Ryan Ko 2

How Upswing Member Ryan Ko Won $104,202 in WSOP Event

The poker dream is alive.

Ryan Ko had a summer to remember, highlighted by a second-place finish for $104,202 in an online WSOP event.

Ryan has been a member of the Upswing Poker Lab since early 2019. More recently, he purchased advanced tournament courses Winning Poker Tournaments and High Stakes MTT Sessions.

He credits part of his huge score to the lessons he learned via these courses. Because of this, we caught up with him to ask about his incredible run.

Ryan Ko Interview

Q: Congrats on the sick score, Ryan!

Thanks Mike – what a crazy run. It’ll pay for a lot of Upswing content haha.

Q: Let’s start with a “zoomed out” overview of your WSOP run. Can you sum up your tournament in a few sentences (we’ll get into specific hands in a moment)?

he TLDR is that it’s good to run good, haha… This was my first WSOP.com tourney – I had driven up from California earlier in the day. I late-regged at ~50bb with ~75% of the field remaining as I often do (for reasons well-documented by Kenny Hallaert), and just immediately started running hot and ran it up to 150bb, and then mostly just coasted through the money bubble without too much drama.

It wasn’t until there was were ~2-3 tables left that I lost a few flips and found myself 18th of 18, eventually nursing it back. When the final table started I was 3rd last in chips, navigated the <20bb stack, eventually grinding out 2nd place.

Q: What are some key or particularly interesting hands that come to mind?

So I actually just went back into WSOP.com (two months after) and can’t find the hand histories, sigh… but frankly there wasn’t too much exciting as it was just hitting hands, extracting value, winning flips, catching punts, usual mtt stuff… etc. However, there is one hand that was at the final table, 4-handed, I want to get into some detail about.

You can see the footage here: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/668652014?t=01h07m25s

PokeThese is UTG w/ 40bb
I’m BB w/ 14bb
GoneBananas is SB w/ 33bb
IntoTheRiver is BTN with 10bb

Action: Folds to BTN who shoves 10bb with K T, I call off with J♣ T♣ and hold, eliminating IntoTheRiver.

It was a really really close spot and I’ve gone back and forth about whether I made the right play here.

So from a chip EV perspective, let’s give villain a standard 10bb shove range. It’s pretty much a flip:

Ryan Ko Equilab

For context, PokeThese had a huge chip lead, and GoneBananas had just doubled twice through him. I had PokeThese on my immediate left and basically for a while had no play but to fold and play super conservatively with him right behind me.
He was playing very unorthodox, with 5x opens, blasting off 2x pot cbets on flops, snap shipping flops, just really bullying with a big stack, and so I had barely gotten involved except in standard shove or steal / re-steal spots.
I felt that IntoTheRiver’s BTN shove range there with 10bb was super wide, since it was his chance to steal from GoneBananas in the SB and me in the BB, after PokeTHese had folded, and my table image was relatively tight, so I did think that J♣ T♣ would be right smack in the middle of the range. 
From pot odds perspective, I need 43% to call so that’s good. 
Ryan Ko Pot Odds
But let’s look at ICM. 
Before the hand, ICM looked like this: 
Ryan Ko ICM 1
There’s two clear big stacks and two clear short stacks. There’s not that much difference in $ worth of IntotheRiver’s 10bb stack at $77K and my 14bb stack at $84K.
If I win the hand, ICM looks like this and my stack is worth $106K.
Ryan Ko ICM 2
If I lose, ICM looks like this and my stack is worth $61K. 
Ryan Ko ICM 3
Also, if I fold, then IntoTheRiver is up to 12bb and I’m down to 13bb. 
So if it’s a 50-50 coin flip between the BTN shove range I gave IntoTheRiver and my J♣ T♣ in the BB. My $EV is (106K+61K)/2 = $84K, which is… basically the ICM value of my stack. So… it’s a dead even close call on ICM, while it’s slightly +chipev and if I folded, then I’m basically tied with short stack…
Ultimately, the reason I ended up calling it off was that I felt that IntoTheRiver and GoneBananas were better players than me, so I should take the flip. I think it can look weird to be calling off in such a huge spot with a marginal hand like JTs (in long deck at least, in short deck it’s a snap lol) and I’m still not quite sure if it was right or not, but at least the above is my thinking… And lucky me that I won that 30/70. Like I said – it’s good to run good, haha. 

