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Final Table Takedown: Thomas Boivin Wins Big At Hard Rock

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Jun 18, 2023


Thomas Boivin started to get serious about poker while he was in college, starting on PokerStars. The Belgian was simultaneously getting his Master’s degree in civil engineering while building up his bankroll in 18-person and six-max turbo sit-n-go’s.

After graduating, he decided to stick with poker while making the move to Malta. It was a rough start to his professional career, however, and the inexperienced Boivin initially blamed variance for his lack of success.

In early 2018, Boivin had a wake-up call when he met a special woman (now his wife). He was clearly not realizing his full potential and not being what he terms as his “best self” overall. He fully committed to studying and started allowing time and patience for self-growth. As you might expect, his poker skills, and life, started to improve tremendously.

Later that year Boivin moved to London and since then his game has been firing on all cylinders. In addition to a title worth more than $350,000 at the Venetian in Las Vegas, as well as a couple of big final-table runs at the World Series of Poker, Boivin also won the EPT Prague €25,000 high roller for over $425,000 and finished runner-up in the WPT World Online Championships during the pandemic for another $390,000.

The last couple of years have seen him focus more on high roller events, and it paid off big in May of this year when he took down the $25,000 event at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown for a career-best $711,300. He now has more than $5.5 million in recording earnings, as well as millions more won online.

Card Player caught up with Boivin to break down a couple of key hands from his latest title run.

Event: Hard Rock Poker Showdown
Buy-In: $25,500
Entrants: 105
Prize Pool: $2,593,500
First-Place Prize: $711,300

Craig Tapscott: Have you been playing on the circuit full-time for the last few years?

Thomas Boivin: I’ve been playing live on a regular basis for a while, and I’ve been coming to the United States more recently to compete. I’ve been to Florida a few times and it’s definitely one of my favorite stops. Poker is already huge there and especially draws a few European players traveling through. It’s a wonderful place to play poker in the US when the events get so large. It has been a great experience.

CT: The final table of this high roller was stacked with some great players, including Bryn Kenney, Ren Lin, Joseph Cheong, and Martin Zamani. What did you do to prepare?

TB: Honestly, not much. I’ve made a lot of final tables from my online play over the years. I’ll study and review many of the hands at those tables to prepare for different situations. I’m always working on my game. But it’s basically ongoing study throughout the year to make sure I’m ready if something big comes up.

CT: Do you have a morning routine that works for you?

TB: I mostly do some mental work in the morning like making sure I’m in my zone. I’ll work out, do some meditation, and do anything and everything that I know is good for my body and mindset. I’ll then run through what I believe to be my edges on a particular table. Maybe review some information about the players I feel most comfortable playing against at the final table, etc.

CT: What was your mindset as you approached the final table?

TB: I was kind of a short stack for much of the time leading up to the final table. I didn’t think about anything but the moment I was experiencing. Actually, for most of the event, I was maybe in the bottom 25 percent of the field. It was the same at the start of day 2 until we were in the money. I didn’t really think about who I would be competing against. I was just thinking, ‘What do I do at this particular moment? What’s my strategy?’ I honestly didn’t really think about the final table at all.

Stacks: Thomas Boivin – 900,000 (112 BB) Bryn Kenney – 240,000 (30 BB)
Blinds: 4,000-8,000 with a 8,000 big blind ante
Players Remaining: 40
Players: 8

CT: After fighting on the short stack all tournament, you finally had some chips with 40 players left.

Boivin raised to 16,000 from under the gun holding QSpade Suit QDiamond Suit. Kenney called from the big blind.

Flop: 6Heart Suit 5Club Suit 3Spade Suit

TB: This is actually not the best flop for me because the big blind has all the strong hands [in their range] such as 6-6, 5-5, 3-3, 6-5, 5-3, etc. However, Kenney was “only” 30 big blinds deep.

CT: Even though it wasn’t a great flop, you thought a continuation bet was in order?

TB: In this spot I still want to c-bet a decent amount of the time. Mainly because I can stack off with my overpairs.

CT: That thinking has to do totally with stack size, correct?

TB: Yes. That wouldn’t be the case if we were 60-plus big blinds deep. I would check very often in that case, because I’m going to c-bet selectively and with a polarized range, which will be either a very strong or very weak hand. For example, Q-Q for value, or J-10 for a bluff. But I wouldn’t c-bet A-5 or A-3 or A-J very often in this spot.

I also chose to use a bigger bet sizing.

Kenney checked, and Boivin bet 40,000. Kenney raised to 87,000.

TB: That really sucked when he checked raised me. (laughs)

CT: Would you ever consider folding the overpair? At this point, it’s just a bluff catcher, right?

