Direct head-to-head matchups are among the quintessential highlights of the sporting world! And in poker, with all these poker faces gathered around the table, it’s generally not at all clear who is going to do what and what is going to happen this highly variable head-to-head encounter contains a lot of thrills and spills. But then again, that’s of the very nature of poker! The thrill is there, regardless of the stakes – no matter who is playing, or whether the poker tournaments are live or online.
But, of course, at the world series, when world-class professional poker players clash in a super high roller tournament – well, this is where the excitement reaches its peak. These high stakes poker games reveal many important features and maybe even secrets about the best ways of playing poker. And there’s something here which can be even more interesting than that: an opportunity to explore some of the best methods and coping strategies that reduce the stress level involved while playing poker. All you need to do is to watch the best professional poker players, and try to figure out what they are doing; in particular at super high roller events, where the stakes are high, and where there are a lot of poker strategies, we can study. Especially with all the live tournament reporting!
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Upeshka De Silva Flays Fedor Holz
We’re now going to discuss one of the biggest defeats of CrownUpGuy. As we know, defeats are probably the best possible opportunities to gain some valuable insights, rather than victories – at least if we know how to learn and to handle such occasions well. Besides, for anyone who wants to learn Texas Hold’em better, it doesn’t really matter who won in this or that particular poker game. What’s more important is how professionals play, what they do and why, and in particular – how they handle the pressure of high stakes.
Upeshka De Silva, a professional poker player from Texas, won his bracelet in the WSOP event #45 in 2015. He represented some pretty tough opposition for Fedor Holz, who was still 22 back then; albeit already on his way to winning the bracelet he would acquire in 2016. At that particular moment on the gambling table, Holz had 2.9 million while his opponent had 1.6 million. Holz had 8♠ and 7♠, raising to 90’000. De Silva had A♥ and K♣. Everyone folded except him, re-raising to 265’000 on the big blind.
Fedor Holz seldom plays such weak hands. But that time he called the re-rise anyway. It was 590’000 in the pot. The flop was A♦ J♦ 8♥, and de Silva had obviously made a bet of 345,000. After considering this quickly, Holz called. He could have folded here, but he must have had a plan. This flop really gave Fedor a chance to win, given the real outs and pseudo-outs he had already analyzed. On top of that, Holz probably did not rule out the possibility that de Silva was bluffing.
The turn was Q♥. De Silva did not like it and opted not to bet. Holz immediately took it in and bet 425’000. This was a tough moment for de Silva – he still had a pretty fair chance of winning, and he realized that Holz might be bluffing or semi-bluffing, but the stakes were already pretty high. De Silva called. And now there was 2.13 million in the pot!
The river was 9♦. This was a perfect card for Holz. De Silva checked again, and Holz bet 800’000, which meant all-in for his opponent. De Silva’s hand looked too weak, and his top pair was apparently worthless; and so, his prospects of success in this tournament were inevitably threatened. It took more than five minutes for him to call. But his pot odds were quite high, and so this was indeed the right decision. Anyway, the call turned to be worth it. Holz flipped his 8♠ and 7♠ for a pair of eights. De Silva tabled A♥ and K♣ for a pair of aces and scooped the pot of 3,660,000.
Upeshka De Silva – 3,660,000 (92 bb)
Fedor Holz – 1,030,000 (26 bb)
Sunday, July 12, 2015 11:08 PM PST
Lessons? Fedor Holz demonstrated a high level of aggression with quite a weak flop, but his betting behavior testifies his profound hand analysis and strong skills of evaluating real outs and pseudo-outs. He played the hand perfectly and could have won. But his opponent did his job well, too, and they made the right decisions at the right time. Besides, Texas Hold’em is a game of odds, believe it or not!
Fedor Holz vs Jason Mercier
Another nicely played game. CrownUpGuy won this time! It was at the 2016 Super High Roller Bowl at ARIA in Las Vegas. There were 49 players, $300,000 buy-in and a $5 million first-place prize. Besides that, the winner was going to grab one of the most prestigious titles in the world of poker. This really was quite a tournament, in which Fedor Holz was eventually a runner-up.
The competition was tough. Jason Mercier (23d on the All-Time Money List) was holding the Q♥Q♦ and raised to 14,000 in the middle. Fedor Holz was on the big blind with A♠Q♣ and decided to defend. The hand he had was strong enough and definitely worth not check-folding against middle position open, especially when the bet was ⅓ of the pot size. AQ have decent chances against middle pairs; and furthermore, they do represent a stronger hand if the opponent has, say, an A10 or an A9. And the next turn gives us a chance to see whether or not your opponent is bluffing.
The flop was 4♦J♣6♠. Holz checked, Mercier bet 14,000, and Holz called. 6♣ came for the turn. Holz led out for 14,000. Mercier raised to 58,000. This was the moment for Holz to tank, but then he finally called! Maybe raising with just a pair of queens was a bit too risky for Mercier, but it certainly posed a serious challenge for Holz; since 6♣ was not the card, he wanted to see at the turn.
A♦ came for the river. Both players then checked, remaining unsure about the final chances and agreeing to ‘better safe than sorry’ strategy at this point, which was the right choice for both of them, making their hands on this river. Because of the ace on the river, Holz took the prize, which was worth 182,000.
Surely it was a great stroke of luck for Fedor to win this pot. But he deserved this luck, as he managed not to fold to another bet from his opponent and still having played his cards, doing what he could do under the circumstances, thinking hard when needed, and cleverly weighing the risks and chances. This is typical of his style!
Fedor Holz vs Phil Hellmuth
Just another game played at the 2016 Super High Roller Bowl at ARIA in Las Vegas. Phil Hellmuth, aka The Poker Brat, is a living poker legend. He is an American professional poker player, and he holds an amazing of fifteen World Series of Poker bracelets, while also making #17 in the All Time Money List. So it was exciting to see both legends playing at the same table: Fedor Holz vs Phil Hellmuth.
The blinds were 6,000/12,000/2,000 on that day – only the second day of the tournament! The players were six handed. Hellmuth had 673,000 and raised to 40,000, which was at 3.33x the big blind, having two nines in hand: 9♥9♦. This preflop raise caught the attention of the audience since nowadays professional players prefer to open within the range of 1-1.5x or 2.1-2.5x the big blind because they usually try to avoid unnecessary risks. However, sometimes players might have some other considerations in mind when they pursue this agenda, and so they might well have some good reasons to open on the large side, for example, if they want to give a signal that their hand is strong.
Holz had A♣7♥ and decided to defend his big blind, even though many players would probably have chosen to fold at this moment, given the certain unplayability of this hand. The flop came as 10♦2♦2♣. Holz checked, and Hellmuth did the same; but this was a little bit too tight and conservative, as his nines looked good, and many poker players would generally be prepared to continue on this flop.
The 10♣ appeared on the turn, Holz checked for a second time, and Hellmuth bet 38,000. Holz thought for a while, his face impenetrable and attentive as always, and laid down his ace as a high card. And this really was the best possible fold in this situation. Here is a video of this game: enjoy!
Having entered the world of high-roller tournaments and cash games, Fedor Holz demonstrated an outstanding ability to handle the game and the stress; as well as a high level of skill, as far as reading the cards is concerned. As seen on the video, his inner calm is untroubled, while his mind is uncluttered. As Hellmuth admitted after this hand, “Fedor has a chance to be special, and to be around for 50 more years. We will see.” There is hardly anything more to add to these words!