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$22 Becomes $100,061 in Unbelievably Huge Tournament (Hand Analysis)

Who hasn’t dreamed of turning a small tournament buy-in into a fortune?

Upswing coach Daniel “Daniel” McAulay actually pulled off this impressive feat last year. After outlasting over 59,000 players (!!!) in the MicroMillions Main Event on PokerStars, his $22 buy-in had grown to over $100,000.

That’s over 5,000 buy-ins!

In this article, we are going to have an analytical look at 4 hands that Daniel played at the Final Table, ranging from 9-handed all the way to heads-up.

Most of these pots are fairly small, but playing well in small pots is crucial in tournaments. Doing so allows you to maintain and build your stack in between the big pots.

(Note: Daniel reviewed the entire MicroMillions final table for a Play & Explain series in the Upswing Lab training course. If you want to take your tournament skills to the next level, join the Upswing Lab and check out that video series today. Learn more now!)


Before jumping into the action, let’s take a look at the payouts for the Final Table.

1st Place – $100,061
2nd Place – $72,605
3rd Place – $52,690
4th Place – $38,237
5th Place – $27,748
6th Place – $20,137
7th Place – $16,613
8th Place – $10,605
9th Place – $7,696

With massive pay jumps like this, every hand is extremely important. Let’s dive into the first hand.

Hand #1: 9-handed

We start with our first hand which takes place at the 9-handed final table. Our hero (Daniel) has the third biggest chip stack with 40 big blinds. The rest of the stacks are:

UTG: 24bb
UTG+1: 84bb
UTG+2: 54bb
Lojack: 5.7bb
Hijack: 23bb
Cutoff: 40bb (Daniel)
Button: 10bb
Small Blind: 33bb
Big Blind: 22bb

Now, let’s dive into the hand.

Preflop: Daniel is dealt A T♣ in the Cutoff.
Daniel raises 2bb. Big Blind calls with K♠ 8♠.

Flop (5.4bb): J♠ 2 3♣
Daniel bets 1.34bb. Big Blind folds.

Daniel wins 6.74bb.

Preflop Analysis

A T♣ is a standard raise from the Cutoff and K♠ 8♠ is a standard call from the Big Blind. Well played by both players.

Flop Analysis

On this board, Daniel only needs to bet small due to the amount of folds that the big blind is going to have. A big blind defend range is going to have a lot of hands that are just going to have to automatically fold versus a continuation bet (like 67/89/K5/Q6/etc). Forcing a fold from these type of hands, which have 35-40% equity versus A T♣, is never a bad thing.

The Big Blind could consider calling on this flop under normal tournament conditions. However, with such huge pay jumps looming and a couple very short stacks at the table, stack preservation becomes very important when you have a medium stack like the Big Blinds. He makes a good fold.

This is a somewhat trivial spot, but playing well in these common situations is crucial. Daniel won a bunch of small pots like this when there were between 9 and 7 players remaining, which put him in a super favorable position when the players reached short-handed play.

Hand #2: 6-handed

Stack sizes:

Lojack: 51bb (Daniel)
Hijack: 22bb
Cutoff: 9.9bb
Button: 60bb
Small Blind: 19bb
Big Blind: 30bb


Preflop: Daniel is dealt 8 8♣ from Lojack.
Daniel raises 2bb. Button 3-bets 6bb with 8 8♠. Daniel calls.

Flop (14.1bb): 6 2♣ 9♣
Daniel checks. Button checks.

Turn (14.1bb): A♠
Daniel checks. Button bets 4bb. Daniel calls.

River (22.1bb): K
Daniel checks. Button checks.

Daniel and Button chop 22.1bb.

Daniel Hand 2

Preflop Analysis

This is an interesting 3-bet from the Button — the chip leader — against Daniel, who is the second biggest stack at the table. To quote Daniel:

This is exactly what we didn’t want to see. We don’t want to play 3-bet pots versus the chip leader, here, but this hand is just gonna be a call.

