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Final Table Takedown: Evan Sandberg Captures WSOP Online Bracelet

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Feb 22, 2023


Evan Sandberg At Wynn ClassicAs a teenager, Evan Sandberg was a top-ranked competitive chess player, traveling nationwide for tournaments. It was while playing chess that he also discovered the wild world of poker.

After high school, Sandberg went to Rutgers University, but eventually dropped out and began playing micro-stakes poker online. When he turned 21, he began to frequent his local casino, Lucky Chances, outside of San Francisco. He had a $3,000 bankroll at the time and jumped into the $3-$5 no-limit cash games and had immediate success, working his way up to $5-$10.

But while Sandberg’s confidence was growing so was his ego, which became his downfall in the games when the negative side of variance hit. He ended up broke and moved back in with his parents. During that summer, he even took a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant, eventually getting fired.

Humbled and broke, Sandberg drove to Las Vegas in January of 2020 and lived in his car while being staked a modest $350 roll by a friend. It took time, but he was able to build up a $30,000 bankroll, and the following year would bring two breakout scores.

In April of 2021, he finished third in a side event at the Hard Rock Poker Showdown in South Florida for $158,400. Then in November of that year, he took down the mystery bounty event at the Wynn Fall Classic, banking $293,322.

In 2022 Sandberg continued his hot streak, final tabling three events at the World Series of Poker. In October, he won his first WSOP bracelet, taking down a $2,000 no-limit event for $94,568. He now has career tournament earnings of just over $1 million.

Card Player caught up with Sandberg to talk about his bracelet win.

Event: 2022 WSOP Online
Buy-In: $2,000
Entrants: 161
Prize Pool: $421,800
First-Place Prize: $94,568

Craig Tapscott: You’ve had success recently in both live and online events. Does your strategy change at all?

Evan Sandberg: When I am playing online, I take a lot of notes. Both color coding a player’s general style (tight aggressive, loose passive, etc.) and also more detailed notes on specific hands I see. I don’t think I really have a general style online, I just try to adapt the best I can to the table dynamics.

Live play is a bit different because, for one thing, I have face blindness. As this is a genetic condition, it’s not something that I can really improve on. I have to accept that I’m going to be playing with people whom I’ve played with several times and have no idea who they are.

However, just as a blind person tends to have really good hearing, I think a strength of mine is being able to gather information on my opponents very quickly, whether it’s the way they handle their chips, their table talk, or of course the hands that they play. Even things such as watching them right after they play a hand, do they act happy or upset? Do they start texting the hand history to their poker buddies? Or do they have little reaction and continue focusing on the game? All of these things are types of information that help me categorize opponents and navigate my way through live tournaments.

Stacks: Evan Sandberg – 968,000 (24 BB) Villain – 1,200,000 (30 BB)
Blinds: 20,000-40,000 with a 4,000 ante
Players Remaining: 4

Sandberg raised to 98,000 from the cutoff holding KClub Suit QClub Suit.

Evan Sandberg: I had been on the short stack for much of the final table, I was down to six big blinds when I doubled up with A-J suited versus K-K and then doubled again with K-K versus 9-9. Going into the hand I’ll share here, I realized I had a good shot at winning the tournament.

The Villain reraised to 254,000 on the button.

CT: What was your read on the Villain thus far at the final table?

ES: The button appeared to be overly aggressive preflop, at least that’s what I thought. In addition, I would imagine I have one of the best hands in theory to four-bet shove light with.

In my earlier years in poker, I used to constantly try to find good spots to bluff. Now I kind of do the opposite, I try to sit back in my chair and let good spots present themselves to me. If you’ve played thousands of hours of poker, and are confident in your game, then the best thing you can do is just let the game come to you.

I think a sign that you are about to make a good bluff is when it wasn’t on your mind to run a bluff before the hand began. Let the hand play itself out in such a way that you see it as a good spot. This could be where you have an important blocker or where you see a bet-sizing tell from your opponent. Perhaps the way the hand played out it’s difficult for you to not have showdown value. In any event, a great piece of advice I once got from a friend is to let the game come to you rather than try to make something happen.

