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WSOP Bracelet Winner Yaser Al-Keliddar Adds A Circuit Ring

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Jun 01, 2022

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Yaser Al Keliddar Credit: WPTOur second lawyer-turned-poker player this issue is Yaser Al-Keliddar. He is a jack of many trades, having practiced law for nearly seven years, invested in real estate, and even performed stand-up comedy.

The successful businessman broke through in 2018 by winning his first World Series of Poker bracelet, taking down the $3,000 buy-in six-max limit hold’em event for $154,388. In 2020 he added an East Coast Poker Tour title at the Potomac Winter Poker Open for $96,567 and then won a WPT DeepStack event at the Venetian in Las Vegas.

Most recently, Al-Keliddar won his first WSOP Circuit gold ring, topping a field of 359 at the circuit stop at Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina. He now has nearly $650,000 in career tournament cashes. You can say hello to Yaser at his Twitter account @ytrainyaser.

Event: WSOP Circuit North Carolina
Buy-In: $400
Entrants: 359
Prize Pool: $118,470
First-Place Prize: $25,014

Craig Tapscott: Can you tell me about your passion for poker? How often do you get to play given your very busy life?

Yaser Al-Keliddar: My passion for poker stems from my love for strategy games. I started playing backgammon with my grandfather when I was just seven years old. Poker was a natural progression. Then I started playing with my college roommates when I was a senior. Just for fun, we would buy in for small amounts, like $20 at the most. It was mostly about hanging out, watching television, and drinking beer.

These days, I play cash games about three or four days a week and play tournaments nearly every weekend, with the occasional trip out of town for a bigger tournament series. A lot of current and former attorneys also play poker because both fields require critical thinking and deductive reasoning. The legal world is quite competitive, so you get a lot of crossovers.

CT: I can’t believe you’re a stand-up comedian too? That’s so cool. I’m sure you tend to entertain your table mates when you play.

YA: Of course. I was doing standup comedy just as a hobby from 2012 through 2014 in the DC/Baltimore area. I even performed at the Gavin Smith Memorial Charity Show in Las Vegas in 2019. It was organized by Joe Stapleton and was a lot of fun. I also opened for Dustin Diamond aka Screech of Saved By The Bell fame.

CT: Do you use this skill as a strategy at the table at times to loosen up the game or read an opponent?

YA: I love to make people laugh and I carry that over to the poker table whenever possible. Sometimes I am too focused on trying to observe everything and play well, but other times I’m very relaxed and I want to make sure my opponents are enjoying themselves. It sort of gets everyone into a gambling mood and that is always good for me.

It’s also an important skill to have if you play a lot of cash games and want to draw the same people in week after week. I believe looking at your phone incessantly and not talking to anyone has a very negative effect on one’s bottom line.

CT: Let’s jump into the first hand you want to share from the event.

Stacks: Yaser Al-Keliddar – 500,000 (17 BB)
Brandon Mueller – 700,000 (23 BB)
Blinds: 15,000-30,000 with a 30,000 big blind ante
Players Remaining: 15
Mueller raised from UTG+1 to 75,000. Al-Keliddar called from the big blind holding 7Diamond Suit 6Spade Suit.

CT: Did you have any reads on Mueller?

YA: He is a very good player whom I have encountered at Maryland Live! a few times. After this event was over, he won two WSOP Circuit rings online in Pennsylvania.

Flop: 9Club Suit 7Heart Suit 6Club Suit (pot: 195,000)
Al-Keliddar checked. Mueller checked.

YA: I had checked with a plan to check-raise, but unfortunately Brandon checked as well.

Turn: JDiamond Suit (pot: 195,000)
Al-Keliddar bet 105,000. Mueller called.

CT: What’s was your take on his call here?

YA: It really felt like he had a jack. I didn’t think he had a flush draw or a straight draw, such as Q-10 suited. I would think he would always bet on the flop with those type hands. I was hoping to not get counterfeited, and the river rolled out a…

River: 2Heart Suit (pot: 405,000)
Al-Keliddar bet 195,000. Mueller called and revealed ADiamond Suit JSpade Suit. Al-Keliddar won the pot of 795,000 with his two pair. (Mueller would rebound to finish in fourth place.)

