Ready to improve your strategy by getting inside the head of a truly great tournament pro? Keep reading.
One of the best parts of the Upswing Lab training course are the Play & Explain videos, in which you get to watch a top poker pro play a session as they explain their thoughts (hence the name).
There are 216 Play & Explain videos in the Lab as I’m writing this, and a new one is added every week by one of the poker pros. Join the Lab now to access all 216 Play & Explain videos, 71 in-depth lessons, and 259+ preflop charts.
One of the coolest and most valuable Play & Explain series is a full review of Moritz “Mo” Dietrich’s final table run in the PokerStars Sunday Million during SCOOP last year. He ended up making a deal heads-up, and he explained every hand he played along the way for Upswing Lab members to learn from.
As an added bonus, Doug Polk joined him to review the final two tables as well!
This article will give you a look at three of the hands he played at the final table. Each hand includes a clip with analysis from Mo and Doug, so let’s get started.
You can’t analyze final table hands without knowing the payouts.
This tournament had over 6,300 entrants, amplifying the ICM pressure on the final table.
Here are the payouts:
As you can see, every pay jump is worth between 30 and 280 buy-ins — quite the incentive to try to ladder up!
Now, let’s get into the hands.
Hand 1: Great Turn, Terrible River
The first hand takes place nine-handed at the 400k/800k blind level.
Mo is the chip leader with 86 million chips. There’s another big stack with 82 million chips, three medium stacks with between 24 and 53 million chips, and four short stacks between 9 and 12 million chips.
Action folds to Mo in the cutoff who opens to 1.7 million with 7♥ 8♣. Twitch streamer Matt Staples (50 BB) calls on the button. The small blind folds, and CZTitan (13 BB) calls out of the big blind.
Both of the coaches agree that opening 87o is borderline too loose. The stack distributions and ICM pressure incentivize the remaining players to play tighter than normal, which allows Mo to open wider, but 87o in the cutoff is a close spot that could really go either way.
The flop is K♣ 7♠ T♣ and the pot is 6.4 million chips.
The CZTitan checks, Mo checks, and Staples checks behind.
Here’s a clip from Mo and Doug's video discussing the flop action:
Doug agrees with Mo’s flop check, as a c-bet doesn’t accomplish much here. Staples is going to have a lot of broadway hands in his button calling range that connect this with board well. Even if Staples folds, CZTitan may check-raise all-in and Mo would be priced in with a hand that isn’t happy about calling.
The relative positions also make checking more appealing. If Mo checks and Staples bets, he can fold if CZTitan continues, but call if the CZTitan folds, keeping his options open.
The turn is the 8♥ making the board K♣ 7♠ T♣ 8♥. The pot is still 6.4 million chips.
CZTitan checks, Mo bets 3.8 million, Staples calls, and CZTitan folds.
The turn is a mandatory bet by Mo. He has a strong, but vulnerable hand that wants to extract value and charge draws right now.
As far as bet sizing, 50-60% pot seems optimal. This size is relatively large, but small enough to still give him room to fold (with other hands in his range, not this specific one) if CZTitan check-raises all-in.
The river is the T♠, completing the K♣ 7♠ T♣ 8♥ T♠ board, and the pot is 14 million chips.
Mo has a clear check once the river counterfeits his two pair.
His decision facing the bet is pretty interesting. The coaches agree this should mainly be a call, in theory.
Staples' size indicates either a very strong value hand or a bluff. The thing is, there aren’t that many value hands to represent, and his range contains a lot of good bluff candidates.
His only real value hands are 88, some J9s that decided not to bluff the flop, and some Tx suited broadway hands. Mo having 78 blocks one of his opponents best value hands, and unblocks all of his bluffs. Read more on the topic of blockers here.
Doug even says he would use this hand as a check-raise all-in bluff at a very low frequency (5-10%).
Mo had played a decent sample with Staples during this tournament, though, and was able to see every hand he played on a delay due to Staples' Twitch stream. This made him feel like he had a fairly good read on Staples. Mo concluded that the timing and bet size he used indicated a value hand.
Due to Staples’ stream, Mo was able to see shortly after that he actually had QTo. Mo made a good fold, especially given that Staples apparently has some offsuit Tx hands in his range that Mo and Doug didn’t initially account for.
Hand 2: Can You Bluff a Board-Pairing River?
The next hand we’re looking at takes place after three players have busted out.
There is one player with an extremely short stack (1.4 BB) and two other short stacks with 15 and 19 BB. The remaining stacks are Staples with 44 big blinds, Mo with 76 big blinds, and the chip leader BillFray with 117 big blinds.