TB: There are some players’ profiles I would have already folded. Such as a player who’s a very tight recreational. But I have to give credit to Bryn to find within his range enough bluffs & semi-bluffs such as 5-4, and 6-4, which are great semi-bluffs for example, to have enough equity against his range.

Boivin moved all in, and Kenney called.

TB: I jammed and got snapped by 7Club Suit 4Spade Suit, the nut straight. I was drawing dead.

Turn: 10Club Suit
River: 2Diamond Suit

Kenney won the pot of 484,000.

TB: After that hand, I lost a few all-ins vs short stacks, and I was back to 450,000 chips.

CT: That was still a good-sized stack.

TB: Yes. It was still a very decent stack, actually. Because the average stack was around 300,000 at the time. But mentally it still felt like a challenge because I wasn’t the massive chip leader anymore. I was just slightly above average. A reminder that nothing is ever set in stone in poker.

CT: (laughs) Never.

TB: I know. Funny enough, I actually didn’t cross the 900,000 chip stack mark again until the final table. I remained a middle stack or short stack for the majority of the tournament after that hand. That was all the way up until we were heads-up, where I was a 9:1 underdog to begin.

Stacks: Thomas Boivin – 5,000,000 (25 BB) Frank Lagodich – 5,500,000 (27.5 BB)
Blinds: 100,000-200,000 with a 200,000 big blind ante
Players Remaining: 2

TB: We had been playing heads-up for almost two hours at this point, and I had picked up some info on my opponent’s game that would eventually pay off for me. In heads-up play, it’s best to try to exploit every tiny leak you can find.

Action: Lagodich limped in from the button. Boivin checked the option holding JSpade Suit 10Club Suit.

CT: Could you have raised the J-10?

TB: At this depth, we want to raise a very polarized range, either very good hands or very bad hands. I would hate to raise-fold (if he limp-jams) J-10 offsuit, so I felt checking was the best option.

Flop: AHeart Suit 8Diamond Suit 5Diamond Suit

Boivin checked. Lagodich bet 200,000, and Boivin called.

CT: You totally whiffed this flop. What was your plan?

TB: My hand was too strong to fold in a heads-up limped pot.

Turn: 10Spade Suit

Boivin checked, and Lagodich bet 500,000.

CT: What’s the plan once you pair up?

TB: This was the crucial moment. I had around 24 big blinds behind at this point on the turn. He was supposed to bet a polarized range, either a strong value hand (J-J+, A-X, etc.) or a bluff. For that reason, his sizing should be big (around 100 to 110 percent pot).

CT: You had seen him demonstrate that bet pattern during the match?

TB: Yes. I know he knows how much the bet sizing should be because I’ve seen him choose that sort of sizing in previous hands. The fact that he chose such a small sizing in game, made me think he had a hand that either: 1) was drawing and didn’t want to get check-jammed if he had bet too big or 2) a weak hand that would check back the river, like 5-4 or 9-8. 

CT: So, what’s the best way to proceed? It sounds like you’ve got a solid read on his range.

TB: I decided to trust my gut and check-raised to 7.5 big blinds with what I thought was very often the best hand.

Boivin raised to 1,500,000, and Lagodich called.

River: 2Diamond Suit

TB: The flush was completed with the 2Diamond Suit. And given my read on the turn, checking seemed like the best option because he either has air (missed straight draw), the nuts (flush), or a weak pair that would likely check back. 

Boivin checked, and Lagodich bet 800,000. Boivin called.

Lagodich revealed 9Heart Suit 7Diamond Suit, and Boivin won the pot of 5,600,000.

CT: What if he had shoved the river?

TB: I’m not sure what I would have done if he went all-in, but I might have folded (given my read on the turn). Fortunately, he went for a small bet or 20 percent pot (four big blinds into 20 big blinds). I instantly called and won. That pot was pretty big, and soon thereafter, I won the match.

CT: Over the last few years, you’ve been on quite the heater and so close to a number of huge scores. To what do you most attribute the growth in your game?

TB: I think two things come to my mind. First, it’s really just my passion for the game. I’ve always wanted to learn more and more about poker; that’s what it’s all about for me. I’ve worked with different software to improve as well as hiring one-on-one coaches. My goal has been to take my game one level ahead, one step further as I progress each year.

And the second thing is I love meeting great people and colleagues. I meet many friends during my travels and people who share the same passion through my study group. I am so grateful for that group as it has given me a lot of energy to keep pushing to be better and better. ♠

Boivin is part of a few study groups which include a number of one-on-one coaching services he offers. He recently started presenting videos on Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @martomchat.

*Photos courtesy of Hard Rock Hollywood and WPT.