These online events are unique partly because of the anonymity. For example, Jason Sommerville made the final table with you under the name “haderade,” but I imagine most players had no idea it was him.

Q: Were you aware of who anyone was beyond their screen name during the event? 

TBH I wasn’t paying attention to the names – I had a few different poker group chats going of friends railing me once the twitch streams started, so they let me know it was him. I was just focused on playing my game and not worrying about who was in – I knew that I had outlasted dnegs which was kinda cool I guess, but I was just focused on playing my game (as Doug said to).

My online rail was quite entertaining, trying to convince the twitch chat that I was a celebrity or famous player or whatever, and friends asked if it was ok to reveal my identity – and I asked them not to, so that I could just focus on playing my best. 

Q: How did you prepare for this tournament and the online WSOP series?

I started playing poker as a serious hobby in early 2019, by studying the Upswing Lab, which I found when I started watching poker videos on Youtube. I live in California so there’s not much in terms of legal online poker, so I started with local 1/2 and 2/5 live cash games, then started playing live low/mid stakes MTTs on weekends.

Along the way, I continued studying the Upswing Lab and both of Nick’s tournament courses. I work a full time desk job so it’s hard to find that much time for poker but it’s a really fun (and, at least in this small sample size, profitable) hobby. 

Q: What concepts from Nick Petrangelo’s courses helped you the most during your run?

  1. Constructing balanced ranges – and then adjusting based on population tendencies
  2. Mid and short stack play – (in mid-2019 I chose to really focus on live MTT’s as a rec player, a big bink is more fun than grinding out 10bb/hr, and living in CA, I can’t really play online, and so I really focused on studying <50bb spots) 
  3. I think a big thing from the courses is just Nick abstracts out a lot of solver knowledge for people who don’t have time/energy/patience etc. to run a ton of sims (honestly I think I’m just too lazy to do it). It’s been helpful even without having done a ton of the work to have the intuition of what the solver equilibrium strategy would be in various spots.

Q: You’re also a member of the Upswing Lab course and community. How long have you been a member and what is the most valuable takeaway you’ve gotten from Upswing as a whole?

I learned basic strategy from the Lab, which I started in early 2019. I still have a lot of the Lab to study. The most valuable takeaway is really just like, how to think about the game of poker strategically, as an analytical thing to break down and study, throughout the game tree. It’s really helped me appreciate, understand, and dimensionalize it. 

Q: What are your poker goals for the future?

I’d like poker to become a sustainable second source of income for me. I work in non-profit so it’s not as lucrative working in the private sector. I’ve had goals to win a big series tournament (WSOP, WPT, EPT) and a sub-goal to win a smaller one.

I’ve got a few WSOPC final tables to go with this 2nd in a WSOP but I’ve got a lot more studying and improving to do… and hopefully after the Covid-19 pandemic is over I can play a lot more, both live and online.  

Congrats to PokeThese and everyone else who won bracelets!

Wrapping Up

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanko

Note: Ready to start Winning (More) Poker Tournaments? Learn tactics that work vs. tough players, weak players, and everyone in between when you join Nick Petrangelo’s expert-level course. Learn more now!

winning poker tournaments

Home > How Upswing Member Ryan Ko Won $104,202 in WSOP Event
Home > How Upswing Member Ryan Ko Won $104,202 in WSOP Event
About the Author
Patrick Harvey

Patrick Harvey

Graduate student trying to make money in poker so that I don't end up having to drive Knish's truck.

Put Your Skills to the Test with Quick Poker Quizzes!