who has a stack size that can reasonably four-bet jam on me or 2) play an inflated pot out of position if I get called.

Jansen called.
Flop: JClub Suit 2Club Suit 7Diamond Suit (pot: 115,000)

BT: Are there any hands you would lead with on this flop? Or is this a spot you prefer to just play in flow against most opponents?

BJ: Absent some particular read, I would almost always check my whole range here and play in flow to the preflop raiser, especially in a heads-up situation. Having a leading range and a checking range out of the blinds is going to be tough to balance properly.

Both players checked.
Turn: 8Spade Suit (pot: 115,000)
Jansen led out for 65,000.

BT: You went with a bet size of just over half-pot with the turned nuts. Did you have any thoughts about going for a check-raise in this spot?

BJ: When he checks back the flop on a board that has a flush draw, I’m ruling out the bigger value hands from his range like overpairs, all of the sets, A-J, K-J, Q-J. J-7 suited is a possible two pair combo, and the big flush draws.

Trying to check-raise the turn here creates a couple of problems. The first is that the pot is still small, just 4.5 BB, and if I try to check-raise and he checks back again, then I am at risk of getting almost no value from my hand. I can only get one street and the pot size on the river is going to be small.

The second problem is that, as stated above, it is unlikely he has a big value hand and therefore I am probably only going to win his turn bet if he folds to the turn check-raise. If I lead turn, and lead river, I am getting two streets of value instead of one.

Finally, a lead opens up the possibility of my opponent raising the turn if he improved. How would he play 8-7 suited on that flop, or pocket eights? Those are possible holdings given the preflop and flop action. By leading the turn, it is possible to potentially get a three-bet in, and it allows me to play for his stack on either the turn or river.

Kraemer called.
River: 6Heart Suit (pot: 245,000)

BT: With the river coming a blank, and your opponent sitting with 585,000 left in stack, how do you determine the best sizing to get max value?

BJ: His range is probably capped at one pair here, so a sizing of full pot or an overbet seems ambitious. I want to make sure that, at a minimum, I get called in order to get two streets in this spot. By betting the turn smaller, I leave him with a workable stack of 16-17 big blinds if he were to call and lose. 

There’s also some perceived fold equity with a smaller sizing on the river. If he were to jam the river and I had a one pair type of hand, I would be in a tough spot. Most of an opponent’s river jams here are going to be bluffs, but the blank 6Heart Suit on the river could make two pair (i.e. 7-6 suited) or 6-6 could reasonably take his line as well as a bluff catcher.

Jansen bet 175,000 and Kraemer quickly called, mucking after telling Jansen he thought he was bluffing.

BT: Any regret on the sizing after his comment after the hand?

BJ: Maybe a little. I remember his comment was something like that he was “oh-for-two on bluff catching so far” on the day. I think his exact hand was something like 7-x, A-8, K-8, or 9-9 and 10-10 (both of which I am blocking). His comment would seem to cement the idea that he wouldn’t be putting bets in himself (so an attempted turn check-raise would’ve whiffed), and that he was just trying to pick off my bluffs.

Stacks: Bradley Jansen — 2,550,000 (51 BB) Mackenzie Kraemer — 2,020,000 (40 BB)
Blinds: 25,000-50,000 with a 50,000 big blind ante
Players: 6

Mackenzie Kramer raised to 125,000 from the hijack, and Bradley Jansen called in the cutoff with KHeart Suit KClub Suit.

BT: Why did you choose to flat this raise with kings?

BJ: Our table at this point was the toughest of the remaining three. In this hand, top Finnish pro Joni Jouhkimainen was on the button, and Jesse Yaginuma was in the big blind. They’re both capable of a squeeze in either spot preflop with a less than premium hand. In the event that either player did so, Kraemer would have to act before me and, if he calls, I can then get enough money in preflop to play for stacks instead of playing a multi-way pot.

Flatting there, assuming the pot is played heads-up, keeps my range wide and it doesn’t allow for the opponent to open the pot and then fold to a three-bet preflop.

Flop: JSpade Suit 6Diamond Suit 3Heart Suit (pot: 375,000)
Kraemer checked, and Jansen bet 75,000. Kraemer check-raised to 220,000. Jansen called.

BT: Sitting with an overpair on a very dry flop, is the plan to let Kraemer keep the lead after the check-raise?

BJ: He’s probably not check-raising too many medium strength hands here–such as pocket sevens through tens, weak J-X hands, or things like a blank 6-X hand. There’s also no flush draw, so hands such as A-K suited, A-Q suited, and K-Q suited that flop a flush draw with overcards aren’t a consideration. 

The flop check-raise was something I felt was clearly polarized between the top value hands that I am behind (A-A, J-J, 6-6, and 3-3), the value hands that I beat (A-J, K-J, and Q-Q), and then all of his bluffs.

Turn: 4Spade Suit (pot: 815,000)
Kraemer bet 320,000.

BT: Was there any concern going through your head when Kraemer didn’t slow down on the turn?

BJ: Sure, I thought that his turn sizing was more of a blocker bet than anything. On the flop he’s betting roughly 60% pot and then on the turn he sized down to 40% pot. That doesn’t tell me much about his actual hand. He could be trying to get three streets from his value hands (some of which I am beating), or he’s just betting smaller to set up a three-barrel on the river that doesn’t put his whole stack at risk.

Jansen called.

BT: What stopped you from raising on the turn?

BJ: In the moment, I flatted the flop check-raise with the intention of raising on the turn, especially one that was so clean. When he led the turn, I decided to just flat in order to 1) keep all of his bluffs in his range and 2) If I called the turn bet, I could call any reasonable sized river bet and still have a workable stack in the event I was on the wrong side of a cooler.

Raising the turn protects my hand better, but it shuts out most of his bluffs (with the exception of his semi-bluffs, i.e. a hand like ASpade Suit QSpade Suit or ASpade Suit 10Spade Suit) and it doesn’t control the size of the pot.

River: 2Heart Suit (pot: 1,455,000)
Kraemer bet 700,000.

BT: Kraemer chose to bet more than half his remaining stack on the river, which put a four-liner straight on the board. Take us through your thought process on what you decided to do facing this bet.

BJ: I didn’t think that the river would change much as far as his hand goes. It’s tough for either of us to have a five in our hand given the preflop action and the flop check-raise. Hands like 5-5 and 6-5 suited are hands he’s probably just going to call my flop bet with instead of playing them as a flop check-raise, and I’m probably not going to be taking my line with a hand that has a five in it.

My biggest concern on the river is that he could be value betting a worse hand because I under-repped my hand on all streets up to this point. Great players find great value bets. It’s certainly possible that he could be betting a strong jack or queens for value here. I beat those hands plus all of his bluffs, and I lose to aces, his sets, and a random bluff that contains a five. 

With the chips I had behind, the price I was getting to call, and the fact that his range of bluffs and worse value bets is much wider than his nutted hands, I felt it was a call.

Jansen called, and Kraemer revealed AHeart Suit QHeart Suit. Jansen won the pot of 2,855,000.

BT: Do you think Kraemer’s three-barrel bluff had anything to do with the six-max play? Could he have been attempting to try and get you to throw away a jack or something like tens or nines with his line?

BJ: It probably had more to do with the line that I took preflop and on the flop. By under-repping a strong overpair on a fairly dry board, I think you’re exactly right. He felt I had a medium strength hand that would fold to three streets of pressure. I like his play, it takes a lot of heart to barrel it off for three streets. I just happened to have it in this hand. ♠