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Final Table Takedown With Matt Matros

Limit Hold'em Guru Matt Matros Captures Second Gold Bracelet In Two Years

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Matt MatrosMatt Matros is a Brooklyn, New York based poker player, a staff writer for Card Player magazine, and a poker coach. He graduated from Yale University with a B.S. in mathematics. In addition, Matros has an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College. In 2004, he finished third in the $25,000 buy-in World Poker Tour Championship event for $706,903 and has more than $1,800,000 in career tournament cashes.

He won his first gold bracelet in limit hold’em at the 2010 World Series of Poker and has also reached numerous final tables in other major events. He can be found at CardRunners, where he makes training videos as an instructor. Matros is also the author of the book The Making of a Poker Player.

Event — WSOP No. 52 (Mixed Hold’em)
Buy in — $2,500
Entrants — 580
First Place — $303,501

Hand No. 1

Brian Smith raises to 30,000 from the cutoff. Matros calls from the big blind holding ADiamond Suit 6Spade Suit.

Matt Matros: Even though Brian had been playing a relatively tight-solid game, I had a pretty easy call in the big blind with A-6 offsuit. If you don’t defend your blind in limit hold’em, you’re just asking to be run over.

Flop: AHeart Suit 3Heart Suit 2Spade Suit (pot: 68,000)

Matros checks.

Craig Tapscott: Can you share your thoughts regarding limit-poker strategy as compared to no-limit strategy in this spot? Is leading out ever a good option here?

MM: Checking is a very standard limit move. It’s rarely correct to lead into the preflop raiser in this game, and it’s especially important when I actually flop an ace to give my opponent the chance to bluff.

Smith bets 15,000. Matros raises to 30,000.

MM: I raised because there were a lot of worse hands Brian would call with, and if he had a draw, I wanted to charge him as much as possible for it. I could’ve been getting more chips in against a better ace (nearly all the aces in Brian’s range are better than mine), but when you flop top pair in limit hold’em, your primary goal is to extract value, not to worry about possibly losing an extra bet or two when behind.

Smith calls.

Turn: 5Diamond Suit (pot: 128,000)

CT: Does this card help your perceived hand-range in your opponent’s eyes at all?

MM: Yes. This was a good card for my range, as I had many more fours in my range than Brian had in his. Even if Brian had a better ace than mine, it would be tough for him to raise the turn against that scary card. I therefore had a pretty straight forward decision to once again bet for value. Brian would call with draws and maybe even some worse made hands, and I was pretty unlikely to get raised.

Matros bets 30,000. Smith calls.

River: 9Diamond Suit (pot: 188,000)

MM: This card didn’t change anything (or so I thought!). So, the question became whether to bet and try to get called by a worse hand, or to check and try to induce a bluff from a busted draw. I decided to bet. For the same reasons as on the turn, I had little fear of getting raised, and I really didn’t want Brian to check a pocket pair behind me.

Matros bets 30,000. Smith raises to 60,000.

CT: Is he really holding a four?

MM: The only hand that seemed logical for him to raise there was a straight, since it was so easy for me to have a 4 myself. However, since it was unlikely for Brian to have opened with a four in his hand, the raise seemed strange. Still, my instinct was to fold.

CT: Had you seen Smith try anything crazy earlier in the day?

MM: So far, Brian hadn’t tried any wild bluffs that I’d seen, and it was hard to imagine this was his first of the day. While it was hard to imagine, it wasn’t impossible, since his value-raising range was so small, and since there was a believable story I could tell in which he decided to bluff-raise a busted flush draw on the end. I eventually decided to call, getting 9.25-1 on my money. You don’t get rich in limit hold’em by making big laydowns.

Matros calls. Smith reveals 9Club Suit 9Heart Suit.

MM: Yuck!

Smith wins the pot of 308,000.

Hand No. 2

CT: What’s the final table dynamic between you and Lane?

MM: John and I had played a half hour of heads-up limit hold’em, and John won somewhere between 80-90 percent of the hands. I went from holding a 4-1 chip lead to finding myself in a 3-2 chip deficit when we switched to no-limit hold’em. Obviously, I was discouraged, as I’m a better limit player than a no-limit player, but I did my best to focus and eventually got back into the lead.

Matros raises to 75,000 holding KSpade Suit 5Spade Suit. Lane calls.

Flop: KHeart Suit 4Heart Suit 3Spade Suit (pot: 160,000)

Lane checks. Matros bets 75,000. Lane raises to 225,000.

CT: What’s the best play with top pair here? And what hand-range are you putting him on?

MM: I didn’t want to three-bet and fold to an all-in push, but I thought John still had too many chips for me to three-bet all in myself. I thought John’s most likely holdings were second pair, third pair, a small pocket pair, or a top pair better than mine.

CT: So, no heart draw possibility in his hands?

MM: I didn’t think John would want to play a big pot with a draw. I’d been playing pretty aggressively, and I thought John wouldn’t want to risk my three-betting him if he had a lot of outs. Additionally, he’d already berated himself for betting with a flush draw earlier and allowing me to check-raise him off of the hand, so I thought if he had another flush draw, he would play it more passively.

Matros calls.

Turn: 3Diamond Suit (pot: 610,000)

MM: I didn’t like this card.

CT: Why not?

MM: A three fit very squarely into the range of hands I thought John could have.

Lane checks.

MM: After John checked, I thought I would get the most value out of my hand by checking behind and inducing a bluff on the river. I’d lose the minimum to trip threes that way, and maybe I’d get more value out of my hand if John decided to bluff a deuce or a pocket pair, or even just air on the end.

Matros checks.

River: 2Heart Suit (pot: 610,000)

Lane bets 500,000.

CT: The flush draw and just about all of the straight draws came in. So, I’m guessing that card threw a wrench into your plan. What now?

MM: Yes. The plan had been to induce a bluff, but John’s bet-sizing gave me serious pause. Bigger river bets are far more likely to be value-bets than not, and these days a bet of more than 80 percent of the pot on the end is very large, indeed. Also, since I’d called John down so much in limit, I wondered if he thought I would do the same in no-limit and was therefore charging me as much as possible to pay him off.

CT: Perhaps he’s messing with your head.

MM: Perhaps. John was savvy enough to be thinking on the next level, bluffing in this spot because he knew it would look so much like a value-bet.

CT: So, what is he value-betting with, if that is what he’s doing?

MM: Well, because the river card was so scary, I didn’t think John would make a value-bet (or a bluff) of that size with just a king, so I pretty much ruled out the top-pair hands. That left flushes, straights, and trips. Obviously, there were still a lot of ways I could have the worst hand.

CT: What else went through your head for his possible holdings?

MM: Remember my read on the flop had been that John didn’t have a draw. If I was right about John not having a flush or straight draw on the flop, and not having a king on the end, and if my plan on the turn had been to induce a bluff, then I didn’t see how I could fold getting 2.2-1 on my money. I could’ve been entirely wrong, but I wasn’t going to abandon my analysis now just because the stakes were higher. If he had trip threes (which was the hand I was most worried about), then so be it, but when I feel I’m only losing to one fairly specific hand, I’m going to pay off. Besides, maybe John was getting tired of my aggression and was simply running a bluff.

Matros calls. Lane reveals 9Spade Suit 8Heart Suit.

Matros wins the pot of 1,610,000.

CT: Nice call.

MM: Thanks. I can’t say I blame him for playing his hand that way. It was an aggressive move that was very likely to work, but on this occasion, it was the turning point in our match. I won the tournament, and my second bracelet, a few hands later. Spade Suit