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Matt Graham -- What's My Line?

Graham Discusses His Big Call With 19 People Left

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Matt GrahamUntil recently, Matt Graham was widely known for his bracelet in last year’s $1,500 limit hold’em shootout. He took on Jean-Robert Bellande heads up and won his first bracelet, while earning $278,180 in the process.

That was just the beginning of Graham’s success. This year, he won his second bracelet in a much tougher field. He won event No. 40, the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha world championship. He bested Vitaly Lunkin heads up, denying him his second bracelet of 2009, while taking home $679,402.

With 19 people left, Graham made a big call against Matt Vengrin with just one pair for his tournament life to help propel him to the final table. He sat down with Card Player to break down his thought process throughout the hand.

Event – Blinds WSOP $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha 8,000-16,000
Player Matt Graham Matt Vengrin
Hand AClub Suit ASpade Suit 2Club Suit 2Heart Suit KHeart Suit JDiamond Suit 10Spade Suit 9Heart Suit
Chip Count 450,000 420,000

The Hand

Matt VengrinWith 19 people left, Matt Vengrin limped under the gun for 16,000. It was folded around to Matt Graham, who was in the big blind, and he raised the size of the pot, to 56,000. Vengrin made the call, and they took the flop heads up.

The flop fell 8Club Suit 6Diamond Suit 3Heart Suit, and Graham led out for 90,000. Vengrin then decided to move all in for his remaining chips. After five minutes or so, Graham made the call. The two hands were turned up, and Graham saw that he was way ahead.

The 10Heart Suit fell on the turn, giving Vengrin more outs, as he picked up another straight draw, a flush draw, as well as any 9, 10, jack, or king. The 2Spade Suit fell on the river, and that sent Vengrin home in 19th place and put Graham near the top of the chip counts.

The Interview

Matt GrahamSteve Schult: So, let’s start with the preflop action. Are you always going to raise here, since you are going to have to play the hand out of position post-flop?

Matt Graham: I have a lot of good flops. A set of deuces, set of aces, any uncoordinated flop, and any flush draw, so yes. Generally, with those stacks there, I’m going to raise, and I think post-flop he’s going to play very straightforwardly. So, I’m building a pot where I’m going to bet and he’s going to fold a lot.

SS: When he limps and calls, what information does that give you about his hand?

MG: I know he has a good hand, I know he has good connected cards, and I put him on a tight range. To limp under the gun and call a pot bet, I have him on a strong hand.

SS: Is that flop bet standard?

MG: Yeah. On that board, I think so, because he’s going to be folding a ton with whatever he limped with. I don’t think any set is in his range, and the only hand that has me beat currently is a hand that has an 8-6, or a full wrap. But those aren’t very likely combos.

I didn’t think he was going to have like 10-9-7-5. I didn’t think he would call with that preflop, so the full wraps seemed unlikely. I even said while I was making my decision, “Do you have a good wrap, or do you have like 10-9-8?”

I thought he also might just have like a pair of eights and a straight draw and all live pair outs. I thought that would make up a good part of his range, too. I thought if he hit any part of the flop, he would pot on me there, given the stack sizes.

SS: When he shoves on you, what are you thinking?

Matt GrahamMG: He basically snap-shoved on me, and I really didn’t like it. I didn’t make my decision instantly, because I wasn’t sure about his stack just yet; I just wanted to make sure what price I was getting.

It worked out to where I had 2-1, so I knew what my price was. I was a little inexperienced, and I had to think about it, because I didn’t know what my equity was against a wrap, or two pair, and against an overall range.

I’m very good with calculating my equity against certain ranges in hold’em, but not so much in PLO. I wasn’t sure what my equity was, but I decided I needed to gamble in that spot.

SS: Was your call based a little bit on the need to accumulate chips to win the tournament?

MG: No, I’m not going to make a bad call just to try to get chips, but I felt if it was very close, I should call, because all of the money is at the top, so if its close, I should go for it.

SS: Did a complete bluff ever run through your mind?

MG: I didn’t think it would be that stone cold of a bluff; that was a little surprising. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought he had more medium connectors.

Like I said, I even asked him, “Do you have like 10-9-8-something?” and he repeated it back to me, like, “10-9-8? Come on,” like that was an absurd hand for him to have. I thought his comment was weird, and he was pretty adamantly trying to talk me out of a call.

SS: Did his comments give you any information or sway your decision?

MG: What he said made me think he did not want me to call, but that didn’t necessarily mean that I wanted to put my money in.

Even if he had a full wrap, he would happily take that pot. He would be happy for me to fold with anything in Omaha, unless he had top set. Even with two pair, it’s fairly close, so that kind of weighted his range more toward weaker hands.

Matt GrahamSS: Was there any prior history between the two of you?

MG: Not a lot, that’s why it was such a tough spot. I was surprised that he made a play. If we had history, I might have put my money in more quickly.

SS: After you make that raise preflop, are you going to continuation-bet any flop?

MG: Not all; not if it’s overly coordinated, because I have a pretty good idea of what he has. The hand that he ended up having is about what I thought he had preflop.

I didn’t think he’d shove it on the flop, but that’s about what I thought he had. So, if the board comes 10-9-7, I probably just check and fold.

SS: After the preflop raise, you still have just over 20 big blinds. When are you committing yourself to the hand?

MG: I’m not completely committing myself to the hand preflop. I’m committing my stack on a dry board, or if I flop any flush draw, even if it came 10-9-8 with two clubs. As long as he doesn’t have something like a made straight, I’ll have enough equity.

SS: If he flat-called the flop, what was your plan of action? Let’s say the 10Heart Suit fell on the turn, like it did.

MG: The problem with that is that I’m expecting him to pot the flop if he has a draw. I think a call there is really awkward. That’s not a standard play for him to flat the flop with those stacks.

With that much money in the pot, I’m not going to be checking and folding the turn that often. There are only a handful of cards with which I would fold the turn. Even if a jack hit, I’m just going to sigh and put it in. If he has two pair, that will be that.

Even if a bad card did hit, I might just say there is enough money in the pot for me to go with it and just pot it on the turn and pray he doesn’t snap-call.

SS: So, now if he flats on the flop, it becomes a spot where you are committing yourself without the most awful of turns?

MG: If something like a 7 had hit a turn, I would have checked, but he would have gotten there. So, the one card that I would have checked and folded on would be the card that he would have gotten there with.

I think it’s a stretch to make that play with those stack sizes. I’m not a PLO expert, though. I said going into day 3 that I was the least experienced PLO player in the field.

SS: With that mindset, is that what led you to call?

MG: Yea, gambling a little bit would be a good idea, but I learned a lot in that tournament.

I learned a ton just watching, because it’s a stacked field, and there were so many good players. I learned a lot about bet-sizing and different textures of boards and how people play different hands. That tournament was definitely educational.