Poker Tips from Pros: Maria Ho Shows How to Make Millions

Maria Ho

The 2015 World Series of Poker $1,500 buy-in Millionaire Maker event attracted 7,275 players.

I was one of them. It was my second poker tournament of the series – the first being the Colossus – and it was the only time during the whole series that my table never broke.

I guess it was bad luck that this was a table where there wasn’t many spots.

It was a frustrating tournament. I started well but couldn’t capitalize as the weaker players busted and their seats filled with strong grinders.

I busted in the final level of the day when I lost a 50bb flip AK<JJ. Here are 16 hands that I thought were of interest.

I thank Maria Ho for taking the time to cast her professional eye over them.

  • Event: WSOP Event #16: Millionaire Maker
  • Buy-in: $1,500
  • Starting Stack: 7,500
  • Blind Levels: 60 minutes
Maria Ho

Hand #1

Level 1: 25/50

We're seven-handed when Michelle Lawson opens to 150 from early position. I call from late position with deuces and both blinds call.

Flop: J 9 2

Lawson bets 525, I make it 1,100, the blinds fold and Lawson calls.

Turn: Q

Lawson bets 2,500 and I call.

River: 6

Lawson checks, I bet 1,500 and she calls and mucks when she sees my hand.

Lee Davy Comments: I think the raise on the flop is standard. I didn’t like the turn that much. I had her range pegged at AA-QQ, AJ, KJ and QJ after she had called my raise on the flop. When she doesn’t bet the river I think my hand is good. I considered putting her all-in but didn’t want to force a fold out of her so I bet smaller.

Maria Ho Feedback: Normally I wouldn’t raise such a dry flop with any hands and would include a hand as strong as a set in my calling range to allow her to barrel off lower-equity hands while disguising the strength of our hand. As played I would just call the turn bet as well. Once checked to on the river I would jam because we only have a little over half pot back.

Hand #2

I open to 175 from UTG holding pocket queens and six people call.

Flop: K 9 6

I bet 350, the button calls and Michelle Lawson moves all-in for 2,300. I fold.

Lee Davy Comments: I'm never sure whether to bet or check these flops. Considering the amount of people that called I think I should have check/folded.

Maria Ho

Maria Ho Feedback: I would start off with a check and evaluate the action behind me before deciding whether to call or fold to a flop bet, although I would lean towards a fold with this many players seeing a flop. As played I would fold to the all in bet.

Hand #3

I open to 175 from UTG holding Q J and get two callers (OTB and SB).

Flop: J 9 8

I bet 200 and both players call.

Turn: 7

I check; OTB bets 500 and I fold.

Maria Ho Feedback: I prefer checking this flop (with the intention to check/call), as this is a really wet board that favors their calling ranges more than our raising range. As played I think check/folding the turn is fine as we’ll have some stronger hands in our range that we can continue with.

Hand #4

Level 2: 50/100

The CO opens to 250 (off 7,500) and I defend the BB with K J (off 9,650)

Flop: K 9 6

We both check.

Turn: A

I check-call a 500 bet.

River: 4

I check-fold to an 800 bet.

Maria Ho Feedback: I would play this hand the same although I would occasionally call some rivers if we think that villain is bluffing too much. The ace on the turn really favors the openers check-back range and therefore he will have a lot of better hands than us.

Maria Ho

Hand #5

Level 3: 75/150

There is a raise to 400 from MP (off 15,000), the SB calls (off 7,000) and I call in the BB with A T (off 9,000)

Flop: 9 3 3

The SB checks and I decide to lead for 375 with the plan to barrel any high turn card or spade. Only the SB calls.

Turn: Q

The SB leads for 1,025 and I call.

River: 2

The SB leads for 2,100 and I fold.

Lee Davy Comments: I considered raising the turn but felt he would only lead with a queen or an A3 type hand, neither of which are likely to fold.

Maria Ho Feedback: I prefer starting this hand with a check and would be continuing on against any half-pot or smaller bet, as we’ll have the best hand sometimes and have a backdoor draw. As played I would just call the turn as well and fold to the river bet.

Hand #6

A very tight player in the SB opens to 375 (off 6,000) and I call in the BB (off 11,000) holding A 2

Flop: A 9 8

He bets 600 and I call

Turn: T

He bets 1,750 and I fold.

Lee Davy Comments: I haven’t developed a solid strategy for SB v BB play. I am not sure when to raise, call or limp. I make it up as I go along and I know that each situation is different, but am interested in your thoughts.

Maria Ho

Maria Ho Feedback: When blind v blind I tend to call most opens as we have position, are getting a good price and have a pretty value-heavy 3bet range. I think it’s most important to pay attention to how your opponent plays the SB (whether he limps a lot, walks you or raises a lot and then adjust accordingly). I would play the hand the same.

Hand #7

Level 5: 100/200 a25

A very active guy makes it 600 from the HJ (off 17,000), the CO flats (off 15,000) and I make it 1,700 from the SB (off 9,000) holding K Q; only the CO calls.

