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Final Table Takedown: Matthew Davis Wins MSPT Michigan State Poker Championship

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Nov 30, 2022


Event: Michigan State Poker Championship
Buy-In: $1,100
Entrants: 2,409
Prize Pool: $2,336,730
First Place Prize: $344,446   

Matthew Davis has been playing poker since he was 15 with friends from high school. The game appealed to his competitive nature, as Davis was a three-sport athlete. It wasn’t long before he devoted most of his time to the game, playing online and studying whenever he wasn’t at the tables.

The decision paid off, as he was able to pay off the majority of his college tuition with his online poker winnings. But as far as a career, Davis wasn’t interested in making poker a full-time gig. He instead went into the mortgage industry, although he would spend nearly all of his vacation time on poker trips, and play online even after a long day at the office.

After opening his own insurance business, Davis finally had more time to dedicate to poker. He went deep in the 2019 WSOP main event, finishing 76th for nearly six figures. He also made a final table at the series, banking $30,000 in an online event earlier this year.

Then in October, the Michigan native navigated his way through a massive field of 2,409 entrants in the $1,100 buy-in Mid States Poker Tour Michigan State Poker Championship for a score worth $344,446.

Card Player caught up with Davis to break down a couple key hands from his breakthrough win.

Craig Tapscott: Set the stage for us. How had the day been going and what was your image and read on the players at the table?  

Matthew Davis: On day two I started out pretty short stacked but found an early double which got us into the money. I grinded a short stack for most of the day but found my way to the chip lead with 35 players left. 

After that point it was a bit of a roller coaster. Once we were down to 15 players, I was pretty short after taking a hit. I battled back and had a top five stack with 12 players left. I then took a few more hits but was able to make the final table seventh out of nine players. 

Going into the final table it was a mixed bag. About half of the players I had a lot of respect for, and the other players I felt like I had an edge against. All I needed to do was pick my spots and find ways to chip up to be able to compete.

CT: The final table sounded like a real grind to get some momentum going.

MD: Yes. It was pretty slow for me at the start of the final table. I found some good spots to steal but as the blinds were increasing and orbits went by, I found myself extremely short. After one of the breaks, I came back fifth out of six left and the short stack doubled right away leaving me the shortest at the table. 

I got very lucky against Chris Moon in a hand where I shoved just under four big blinds with K-10 offsuit, and he shoved over the top with K-J suited. I binked a 10 on the flop and found a double. After that hand everything seemed to go my way. 

Stacks: Matthew Davis – 4,000,000 (20 BB)
Scott Sisler – 2,000,000 (10 BB)
Blinds: 100,000 -200,000 with a 200,000 big blind ante
Players Remaining: 15
Players At Table: 8

It folded around to Davis in middle position. He looked down at KDiamond Suit KSpade Suit and raised to 400,000. 

MD: Obviously I loved seeing a big hand in this situation. We were six players away from the final table and this was a chance to build a stack that I could utilize at the final table.

Sisler moved all-in from the button for 2,000,000. Davis called, and Sisler revealed KHeart Suit QSpade Suit.

MD: I rolled my cards over at the same time I put my chips in the middle. He saw my cards and the bad news and said, “I need some help.”

Flop: JClub Suit 10Spade Suit 9Heart Suit

CT: Oh, oh. I guess he got what he was asking for.

MD: I know. He flopped the nuts.

Turn: JDiamond Suit

River: 4Heart Suit

Sisler won the pot of 4,500,000.

CT: Why did you pick this hand to share?

MD: I had just passed half of my stack over to [Sisler]. The reason this hand was so significant is because now I was one of the shortest stacks with 15 players left and a lot less likely to make the final table. 

CT: How did this hand affect your mindset at that moment?

MD: One of the biggest things I’ve worked extremely hard on in my 15-year poker career is my mental game. The old me would have tilted and possibly made some mistakes after this hand and end up losing the rest of my chips. But this time around it didn’t faze me at all. As soon as the river came out, I counted out the chips and slid them out and went on about my business. 