But I’m going to proceed very cautiously. I don’t even think I’d have a 4-bet range here.

Calling with 88 on the Button would be standard in most situations, but as Daniel alluded to, this 3-bet will command a ton of respect considering it’s a clash between the two biggest stacks at the table. Perhaps that’s why the Button decided to take the aggressive option with his medium pair.

Flop Analysis

Daniel checks, as he should with his entire range, and the Button checks back. 

Daniel was surprised to see his opponent check back, especially after seeing he had 88. The Button should bet with most of his hands on this flop. 88, in particular, benefits greatly from denying equity versus overcard hands that Daniel will fold versus a bet on the flop.

If faced with a bet, Daniel would want to fold a lot of hands in his range. However, 88 would have been strong enough to make the call considering there was only one overcard on the flop.

Turn and River Analysis

Daniel stated that if the Button had either used a bigger size on the turn or followed through with a bet the river, then he would have folded. This is because Daniel has many better hands within his range that would play this way, therefore his range is protected. But because of the pot odds he was given versus the relatively small turn bet, a call is fine.

Hand #3: 4-handed

Stack sizes:

Cutoff: 42bb
Button: 66bb
Small Blind: 28bb
Big Blind: 62bb (Hero)


Preflop: Daniel is dealt 6♣ 4 in the Big Blind.
Small Blind limps Q 9♠. Daniel checks.

Flop (2.4bb): K 7 3
Small Blind bets 1bb. Daniel raises to 2.6bb. Small Blind folds.

Daniel wins 6bb.

Daniel Hand 3

Preflop Analysis

Faced with a limp, Dan can’t go wrong with either option in the Big Blind. He can either check and take a free flop or raise in an attempt to steal the pot preflop. He opts for the former.

Flop Analysis

This is a bad hand for the Small Blind to bet on the flop. This bet will only make worse hands fold, while all better hands will call.

Daniel says that he would be floating with all his Ace-highs and every single pair. This bet also gives the Big Blind the opportunity to bluff-raise with hands such as the one Hero has.

64o is a pure raise in terms of chip EV, but if you throw ICM considerations into the mix as well it makes the raise even better. This is because Daniel’s opponent will have to over-fold in this spot to preserve his stack. Overall, another well played hand from Daniel.

Hand #4: Heads-Up

Stack sizes:

Small Blind 53bb (Hero)
Big Blind 12bb


Preflop: Daniel is dealt A 8♠ in the Small Blind.
Daniel limps. Big Blind raises all-in 12 big blinds with K♠ 7♣. Daniel calls.

Flop: J♠ 9♣ 4♠

Turn: 8

River: Q

Daniel wins 24bb and the tournament.

Daniel Hand 4

Preflop Analysis

This final hand is how and where Dan sealed his victory. After being very aggressive on the final table with lots of open-raises and 3-betting, Daniel went for a cagey trap-limp with A 8♠.

Limp-trapping these types of hands can be a good idea, especially if you have an aggressive table image. This is because your opponents in the hand might perceive your limp as being weak, when in fact it is actually quite a strong hand for being 12 big blinds effective.

This works out perfectly as our opponent decides to jam his remaining 12bb stack in the middle with K♠ 7♣ and the board runs out clean 9♣ J♠ 4♠ 8 Q and Daniel ships the MicroMillions main event trophy and all the prestige that goes with it!

(It’s worth noting that if Daniel shoved, there’s a good chance the Big Blind calls with K7o anyway.)

Daniel Payouts

Wrapping Up

I hope you enjoyed this quick recap of Daniel’s win. If you have any questions or feedback, drop a comment below.

Want to learn more about final table strategy? Read How ICM Should Impact Your Strategy At Final Tables.

Good luck at the tables.

Note: Learn step-by-step how to become the best player at the table when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Elite pros have been adding new content every week for the past four years, and you get all of it when you join. Learn more now!

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Josh Jones

Josh Jones

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