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Final Table Takedown: Dan Zack Breaks Down Two Key Hands From His Two Bracelet Wins

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Sep 07, 2022

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Dan Zack won two bracelets this summer en route to the WSOP Player of the Year title. In the first, he survived a back-and-forth heads-up match with Dustin Dirksen in the $10,000 Omaha eight-or-better championship to bank $440,757.

In the second, he once again came out on top of an epic heads-up match, this time with David Funkhouser in the $10,000 stud eight-or-better championship, to nab his third career bracelet and another $324,174.

Card Player asked Zack if he could break down a key hand from each of the tournaments that ultimately played a big role in securing each title.

Event: $10,000 Omaha 8/OB
Entrants: 196
Prize Pool: $1,827,700
First-Place Prize: $440,757

Stacks: Dan Zack – 2,000,000 (5 BB)
Dustin Dirksen – 10,000,000 (25 BB)
Limits: 200,000-400,000
Players Remaining: 2

CT: Set this hand up for us.

DZ: It was hour five of my heads-up match with Dustin and I found myself down 2,000,000 to his 10,000,000. Earlier on in the match I twice had over a 10:1 chip lead, so I felt a bit defeated at this point. But of course, I was still trying my best.

Zack raised to 400,000 from the button holding QHeart Suit 9Diamond Suit 5Spade Suit 2Spade Suit. Dirksen called.

DZ: Dustin called with AHeart Suit KHeart Suit 8Spade Suit 7Spade Suit. I was surprised watching this hand back that he chose not to three-bet this hand. Perhaps he wanted to play trappy with some decent A-x hands. Meanwhile my hand, while not a powerhouse in Omaha8, needed to be played heads-up.

CT: How so?

DZ: If you fold a holding like this in heads-up play, you’ll blind out of the tournament. Heads up requires you to play many hands you would never consider playing in a full ring game.

Flop: AClub Suit 10Diamond Suit 5Diamond Suit (pot: 800,000)

Dirksen checked, and Zack bet 200,000. Dirksen called.

DZ: I believe I must bet 100% of my hands on an Ace-Low-High board since this is so much better for the preflop aggressor than the big blind defender. Dustin had flopped top pair, but not much else. So his decision to just check-call makes a lot of sense.

Turn: 9Club Suit (pot: 1,200,000)

Dirksen checked, and Zack bet 200,000. Dirksen raised to 400,000.

CT: What did you make of Dirksen’s raise on this turn card?

DZ: When he checked a second time here, I had a tough decision to make.

There’s 1,200,000 left to play in my stack and the bet is 400,000, so we have three bets left total. If I chose to bet and was raised, we would get all the money in across the turn/river. My thinking in game was that it was unlikely he’d have many stronger two pairs since he didn’t three-bet preflop, which reduced how often he had an ace in his hand by a huge amount. And he wouldn’t have too many sets, since he didn’t check-raise the flop.

CT: So basically, your mind was in the blender.

DZ: Yes. Once he raised, I was in hell. He either had a better two pair or set (in which case I was close to drawing completely dead) or he had some kind of combo draw that contained two pair draw/flush draw/low draw/straight draw combinations. I played this whole heads-up match very quickly. This was probably the only decision the entire match that I took longer than 10 seconds to act.

CT: What scenarios were you running through your head?

DZ: It’s pretty tough math to roughly calculate how many two pair type hands he has that don’t three-bet preflop versus how many combo drawy type hands he likely had that he’d make this sort of move with.

CT: Did you get a read off any of his behavior?

DZ: Dustin was having a jovial conversation with his rail while I was in the tank. And it seemed super strong, which made me even more concerned. Ultimately, watching this hand back, I think I’d probably fold if given the spot again without being able to see his cards.

I think five hours into the heads-up match having blown two huge leads I had gotten a bit frustrated. I didn’t want to try and battle back down to two big bets. So, I decided to gamble that I hopefully wasn’t drawing dead. I was lucky to find out he did have one of those drawy type hands, but even then, I still only had 31 percent equity in the pot. 

Zack raised all-in for 1,200,000, and Dirksen called.

DZ: I raised the turn all in because I don’t think my hand can just call since it would have to call any river. Therefore, if I’m going to commit any more chips on the turn, I needed to put my stack in so I didn’t allow his draws that I’m actually ahead of to brick the river and save a bet on the end.

River: 2Heart Suit (pot: 3,600,000)

DZ: It was a relatively safe river as I survived to chop the pot and continue to fight on. 

Zack and Dirksen chopped the pot of 3,600,000.

