stoyan madanzhiev joins team upswing

WSOP Main Event Winner Stoyan Madanzhiev Joins Team Upswing

The perfect way to hone your skills in preparation for the World Series of Poker is here…

Bulgarian tournament poker pro Stoyan Madanzhiev won $4 million and a WSOP Main Event bracelet last year.

Now, he’s signed on to be a guest coach in the Upswing Lab training course.

(Keep reading for a sneak peek at his incredible content.)

In his 2-part lesson in the Lab, Stoyan covers every hand from the final two days of the tournament, explaining his thoughts along the way. He also reveals his unique strategic approach to help you replicate his success in your next live or online tournament.

The first part will be ready for you to watch on Monday, September 6th. Part 2 will hit the Lab in early October.

Join the Upswing Lab now to access the module when it comes out!

Stoyan’s Sick WSOP Run

Stoyan outlasted 5,802 players to take down the WSOP Main Event bracelet and $3,916,695, and he did it in spectacular fashion.

He built and maintained a big stack with aggressive plays and then leveraged that stack to apply a ton of pressure on his opponents down the stretch. And he wasn’t just aggressive…

Stoyan also managed to dip, duck and dodge at the right times. For example, this great hero fold with the nut flush (A 5) while there were 38 players left:

(Wondering what the previous action was? Stoyan called preflop out of the big blind versus a UTG raise and a cutoff call. Stoyan then check-called a small bet on the flop, led small on the turn, and check-folded on the river.)

But Stoyan’s stacks were built through aggression. The following hand (from the second to last day of the event) sums up Stoyan’s run and gives you a nice sneak peek at his coaching style.

Stoyan Battles High Stakes Pro Samuel “€urop€an” Vousden for a Huge Pot (Analysis)

I’ll recap the action on each street and include quotes from Stoyan for the analysis.


160 players remain in the $5,000 buy-in online WSOP Main Event. Stoyan is sitting in 16th chip position with 83.5BB. His opponent in the hand, long-time crusher Samuel Vousden, is the only player at the table who covers with 108.6BB.

They’ve all locked up $25k and there are no significant pay jumps coming up.


Stoyan raises to 2.2BB UTG (8-handed) with 8 7. The action folds around to Samuel in the small blind and he 3-bets to 10BB. Stoyan calls.

stoyan preflop call vs samuel

Preflop Analysis

After a standard raise with a suited connector, Stoyan decides to call the 3-bet. This is certainly a +chipEV move. He has position, his hand has great playability and he’s getting almost 2-to-1 on a call.

However, Stoyan thinks this decision to call may have been a small mistake considering the real money implications at this stage of the tournament.

If you are playing a cash game or if it’s early in a tournament, it’s kind of an easy [call]. The flops we hit hard don’t collide so much with his range. If we flop two pair or a straight, rarely will he have us dominated with a better two pair/straight.

But you have to visualize how the hand will play out [in this heavy ICM scenario]. If we call with 87-suited, we basically hope to catch some draw or some part of the flop…Samuel is going to c-bet against us, and we need call and play a turn.

So, the times we continue [past the flop] will mostly be marginal situations, chasing draws and building a big pot going into the turn.

Basically, we need to ask ourselves “do we need to get into trouble against Samuel [who has a] big stack? Is it worth risking our big stack to make it even bigger?”

It feels like our stack is valuable enough to not risk it in such a marginal situation. So, I don’t think folding here is bad. Sure, in chipEV it’s a good call…but we are going to find ourselves in a big fight against Samuel here quite often.

And fight, they shall.


The flop is 9 6 4♠, giving Stoyan an open-ended straight draw and a backdoor flush draw.

Samuel bets 11BB into 22BB and Stoyan calls.

Flop Analysis

Versus Samuel’s half pot c-bet, Stoyan likes calling with his entire continue range (no raising, even with sets).

Stoyan is definitely more likely to have a set than Samuel here, so his range is very well protected, but Samuel has a strong range too with all of the overpairs. That said, Stoyan can have some overpairs as well since he would just call preflop with TT, JJ, QQ and maybe even AA at some frequency.

In the video, Stoyan pulls up a solver simulation showing that Samuel’s preferred bet size should be on the larger side here. Something like 16.5BB into 22BB (75% pot). That said, the solver likes to mix in some half pot bet sizes as well.

Pretty standard street of play for both players. Let’s move on.


The turn is the (9 6 4♠) A♠ and Samuel bets 14.5BB bet into the 44BB pot. Stoyan calls.

Turn Analysis

What do ya know…what Stoyan discussed preflop is exactly what happened. He is battling a good player in a marginal spot that is very key for his tournament, which is far from ideal in ICM-heavy scenarios.

Here’s what he had to say about the turn situation:

[Samuel’s small bet size] makes sense. For my pocket pairs, this spot is very tricky. I am probably folding them.

At the same time, I am not capped. I can have A9-suited or A4-suited suited. I can have sets. So he can’t really bet big. But there are enough hands that he can pressure. I can have hands like KQ of hearts, KQ of diamonds, KJ [of the same suits].

With this size, he needs me to fold 30ish percent of my range. The pocket pairs and [missed overcards] represent this 30%.

Stoyan backs this up with a solver sim, showing that a small size is preferred in Samuel’s spot.

Versus this size, Stoyan has an easy call with his open-ender getting 4-to-1. Again, he backs this up with a solver showing that 87s is a pure call on the turn.

87s pure turn call for stoyan madanzhiev


The river (9 6 4♠ A♠) Q does not complete Stoyan’s draw, but Samuel checks. Stoyan shoves all-in for 47BB into 73BB. Samuel folds and Stoyan drags the massive pot.

River Analysis

Here’s what Stoyan had to say on the river:

We have built a huge pot. We could have avoided all of this by folding preflop. I don’t think this is a situation we are looking for — building a big pot at this point of the tournament — but I decided to go into the fight. I mean, it’s probably about the same EV with a huge increase in variance.

Now [when he checks], there is no point in giving this up. Eight-high, we will never win the hand. I can either check and leave myself with 47BB or I can shove and expect to win this hand like 50% of the time and have a really healthy stack of 120BB.

It’s really important to think about [the future impact of this decision]. When we have a big [120BB] stack, we are allowed to be aggressive and play more hands because the shorter stacks have incentive to play tight. Their folds aren’t 0 EV like in a cash game. Their folds are actually making money because they are making pay jumps.

So, [trying to] build a big stack is a good strategy in a tournament just because you are getting this additional EV of being able to open more hands profitably. If you give up in this situation, you are probably losing out a lot of EV and screwing up your tournament.

Stoyan goes on to leverage that big stack masterfully, running huge bluffs and stealing the blinds with garbage hands many times on his way to the final table and, ultimately, the win.

Ready to Improve Your Skills with the Online WSOP Champ?

Join the Upswing Lab training course to get instant access to Stoyan’s modules when they come out.

You will also get:

  • Doug Polk’s new heads-up lesson.
  • Loads of training content for cash games and tournaments.
  • 439 preflop charts, including comprehensive Advanced Solver Ranges.
  • Access to the members-only poker group where you can get help with your strategy.
  • 5+ hours of new content added every month.

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About the Author
Mike Brady

Mike Brady

I used to play a ton of poker. Now, I'm the Vice President of Upswing Poker and only play a decent amount of poker. Read my full bio here.

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