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Final Table Takedown: Morgan Petro Earns Fourth Circuit Ring In 11 Months

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Nov 29, 2023

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Morgan PetroMorgan Petro’s poker journey began almost 30 years ago, playing in his family’s weekly nickel-dime games with his aunts, uncles, and grandfather. He was only seven years old, but would watch the game intently, soaking up as much as he could before they would finally let him take a seat.

The Virginia resident was reintroduced to poker with the Moneymaker boom in 2003. Whether running a friendly garage game with his restaurant coworkers, traveling to Atlantic City to grind cash, playing online, or perusing poker forums, Morgan had gone all in.

Following the loss of his brother in 2006, Petro dealt with substance abuse, and temporarily put his poker dreams on hold. He eventually would enter treatment and find recovery, which would reawaken his passion for the game.

Petro married his longtime partner and high school sweetheart, Kate. With a growing family with two daughters and a busy career in sales, poker was relegated to a profitable side hobby, but he never stopped dreaming of leaving the 9 to 5 behind.

In August of ’22 Petro attended The Lodge in Austin, Texas, where his friend Jonah Labranche won the main event for almost $250,000. That inspired Petro to put more work into his tournament game and switch the focus of his study to almost entirely MTT play.

He was rewarded for his efforts with his first WSOP Circuit ring last December, taking down a $1,100 event at Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina for $90,244. Just two weeks later, he picked up his second ring in the online circuit series.

Petro returned to North Carolina in May and once again came away with the ring in the $1,100 event, along with $57,137, and in August he narrowly missed out on another trip to the winner’s circle at Cherokee with a third-place showing in a $400 event.

In September, Petro traveled to Texas and took third in the Lodge Millionaire Mayhem main event for another $95,000, and then in October, he earned a career-best payday of $218,549 along with his fourth career ring at the WSOP Circuit Pompano main event in south Florida.

Card Player caught up with Petro to break down a couple of key hands from his most recent win.

Craig Tapscott: You’ve won four WSOPC rings in the past 11 months. To what do you attribute these amazing results?

Morgan Petro: I finally started focusing on my physical and mental health. I had been my own biggest roadblock in the past. Now that I’m able to dedicate more quality time and energy into the game, I’m seeing better results.

CT: What is the part of your game that you have worked on the most?

MP: I tend to focus on the most frequently occurring spots and really drill in on those like button versus big blind and blind versus blind play. As far as leaks go, I worked hard on learning proper ICM (Independent Chip Model) adjustments for late-game play, as that’s where all the real money is earned or lost.

Event: WSOP Circuit Pompano
Buy-In: $1,700
Entrants: 825 
Prize Pool: $1,234,725
First-Place Prize: $218,549

Stacks: Morgan Petro – 660,000 (22 BB)
Maksim Lebedev – 1,100,000 (36 BB)
Blinds: 15,000-30,000 
Big Blind Ante: 30,000
Players Remaining: 26

Petro raised from the button to 60,000 holding JSpade Suit 8Spade Suit. Lebedev called from the big blind.

CT: What’s your impression of your opponent in the big blind?

MP: I had played quite a bit with Maksim throughout the day and had him pegged as aggressive with the ability to get out of line at times. 

CT: How so?

MP: I had seen him make some quite large three-bet jams and check-raise jams throughout the day. 

Flop: ADiamond Suit KDiamond Suit JHeart Suit

MP: We took an ace-high flop with a flush draw and a straight available. Generally, I am going to be range betting this board at a high clip. But because of Maksim’s propensity for check-raising, as well as me having checked back top pair in similar situations at this table, I chose to check back. 

Both players checked.
Turn: 8Diamond Suit
Lebedev checked. 

MP: A flush completing 8Diamond Suit dropped on the turn and he checked again. So, I opted to…

Petro bet 75,000. 

MP: I bet about 40 percent of pot.

CT: Before we go deeper into the hand, let’s talk about that bet sizing. There are many trains of thought as to how much to bet on the turn here. What went through your head when you were determining bet sizing?

MP: When I checked back the flop, Maksim will be leading this turn at a high percentage with both his value-flushes, straights, two pair, etc. So, when he checks again, he will often have a showdown type hand like weak K-x, J-x and some weak A-x (he will be defending all A-x pre and most K-x).

CT: Why did you choose 40 percent of the pot?

MP: That sizing allowed for him to continue with a lot of the A-x and K-x hands he would be defending big blind with. It was also a bet that will charge him for his flush draws as well as find some bluff raises without going all in.