YA: I had contemplated going for a check-raise on the river, but I wasn’t too sure that he would bet if he had K-J or Q-J. And if he did, he may bet less than I would have and may not pay off the raise. I would come out behind and lose value. This pot was key to help to build my chip stack. It catapulted me into the final table with a good stack and a chance to win.

Stacks: Yaser Al-Keliddar – 800,000 (20 BB) William Benford – 650,000 (16 BB)
Blinds: 20,000 – 40,000 with a 40,000 big blind ante
Players Remaining: 9

Craig Tapscott: What was your plan as you reached the final? And where did you sit in chips compared to your opponents?

Yaser Al-Keliddar: I was in third place coming into the final table and felt very good about my chances. I thought I was one of the most experienced players remaining. And I had position on the players whom I believed were my biggest threats.

The action folded to Al-Keliddar in the small blind and he completed with KSpade Suit KDiamond Suit.

CT: Why limp with such a huge hand here?

YA: My big blind opponent was a guy named William Benford, whom I had played with a bit when we were down to two tables. He had been pretty aggressive preflop but did not seem to be too interested in playing multi-street poker. Of course, that could have just been a result of the cards he had been getting dealt. Regardless, I thought I could trap him by reraising preflop. Unfortunately, he disappointed me.

Benford checks the option from the big blind.
Flop: ADiamond Suit 10Spade Suit 6Heart Suit (pot: 120,000)
Al-Keliddar checked.

CT: Not the best flop for you. But he probably doesn’t have an ace or he may have raised preflop.

YA: Yes. But it was going to be tough to win a big pot here. I also wanted to minimize my loss in case he had an ace, though like you said, he should be raising nearly all aces preflop.

Benford checked.
Turn: 10Club Suit (pot: 220,000)
Al-Keliddar checked, and Benford bet 150,000.

YA: I called without much hesitation because I knew I wasn’t folding for just one bet.

CT: What range of hands did you place him on?

YA: I felt like he could have 10-X, 9-8, 9-7, 8-7, some A-X and complete air (but those last two were discounted in my mind). Now I was fairly certain that he did not have an ace because I felt like he would check, but I was certainly worried about trips.

Al-Keliddar called.
River: 7Diamond Suit (pot: 520,000)
Al-Keliddar checked. Benford bet 325,000

CT: This is a tough spot. You were beat by a lot of hands.

YA: For sure. The river brought in the 9-8 straight. He had bet around 80 percent of his stack. I was really hoping he would give up. Instead, I had to tip my cap to him, because he was putting me to the test. I tanked for about a minute or maybe a little more.

I thought that he had the ten or was turning a six into a bluff. I found it curious that he did not go all-in, as I thought that is what most players would do in his shoes. This call was for more than half my remaining stack. I knew it would have a significant impact on my result in the tournament.

CT: Was it a tough final table?

YA: I didn’t think so. I felt like it was a soft table that would involve lots of ICM-fueled preflop play. I also thought that I would play those situations better than most of my opponents. I briefly shot a glance at William, but he wasn’t really giving anything away anything physically.

I think I said something like, “Well I guess I should go with my first instinct, although my first instinct is usually wrong.” I do like getting laughs at the table, even when I am feeling stressed, as I was here. Eventually, I put the chips in, and William shrugged and…

Benford showed 9Club Suit 4Spade Suit. Al-Keliddar won the pot of 1,170,000. (Benford would go on to finish in ninth place.)

CT: Nice call.

YA: Thanks. Some of my tablemates expressed amazement at my call, which is good for my ego, as I always need validation. (laughs)

CT: That call had to really boost your confidence from there on out.

YA: This pot greatly helped my confidence and really showed me that I should always trust my reads, because I have been playing cards for nearly 20 years and am pretty good at figuring these things out. I was playing to win and just needed to continue to trust myself and play solid poker. I was laser-focused and couldn’t stop thinking about how wonderful it would feel to add a WSOP Circuit ring to my list of poker accomplishments. I knew that these moments are few and far between and I was set on taking advantage of the opportunity. ♠