I get to the Rio, excited to see the 136-runner $10,000 WSOP Heads-Up Championship, which features the likes of Max Silver, Erik Seidel, and Daniel Negreanu (still in search of his elusive WSOP prop bet win) in the final 16. Unfortunately, all three have busted by the time I arrive. I am enthused to see Dan "mrGR33N13" Colman, who is considered the best online heads-up Sit-and-go player of his generation. Looking for all the world like an entitled frat boy, he recently bested Dan “Jungleman” Cates heads up in the €100,000 euro buy-in EPT Monte Carlo Grand Final, winning a more than $ 2.1 million first prize. Naturally, this prize was divvied up between Coleman, Cates, and Igor Kurganov, all of whom were apparently backed by the same party––ah the complexities of high-roller poker. In Monaco, Dan Colman gave off a cocky, bordering on obnoxious vibe, jawing with a visibly tired Cates and announcing in so many words that he was the top gun at the final table. In person, I realize that Colman is just naturally upbeat and self confident. There is certainly nothing fake about him––if anything he is more real and less jaded than 90 percent of poker players and props to him for that. (Colman contacts me a couple weeks after the article and lets me know that "I have played a lot with Jungleman and we have a mutual respect for each other's game.") I realize, looking back at the EPT coverage that a lot of what Colman did was simply what you do against any player in the heat of battle––find ways to unsettle them or put them off their optimal game. Props to him for that too––it certainly was effective.
Davide Suriano also comes into the tournament with a strong reputation––he won the 2013 £1,000 EPT/UK IPT & Ireland Poker Tour heads-up in London.
Up against Tommy Chen, Dan Colman is self assured and far from gun shy––the first hand I catch involves Coleman smooth-calling a min 32,000 bet on a K-2-6 board, with two clubs. With a 7 falling on the turn, Colman takes the reins and bets 80,000 to Chen’s check. When the river peels off with an ace of clubs, bringing a potential flush home, Colman puts in a major bet of 200,000––about one-fourth his remaining stack. Tommy Chen sighs and calls down with K-3, which turns out to dominate Colman’s 9-8 bluff. Despite being caught out, Colman continues his uber-aggressive style. When Chen bets 60,000 on a 9-6-Q-J-10 board, Colman re-raises 250,000. Chen tanks and finally gives it up, muttering “that’s so sick, that’s so sick.” Chen now starts to up the aggression factor as well, betting out on a number pots and taking them down.
Dan Colman vs. Tommy Chen
With Chen ahead of Colman 1.1 million to 850,000, a huge hand goes down that virtually decides the match. Colman three-bets Chen’s button raise to 78,000 holding 9-6 off suit and watches an 8-7-5 flop come off for a nut straight. He checks and calls Chen’s 100,000 bet, with a 7-5 two pair holding. When a jack peels, he continues to slow play, calling a 150,000 Chen bet. Colman still does not pull the trigger when a king comes on the river, letting Chen shove and calling down his last 307,000 chips with the stone cold nuts. Colman’s passive play––a change-up from his usual aggressive approach, has won him a major pot and he now sits on 1.7 million to Chen’s 220,000. Not able to contain his frustration at himself for failing to control pot size, Chen comments “I knew you had the straight when you called the turn. Good hand, good hand.” Chen is out a minute later when his Q-9 fails to hold up against Colman’s K-10.
Tommy Chen –– frustrated at himself, mostly
The three other heads up matches are Scott Baumstein vs. Sam Stein, Davide Suriano vs. Ankush Mandavia, and Scott Davies vs. Dee Tiller. The latter match is over in record time, as Dee Tiller––a WSOP throwback in sunglasses and cowboy hat––inexplicably shoves his full starting stack of 960,000, or 90 big blinds, with pocket fours and gets looked up by Scott Davies’ pocket jacks.
The Davide Suriano vs. Ankush Mandavia match also features tight, aggressive play, with the two players battling neck and neck for some time. Preflop action begins with Mandavia raising to 40,000 with 3-2 suited spades and Suriano three-betting to 100,000 with 10-5 offsuit. The flop comes J-6-5 with two hearts and checks around, and the turn brings a five of hearts. When a queen of hearts falls on the river, Mandavia reps a heart with a 75,000 bet and Suriano calls with his bluff-catcher trips. His call is correct and the next hand he takes down the tournament shoving all-in preflop K-7 vs. K-3. Ah, the wide shoving and calling ranges of heads up. The call was more than a little wide, considering that Mandavia had a healthy stack of nearly a million, or 50 big blinds. And what of Suriano's equally wide shove? Based on his play in the subsequent two matches I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and call it a very sick move.