Lebedev raised to 175,000. 

MP: He check-raised me to about 2.3x of my bet.

CT: What did you make of that raise, as you’ve seen him do similar plays throughout the day?

MP: When he chose to check-raise the turn instead of lead, I think he is more weighted towards combo draws than nutted hands. I decided to call as that was really my only viable option. 

Petro called.
River: 6Club Suit 

MP: The river was a blank. Maksim thought for a moment and opted to shove all in for more than a pot-sized bet.

Lebedev moved all-in.

MP: I went deep into the tank. I thought through every street of the hand, every hand I’d seen him play that day, and tried to piece it altogether. I looked across the table at him and tried to get a read. I didn’t get much. Finally, I opted to do what I try to always to do in these situations – trust my gut instinct.

Petro called and Lebedev revealed JDiamond Suit 9Club Suit for a pair of jacks. Petro won the pot of 1,400,000 with two pair.

CT: Nice call.

MP: Thanks. Maksim made one hell of a good bluff in my opinion (I told him as much when the hand was over). I got the necessary double here and ended up coasting to a top three stack just a few hours later to end the day.

CT: When you make a great a call like that it can really boost your confidence moving forward. Let’s go into the second hand you wanted to share.

Stacks: Morgan Petro –5,400,000 (22 BB)
Scott Baumstein – 6,700,000 (27 BB)
Blinds: 125,000-250,000 
Big Blind Ante: 250,000
Players Remaining: 5

Baumstein limped in from the small blind and Petro raised from the big blind to 750,000 holding JClub Suit 2Diamond Suit. Baumstein called.

MP: At this point Baumstein and I have kind of been battling, which isn’t surprising since we are next to each other and playing numerous blind versus blind hands. He had been fairly aggressive in these confrontations as well as his other hands at the table, and had raised the small blind far more than he limped.

CT: So, you’re balancing in this spot?

MP: When he limps and I have J-2 offsuit, I’m going to be mixing between raising 3x and checking back. What is interesting about this is most of the live population isn’t going to be balancing their value by raising hands like J-2 offsuit here sometimes and become easy to exploit for that reason. 

Flop: 9Club Suit 7Club Suit 2Club Suit
Baumstein checked, and Petro bet 325,000. Baumstein raised to 750,000.

MP: When Baumstein checked I opted to bet this board for a variety of reasons. I can get value from club flush draws, straight draws, and I have good equity against hands currently better than mine like top pair and even small flushes.

When he check-raised to a small sizing I opted to call in position.
Petro called.
Turn: KClub Suit
Both players checked.

CT: You turned a flush. What were your thoughts on checking behind?

MP: When Baumstein checked I opted to check back as I didn’t think I could get two streets of value with my hand. And Baumstein can still check some strong hands in this spot. I also checked for deception, as well with plans to bet river if checked to.

River: 6Diamond Suit 

Baumstein checked, and Petro bet 650,000. Baumstein went into the tank, talking out loud about Petro’s possible holdings.

MP: When Baumstein checks to me on the river, he will basically never have a hand better than mine as he would have gone for value on the river. So now, it was all about finding a sizing that I think he would call with worse. I choose to bet just over 20 percent of pot here and try to get a crying call. It’s a rather small bet size, but small sizing is often preferred on monotone boards.

Baumstein called and mucked. Petro won the pot of 4,550,000.

MP: What I found interesting here is when Baumstein ran through hands on the river I could have he only named premium starting hands containing a club. He left out a large portion of the other hands being raised. This was one of many hands I opted to choose to bet thinly for value on the river at this final table. Betting thin for value is an underutilized tool, especially in live MTTS, and will help your all-around game if implemented correctly.

CT: Many players I’ve talked to have shared that not making these thin bets is a huge leak. What are some of the best ways a player can get the confidence to make these thin value bets?

MP: Betting thin for value is important for two major reasons. The first being it allows you to make more chips/money with your medium-strength hands by extracting value in spots where your opponents aren’t even attempting to get value and are checking back. If opponents are showing you worse hands at showdown often and would have called a bet with those hands, it is a great indicator that you aren’t betting nearly thin enough for value.

The second thing thin value betting does is allow you to bluff more often and more profitably. The more value bets you have on a given board the more bluffs you will be able to incorporate into your game.

You can follow Morgan Petro on Twitter/X @MPetro87 and buy his action on PokerStake.com. ♠