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Strategy Vault: Closing a Tournament Final Table with Liv Boeree

Liv Boeree
  • From the Strategy Vault, Liv Boeree discusses late-tourney strategy in her Sunday Warm-Up win.

  • In tourneys, find a balance between using aggression to collect chips and being aware of money jumps.

Digging deep into the PokerNews strategy archives can unearth some buried treasure for seekers of strategy gems. This edition of the Strategy Vault revisits a conversation with Team PokerStars Pro Liv Boeree about a big online tournament win, a discussion that includes several insights about final table strategy.

At the time Boeree wasn’t too far removed from her breakthrough victory in the European Poker Tour Sanremo Main Event. It was less than a year after that win Boeree took down the PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up to earn a $147,780.96 payday — at the time her biggest score after the €1.25 million prize in Sanremo.

It was a tough final table at which James “mig.com” Mackey finished runner-up and her fellow Team PokerStars Pro Marcin “Goral Horecki took eighth. Daniel “KidPoker” Negreanu also made a deep run in that one, finishing 22nd.

Shortly after the win, Boeree spoke with PokerNews about some of the strategies she employed during the tournament's latter stages, including analyzing one key hand versus Mackey while heads-up.

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PokerNews: First, talk about your tournament just before the final table. What was shorthanded play like for you?

Liv Boeree: I was lingering around 20 big blinds for quite a while leading up to the final table, basically just staying alive by reshoving on people a lot but playing pretty straightforward. I had "jymaster" and "DNA2RNA" on my left who are both really good and aggressive, which made life difficult, so I opened tight but reshoved fairly wide.

So you were opening tight with plans to call shoves that other players may be doing light?

In a certain respect, yes. I was just trying to be stack-size aware as many people were in the same boat as me stack-wise. I didn't make any particularly huge calls before the final table, though.

So once at the final table, what was your overall game plan as far as your relative stack and position versus certain players?

I was trying to be ICM-aware and let the short-stacks bust. I was middle of the pack and because of that, it didn't make much sense for me to make any unnecessarily aggressive moves, as I wanted to move up the money spots a bit.

"Mig.com" [i.e., James Mackey] was who I had my eye on, as I know how good he is. But he was basically on the opposite side of the table to me so wasn't posing too much of a problem. Also, I noticed he was playing a very similar style to me — solid.

For those who don't know, can you go into a bit more detail on what it means to be "ICM-aware," and possibly highlight mistakes people make when not taking this into consideration?

Well, to get to the basics, playing tournaments is different from playing cash. For example, winning all the chips in a tournament doesn't win you all the cash, whereas in cash games (or winner-take-all tourneys) it obviously does. So often, people play a bit too recklessly on a final table and don't take into account their stacks or their opponents'.

Strategy Vault: Closing a Tournament Final Table with Liv Boeree 101
James "mig.com" Mackey

Whilst it's always good to shoot for the title, you have to remember that ultimately you are playing to make money, and making an unnecessary move on a big money bubble when there are short stacks about to bust can be less than optimal. So it's about finding a comfortable balance between using your aggression to collect free chips and being aware of the money jumps.

When watching the final table replay, it seemed as though players were three-bet shipping big stacks instead of three-betting and opening themselves up to a four-bet. Is that standard?

Yes, I did see that a fair bit. It's hard to say why each individual chose to do it, but I guess it's because they value their tournament life too much and as such, didn't want to take a big flip unnecessarily.

The trouble with doing that too much is that you miss out on potential value with your big hands, of course. Or they could be doing it to balance their three-bet shoving ranges.

When you got heads-up against Mackey, he was min-raising almost every button. It seemed like you were mostly flatting with decent hands out of position like king-ten, queen-nine, and ace-nine. What were your thoughts behind that?

Well, first of all, I didn't want to destroy the value of those hands by three-bet folding them, but also I didn't want to defend too wide out of position against him as he's such a good player.

Plus, I was starting to get a few tells about his postflop play, like he was checking back his made hands on the flop and betting his misses. Hence the check-raise I made with {A-}{7-} on the {Q-}{J-}{x-} two-diamond board. He's rarely betting a queen or jack there.

There was one hand heads-up versus Mackey — here are the details:

  • Stacks: Boeree ~ 19 million, Mackey ~ 27 million
  • Stakes: Blinds 250,000/500,000 with a 50,000 ante
  • Action: Mackey min-raised from the button to 1 million, and Boeree called with {a-Clubs}{9-Clubs}. The flop was {a-Hearts}{6-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds}. Boeree checked, Mackey bet 1.3 million, and Boeree called. The turn was the {7-Clubs}, and both players checked. The river was the {4-Diamonds}. Boeree checked, and Mackey bet 3.33 million. Boeree called, and Mackey showed {7-Spades}{5-Hearts} for a straight.

Talk us through this one.

I misplayed that hand. I should've led the turn.

Why? Because the {7-Clubs} helped his range? Or because he wasn't double-barreling with air?

Because he wasn't double-barreling with air, and it's fairly draw heavy. Instead, I let him check down and then I called a river bet without thinking. D'oh!

Do you think that most of the time, a bet from him there on the river is for value, and most value hands beat yours?

No, not necessarily. He could bluff there as it's a pretty bluffy board. But more importantly, I should've led the turn and gotten some value whilst I was still ahead! Ah, the power of hindsight.

If you'd led the turn and he called, what would you have done on the river?

I guess if I was being super smart, I would check-fold the river, but I rarely am! He's never floating with nothing on the turn, so I have to assume he's calling with some kind of value hand, and if he's betting the river, then I'm not beating anything. But, knowing me, I probably would've check-called because I'm a station [laughs].

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For a more recent Q&A with Boeree, check out this video from the recently finished European Poker Tour Grand Final in Monaco in which she answers 44 questions in five minutes:

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