Suriano vs. Mandavia
Suriano celebrates victory with the always enthusiastic Italian rail.
Stein vs. Baumstein is running at a slower pace, until Baumstein decides to shove his larger stack with K-8 offsuit to Stein’s three-bet and comes across pocket kings. Down to a (still healthy) 670,000 chips, Baumstein again picks an inopportune time to shove all in, with his pocket twos dominated by Stein’s Q-Q. Baumstein mutters to himself, “I jam twice and he’s got pocket kings and pocket queens.” A gracious winner, Stein says “I just have it when you make a move––otherwise I have 8-5 off."
Stein vs. Baumstein –– not 8-5 off, this time
Now we are down to our final four, Daniel Colman vs. the Italian Davide Suriano, and Sam Stein vs. Scott Davies, vying for a $335,000 first-place payday. In the early going Colman seems to be calling down a lot of hands on small flop and turn bets, and then folding, as Suriano makes pot-sized river bets. Without any major showdowns, Suriano is quickly up to 2.6 million.
Suriano vs. Colman
Colman takes a major hit on a 10-6-6 flop with two clubs, which Suriano bets 50,000 and Colman check-raises to 130,000. Colman seems to be on a 10 or chasing a flush, as he calls a 200,000 bet from Suriano and a jack comes out. A three of clubs peels on the river and Colman check calls 400,000 and grimaces, seeing Suriano's full house 6-3.
Colman resignedly drops 400 K into the pot and gets a peek at Soriano's 6-3 boat
Colman repeatedly pushed off holdings
"You got your cooler"
Give me a K!
Meanwhile, Suriano is wielding his large stack masterfully, making well-timed river bets that repeatedly cause Colman to fold hands with no showdown value. Colman cannot get any momentum going and ultimately risks his last 850,000 with A-5 vs. Suriano's pocket eights. Suriano hits trip eights and Colman is drawing dead.
Stein––fist pump, oh yeah!
Very impressed by Davide Suriano’s performance against Colman, I ask the Italian media members about his background and find out that he won the EPT/UK IPT in London last year. While I think that Stein is a fundamentally sound player, he has also gotten extremely lucky in the two matches I’ve observed––holding high pairs when his opponent shoved into him and getting it in good, set vs. set.
Sure enough, the final match is a clinic in the value of aggression heads up. Just as with Colman, whenever Suriano senses weakness he puts in large bets that force Stein into tough decisions. A good example of this is on a hand where Suriano raises K-9 125,000 preflop and Stein calls with 7-5. The flop comes an ideal 7-6-3 for Stein’s hand and he calls 150,000. When an eight hits, he picks up an open ended straight draw to go with his pair, but elects to fold to the pressure of Suriano’s 600,000 overbet. This is a situation where Stein was bullied off a hand in which he could have profitably called or even shoved all in––Suriano would be betting air quite often and even if he had an eight, Stein would have 14 outs.
Stein –– bad timing
Conversely, Stein chooses the absolute wrong times to bluff, such as on a 3-7-10 board where Suriano holds A-10 and Stein 8-5. When a queen hits on the turn, Stein bets out 435,000 and is snap called. A king comes on the river and Stein fails to continue repping his premium queen-or-better holding (arguably he doesn’t have the chips behind to do so) and mucks at showdown. On the last hand of the night, Suriano min-raises to 100,000 with A-10, Stein shoves his K-7 suited for 1.2 million and Suriano thinks for a moment before calling. When the cards are turned over Stein is visibly upset at Suriano’s nit roll, but there is nothing he can do as the cards come in his opponent’s favor. Chaos erupts as the Italians spill onto the floor to congratulate their new hero––and celebrate the seventh WSOP bracelet taken home by a fellow countryman.
Suriano –– doing it for Italia
Meanwhile in the $3,000 No Limit Hold'Em event, Florida pro Jacob Schindler is putting on a clinic against remaining contenders Ryan Jaconetti and Sean Dempsey, heading into Day Four.