Event: $10,000 Stud 8/OB
Entrants: 137
Prize Pool: $1,277,525
First-Place Prize: $324,174

Stacks: Dan Zack – 600,000 (7.5 BB)
Shaun Deeb – 1,000,000 (12.5 BB)
Limits: 40,000-80,000
Bring In: 10,000 Ante: 10,000
Players Remaining: 7

Craig Tapscott: What was you plan going into this final table?

Dan Zack: I was pretty short so usually pay jumps would be on my mind, but these $10,000 mix events are small fields and the big jumps really don’t start until the final few players. Given that, I’m mostly just looking to play my game and look to pick up chips in all the normal spots you would in a cash game.

Zack raised to 40,000 holding (8Club Suit 4Heart Suit) 5Heart Suit from the steal position into Deeb’s bring in with the 3Diamond Suit. Deeb defended.

DZ: With a full game versus a steal open, Shaun should be defending extremely wide here. Probably not quite 100 percent, but any two low cards, any pair, any two live high cards with a two suit. Most important, he should be extremely wide in this spot.

Deeb caught (X X) KSpade Suit 3Diamond Suit. Zack caught (8Club Suit 4Heart Suit) 5Heart Suit KHeart Suit. Deeb checked, and Zack bet 40,000. 

DZ: I decided to bet here. Since I raised in a steal position, we are both holding extremely wide ranges. The suited king favored me as I’ll just have more three-quarter to a flush-type hands. We were both equally likely to hold a high type hand. My particular holding was probably a small favorite against his range as well. 

Deeb called and caught (X X) KSpade Suit 3Diamond Suit 2Club Suit. Zack caught (8Club Suit 4Heart Suit) 5Heart Suit KHeart Suit JClub Suit and checked.

CT: Share your thoughts on the check in this spot.

DZ: In general, in Stud8 when both players start with a low card, as soon as one player has more low cards showing than the other, the other player will check to them. This is because they now are advantaged by being closer to having a made low (and these cards are more likely to pair them as well). Shaun bets (as he will with almost any holding). 

Deeb bet 80,000, and Zack called.

CT: Why did you call? That card wasn’t great for you.

DZ: Many players will fold my hand here. I tend to play stickier in these spots than most where Shaun can have many air balls since it’s steal position versus a bring-in defend. It is also nice that he has a deuce and three showing since when he has split deuces or has paired his three all of my pair outs are live to scoop the pot. 

Deeb caught (X X) KSpade Suit 3Diamond Suit 2Club Suit 8Spade Suit. Zack caught (8Club Suit 4Heart Suit) 5Heart Suit KHeart Suit JClub Suit 3Club Suit and checked. Deeb bet 80,000.

DZ: I checked again, since he was still ahead of me in low cards showing. I would check any holding here.

Shaun bet (as he would with almost all of his holdings). At this point I’ve added a low draw that’s almost always live, as well as the previously discussed fact that my pair outs may have been live to scoop, since he had a wide defend range. I have an easy call.

Zack called. Deeb caught the unknown (X X) KSpade Suit 3Diamond Suit 2Club Suit 8Spade Suit (X), while Zack caught (8Club Suit 4Heart Suit) 5Heart Suit KHeart Suit JClub Suit 3Club Suit (5Diamond Suit).

CT: What was your best play here?

DZ: Well, I rivered a pair of fives. Most players here check and then call a bet from Shaun hoping the pair of fives are good for half and Shaun was value betting a low. Other times when they check, Shaun will check back when he has a pair of twos or threes, or maybe no pair / no low.

I believed if I lead out, Shaun would have only raised me with a very strong hand, as that’s how most players react to a lead here.

CT: Might he have raised any other hands?

DZ: He might raise trips or better for high, and a six low or better for low. It’s very hard for him to have such a strong hand here. If my assumption that he won’t raise two pair for value is correct, then I very rarely get punished for an extra bet here by leading if my intention is otherwise to check-call.

By leading I win an extra bet every time Shaun has just a pair of twos or threes and even sometimes an ace high, since he has to call these hands in case I am just betting the low. 

Zack bet 80,000 and Deeb called.

DZ: I announced a pair of fives, which was good.

Zack wins the pot of 710,000.

CT: Did he react at all?

DZ: Shaun thought very little of my bet here on the river, although I’m still okay with my play. Many players would play both fifth and seventh street differently than myself, but at least with this hand I was rewarded for playing abstractly.

CT: You had to feel good after this result.

DZ: Yes. This hand felt like a big turning point at the final table for me when things started to go in the right direction. ♠

*Some photos courtesy of PokerGO