Action folds to BillFray on the button who opens to 2 BB. The SB folds, and Mo defends with 9♠ 8♥.
Mo's range has plenty of Qx and Tx hands with which he’d want to value bet, and 98o makes an excellent bluff to balance those value hands out, mainly due to its equity from the double gutshot straight draw.
The river is the T♠, making the board Q♣ 6♥ 3♦ T♣ T♠, and the pot is 13.9 million chips.
While it might initially seem like the board-pairing T♠ is a bad card on which to continue bluffing, it's actually quite good. The button does have some Tx in his range, but he won't have them that often because he would bet a lot of his Tx hands on the flop.
The fact that Mo’s 98o doesn’t contain a club makes it an even better bluffing hand, as it doesn’t block any of the missed club hands that his opponent could have.
Then, the question becomes what sizing to use. Mo went with an overbet. In this clip, he explains why and discusses the sizing choice with Dougie P:
Here's a transcription of the main points for those of you who can't watch a clip at the moment:
This is a good card. This is actually a card that people are afraid of too often.
In this spot, if you have a queen or a ten, you've got the goods. So the question is, what size do we want to go and what hands do we want to bluff with?
We can't go too large, because a ten is possible, but I don't think a ten is as likely as people anticipate here.
[Not only are there two tens on the board], and also a lot of the tens are going to be betting on the flop. JT, T9-type hands with a backdoor flush draw are gonna be betting on the flop.
So I'm mainly anticipating him to have like the AK, AK, A6, 76, 65, 55, JJ, 99...those types of holdings are a lot more likely.
Long story short, I like a biggish size, like 2/3 - 3/4 pot. And we're gonna want to pick out hands to bluff with that do not have a club, preferably do not have a J or a K -- especially a J.
So 98 strikes me as one of my favorite hands to bluff with.
Those were Doug's thoughts. Here's what Mo had to add:
So I think we do have a lot of bluffing combinations here, and I felt that using a big size represents a pretty polar value range on the river very well.
And as you said, he doesn't really have many Tx. A six on the river, for example, would have been a way worse river than a ten.
So, yeah, I felt like using a very big size is somewhat acceptable a decent amount of the time. I wouldn't always bet really large with a queen, but my Tx combos want to bet very big, especially when they have a kicker that doesn't block his calling range.
And Doug again:
I don't have a problem with that. I could see some reasonable arguments to be made either way.
The point is, this is not a scary river [to bluff] even though people think [board-pairing rivers are].
Mo recalled from watching the replay of the final table that BillFray folded A9.
Hand 3: Should We Hero Call?
The final hand we’ll review takes place three handed! Mo and BillFray have 85 big blinds and Staples has 35 big blinds.
BillFray opens to 2.2 BB, Mo calls in the small blind with 5♣ 5♠, and Staples calls in the big blind as well.
If this were heads up, then Mo may consider leading here, but he has to check in a three-way pot. Staples can still have a bunch of Kx, 7x, and some two pairs, and BillFray could have checked back a king or a better pocket pair.
When they both check again, Mo’s feeling a lot better about having the best hand, but there’s still another card to come.
The river is the 8♣ making the final board K♣ 2♥ 3♦ 7♣ 8♣.
Mo checks, Staples bets 4 million, BillFray folds, and Mo makes the call.
Here’s one last glimpse at the coach’s discussion regarding this river spot:
There are a couple of main factors the coaches touch on that make this hand a call:
Staples' bet is representing a very narrow value range.
55 is towards the top of Mo’s range.
Mo having a club makes it less likely that Matt rivered a flush.
His pot odds are also great. He's getting almost 4:1 on his call, which means he only needs to win roughly 20% of the time for his call to break even.
Matt shows TJo and Mo scoops the 20 million chip pot!
Matt staples shortly busted out in 3rd place. Once heads up, Mo and BillFray made a deal, but left $30k on the side to play for.
The final hand of the tournament was an exciting one. Mo check-raised with 5♥ 4♥ on a J-6-3 board. The turn was a Q and he bet again. On the T river, Mo decided to run the triple barrel bluff, but unfortunately ran into BillFray’s JJ for a flopped set!
Since joining Upswing as a coach, Moritz Dietrich has taken the Upswing Lab’s tournament content to the next level.
He has multiple tournament victories and final tables in the Play & Explain section, including a 2-part review of a victory in the $1k Fast Friday on PokerStars and a multi-part series featuring Mo grinding during WCOOP.
He has also released multiple modules that take an in-depth look at specific, common tournament spots (such as betting on the flop or check-raising vs a c-bet).