Sandberg shoved all in, and the Villain folded. Sandberg won the pot of 584,000.

CT: You talked about having confidence in your game. Did that come to you early on? How did you develop and hold onto that mindset through the ups and downs of poker’s variance?

ES: It took me a long time to realize the importance of true confidence. I used to be overly confident and egotistical, but it took going broke to come to terms with my leaks. I still couldn’t beat stakes that were ten times smaller than the stakes I used to win at. Eventually, I realized the reason was that I had zero real confidence.

I started pondering ways to rebuild confidence. A close friend of mine told me I should try to book small winning sessions (quit while ahead). This went against some of my core beliefs, such as not focusing on day-to-day results, staying in juicy games no matter what, and so on. But I realized my friend was right. When your confidence is drained, something as simple as booking a small winning session can be a great step in the right direction. In fact, to this day I still follow this advice when I’m on a downswing and feel like I’m losing confidence in my game.

Stacks: Evan Sandberg – 2,600,000 (32.5 BB) Villain – 1,950,000 (24.5 BB)
Blinds: 40,000-80,000 with an 8,000 ante
Players Remaining: 2

The Villain limped in on the button. Sandberg checked the big blind holding 8Heart Suit 3Heart Suit.

CT: Did you have any reads on this opponent?

ES: I was pretty confident he specialized in live events rather than online. I felt like he had a strong sense of metagame and was crafty and perhaps wasn’t as sharp in modern-day poker theory as most pros are. But overall, I thought he was quite a good player, and that his strengths would likely suit him well in heads-up play.

Flop: 10Diamond Suit 7Heart Suit 4Spade Suit

Sandberg checked. The Villain bet 80,000, and Sandberg check-raised to 248,000.

CT: What was going through your mind when you decided to check-raise here?

ES: I think my hand was a decent candidate to make this play. There are a decent number of turn cards that give me some equity.

The Villain called.

Turn: QHeart Suit

Sandberg checked. The Villain bet 424,000, and Sandberg shoved all in.

CT: You made another big play at the Villain.

ES: In two previous hands I had checked-raised bluffed him on a relatively dry flop like this one. Both times he called. I felt the turn was a card I should be giving up on, so I check-folded those hands. What I noticed was that both times he bet about two-thirds pot on the turn, which I think is really big sizing in this specific spot. I often see the in-position player size down in that spot, as they tend to have a less polarized range given that they called a check-raise. More one-pair hands, whereas the big blind usually is either giving up on a bluff or has a strong hand.

CT: And you had turned a draw.

ES: Yes. In this hand, I did turn a flush draw. I think normally I would bet the turn to try to get my opponent to fold a seven or a four. But given the metagame, I felt like check-shoving would be an interesting try. Again, he bet around two-thirds pot on the turn, and I raised all in…

Villain called and revealed 7Club Suit 4Club Suit.

ES: He called with the bottom two pair. I feel like I got outplayed this hand, as I was trying to induce a big bet from a weak holding. But as it happened to be, I ran into a really strong hand.

River: 2Heart Suit

Sandberg won the pot of 3,900,000

CT: Nice catch. That’s poker.

ES: Thanks. I rivered the flush and won the tournament. but most of the time I would’ve doubled him up, which would have put me at a 6:1 chip deficit. The live reporting has been inaccurate on this hand. They made it sound like I moved all in on the river and he paid me off. I think it’s only fair to my opponent that I set the record straight.

CT: Since you had bankroll management issues earlier in your career, do you have any advice for players who struggle with their finances?

ES: I think a very important part of this is realizing how fortunate you are to be able to play poker full-time. A lot of people, even those who had previously worked difficult jobs, get caught up in all the competitiveness and want to move up in stakes so fast. They tend to forget about how fortunate they are.

Another big thing is to not set tangible financial goals. I never set goals for how much money I want to make, even long-term goals. My only financial goal is to be able to support myself comfortably through poker. Because if you have a number in your head that you’re working towards, and you go on a downswing, then the last thing you’re going to want to do is to move down in stakes. When you go on a downswing your mentality is being tested. Being able and willing to drop down in stakes is something to be proud of. It’s a sign of mental toughness. ♠