CT: That’s never an easy thing to do. Even the best of the best struggle with tilt and staying balanced while experiencing these types of beats. 

MD: It’s never easy. I was complimented afterwards by my good friend and WSOP main event champion Joe Cada, for not letting that rattle me. This made me feel really good about how far I’ve come as a poker player and being able to handle a situation like this in such a big moment. 

CT: Obviously that control paid off for you.

MD: The biggest thing is not letting big moments become bigger than you are. At the end of the day, it’s still just one poker tournament and there will be plenty more to play. I recognized pretty early on in my poker career that tilt and emotions typically end up badly and you’ll lose more often than win. So, I made it a point to work hard on that part of my game. 

I’ve read books on emotional intelligence. I’ve used a variety of different poker training courses. I’ve listened to Elliot Roe’s pregame warm up, as well as his post-game cool down before and after poker sessions. I watch some of the best in the world and see how they have dealt with tough beats in big situations, and I’ve done my best to replicate that.  

CT: Do you compare notes and go over hands with other players?

MD: Yes. I’ve taken advice from friends as well as my dad early on in my poker career. My dad watched me make the final table of a mini FTOPS Event on Full Tilt Poker and bust in sixth place losing pocket queens to A-Q all in preflop.

When I busted, I shut my laptop pretty hard and was steaming a bit. He asked why I was so upset when I had just won $8,000 playing for only 10 hours. My response was something along the lines of, “Well, first place was $56,000. I was a huge favorite to win that hand and possibly win the tournament.” 

He replied, “I’d be happy to win $8,000 in 10 hours.” After realizing he was absolutely right it really provided me some perspective as well as allowed me to see my potential to make poker an opportunity for myself. This conversation with my dad is something that has stuck with me for my entire poker career and whenever I start to feel tilt creeping in, I think about it.

Stacks: Matthew Davis – 22,000,000 (27.5 BB) Justin Pimpedly – 12,000,000 (15 BB) 
Blinds: 400,000-800,000 with an 800,000 big blind ante
Players Remaining: 5

Pimpedly raised to 2,000,000 from UTG.

CT: Set this hand up.

MD: I’m second to act and I look down at pocket tens. I check around the table and I see the button has 12 million chips and the small blind has 10 million. The big blind has a little over 2 million chips left, so this is a huge ICM spot for the three middle stacks.

CT: Please elaborate.

MD: Well, the fifth-place finisher would get paid $95,000 and fourth place would get paid $124,000. That was a $30,000 pay jump. Because the big blind was so short, I decided to apply maximum pressure knowing the three middling stacks can only call off with the very top of their range.

If I lost to one of the middling stacks, I still would have enough chips to make something happen. If everyone folded, I would pick up five big blinds and move to over 32 big blinds and would have had an even bigger chip lead. If someone chose to call off and I won, I’d have 60 percent of the chips in play with four players left.

Davis raised all-in holding 10Heart Suit 10Club Suit. Everyone folded back to Pimpedly, who tanked called with 9Heart Suit 9Club Suit

CT: Were you surprised he called with pocket nines?

MD: Definitely. When he called, I was thinking jacks plus and was happy to see nines. He’s actually a good friend of mine and a really good poker player. In this situation I think it was an ICM mistake, given the smallest stack at the table had less than three big blinds and was going to be putting in the small blind next hand.
Board: AHeart Suit 5Heart Suit 3Spade Suit 4Heart Suit JHeart Suit

Davis won the pot of 26,000,000.

MD: We ended up fading the two outs and had a commanding chip lead on the remaining three players. After this hand I was able to utilize my stack and I knocked out every player remaining. Going from one of the smallest stacks at the table to chip leading halfway through allowed me to play a lot more aggressively and finish strong.

With four players left I got the chips in as a favorite on every all-in and we were fortunate enough to win each of those all-ins. By the time we got heads-up I had a 2:1 chip lead. I had a good feeling early on how my final opponent [Rinaldo Teodoro] was going to play. I was able to switch up my strategy after about 10 hands and it paid off shortly thereafter. ♠