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Lessons from the 2014 PCA: Heads-Up With Panka and Timex

2014 PCA Main Event Heads-Up

The 2015 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure began yesterday with the $100,000 Super High Roller kicking the festival off and the start of the PokerNews’ Live Reporting team’s comprehensive coverage. Tomorrow begins the $10,000 Main Event with the $25,000 High Roller coming next week. Today we present one final look back at last year’s PCA Main Event with analyses of two key heads-up hands from that tournament’s exciting finish.

After Dominik Panka eliminated Isaac Baron in third place at the 2014 Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure Main Event, all eyes were on him and Mike “Timex” McDonald as the two commenced heads-up play to determine who would win the prestigious title. Adding further drama, McDonald was looking to make history by becoming the first player in European Poker Tour history to win two Main Event titles. (Victoria Coren Mitchell would earn that distinction a few months later.)

Here’s a look at a couple of important hands from that heads-up battle with some brief analysis of each.

Panka Turns the Nuts

The Hand: With the blinds at 100,000/200,000 and a 30,000 ante, McDonald opened for a minimum raise to 400,000 with {Q-Hearts}{9-Diamonds} and was called by Panka who held {10-Diamonds}{8-Clubs}. The flop came {2-Clubs}{7-Diamonds}{J-Diamonds} and Panka checked to McDonald who bet 400,000. Panka made the call. The turn was the {9-Clubs} giving Panka a jack-high straight and McDonald second pair. Panka led out for 950,000 and McDonald bumped it up to 2,700,000. Panka moved all in for slightly less than 11 million total and McDonald instantly released his hand.

Analysis: The preflop play is standard with McDonald opening in position and Panka defending with his connectors. Flop play isn’t much different as Panka checks when he whiffs and McDonald makes a continuation bet. With a backdoor flush draw, an inside straight draw, and just a small bet to call, Panka is justified in seeing one more card, especially against the aggressive McDonald.

The turn is interesting in that Panka hits his card and leads out. I like this play because a check-raise would give away the strength of his hand more than leading out does. I also like McDonald’s raise as he has second pair and it helps identify the strength of Panka’s hand better than just calling would.

I’m less crazy about Panka’s all-in shove, though. He loses value for his premium hand as McDonald isn’t calling with many hands there. I’d prefer to call and either lead out again on the river or go for a river check-raise.

Massive Double for Panka

That previous hand evened the stacks between the pair, while this one would thrust eventual winner Panka into the lead.

The Hand: The blinds were still 100,000/200,000 with a 30,000 ante and Panka opened for a minimum raise of 400,000 with {9-Diamonds}{9-Hearts}. McDonald three-bet to 1,200,000 with {K-Clubs}{J-Spades} and Panka moved all in for a little more than 13 million. McDonald asked for a count, tanked for a little, and then made the call. The board would run out {10-Hearts}{8-Clubs}{2-Diamonds}{8-Spades}{2-Clubs} to give Panka the double-up and a lead which he’d never relinquish thereafter.

Analysis: This hand is interesting. I think it was heavily influenced by the fact that the final three players had made a deal and the gap between first-place and second-place money was less than it would have been otherwise. It’s the most logical explanation for why McDonald would make the call here when he had been controlling the heads-up match to that point.

Generally speaking, it’s a fold here with king-jack versus the all-in shove. (“That is crazy” was Isaac Haxton’s comment on EPT Live.) I would have preferred McDonald just to flat-call the preflop raise with a hand that strong and having position after the flop.

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