Flop: A 3 2

I bet 2,100 and he folds.

Maria Ho Feedback: I really like this squeeze play. It’s a hand that plays really well with the initiative and we get some dominated hands to continue. I would size the squeeze a little bigger to give them worse pot odds though (2,200). I prefer a smaller c-bet on such a dry board as well. (1/3 pot)

Hand #8

I open 500 UTG with A A (off 11,000), CO calls (off 7,000) and BB calls (off 15,000).

Flop: Q 7 2

I bet 875 and CO calls.

Turn: T

I bet 2,100 and CO folds.

Maria Ho Feedback: Well played!

Giuseppe Pantaleo
Giuseppe Pantaleo

Hand #9

Giuseppe Pantaleo opens to 400 in MP (off 4,500), the CO calls (off 5,000) and I move all-in from the SB with K Q (off 12,000). They both fold.

Maria Ho Feedback: Good job recognizing that Giuseppe is opening pretty wide here and picking up the dead 1,100 chips in the middle!

Hand #10

I open to 500 UTG holding A K. Giuseppe Pantaleo moves all-in for 4,000 in MP and the SB moves all-in from the SB for over 80bb. I am sitting on 60bb. I tank fold, Pantaleo shows 99 and loses to the SB’s queens.

Lee Davy Comments: In my opinion this is a spot where the professional gets an advantage over an amateur player. It was a re-entry event. I knew that Pantaleo was wide and wasn’t necessarily worried about him, but it seemed absurd to flip for such a huge pot with AK as I knew he had TT, JJ or QQ. There was also the possibility that he had AK. If I had more money I could have taken the shot and then either continued with a 120bb+ stack or re-entered. I folded because I didn’t have any more money and an ace flopped. If I had the money I would have called. I know you can’t win the tournament on Day 1 but 120bb+ at that stage would have been huge.

Maria Ho Feedback: I would just fold here as well. I think that Giuseppe is actually much tighter than you think he is (he’s jamming against your UTG opening range from middle position with 20bb and therefore can’t be too wide). The SB should know this as well and therefore will most likely only be calling off JJ+ and AK+.

I don’t think this tournament being a re-entry or having a bigger bankroll effects this situation as much as you seem to think it does.

Hand #11

Level 6: 150/300 a25

An active player in the CO makes it 600 (off 20,000). OTB flats (off 25,000) and I call with Q J in the BB (off 14,000).

Flop: A 3 2

I check, the CO bets 800 and OTB calls. I check-raise to 2,100 and take the pot.

Maria Ho Feedback: This situation is very player dependent. It’s close between a c/call and a c/raise. If your opponent is c-betting too much and will fold to a lot of pressure then c/raising is good. If we do check/raise we should make it bigger in order to give him worse pot odds and make it harder for him to proceed.

Maria Ho

Hand #12

An active player makes it 700 from MP (off 20,000). I three bet to 1,675 from the CO holding A Q (off 18,000) and he calls.

Flop: T 6 3

I bet 1,675 and he calls.

Turn: K

I bet 2,875 and he folds.

Maria Ho Feedback: I like the way you played this hand.

Hand #13

Level 7: 200/400 a50

A quiet guy makes it 800 in MP (off 30,000). A guy I keep three-betting (and he keeps folding) flats in position (off 20,000). I three-bet to 2,175 from the SB, holding A 9 (off 20,000) and they both fold.

Maria Ho Feedback: The squeeze is fine but your sizing is too small here. You're only making them risk another 1,375 in order to see a flop when there is approximately 4,500 in the middle. A raise of 3,000 is much better.

Maria Ho

Hand #14

I open to 850 from the CO holding A J (off 22,000), OTB flats off (13,000), the SB three-bets to 2,200 (off 12,000) and I fold.

Maria Ho Feedback: It sounds like you’ve been pretty active thus far. If the SB is aware and capable then I would either be flatting or going all in against his 3-bet. Our hand is much too strong to fold and we have position on him.

Hand #15

Level 8: 250/500 a50

There is an open to 1,100 from EP (off 40,000). I three-bet with A 3 OTB (off 15,000) and he calls.

Flop: A Q 6

We both check.

Turn: 2

He check-calls a 2,600 bet.

River: 3

We both check and he mucks when he sees my cards.

Maria Ho Feedback: The 3-bet isn’t mandatory but it’s a good 3-bet bluff hand as it blocks some of his stronger holdings and plays really well in 3-bet pots (can flop top pair or really strong draws). I would play post-flop the same way.

Hand #16

I open the CO with A Q for 1,100 (off 17,000), a very aggressive young player three-bets to 2,500 OTB and I call.

Maria Ho

Flop: A Q 6

We both check.

Turn: 9

I bet 3,500 and he calls.

River: T

I check, he bets 8,000 and I call. He mucks and tells me he had two pair.

Lee Davy Comments: This was the last hand before the break and I was not concentrating. This happens a lot when I am involved in a hand leading into the break, or the final hand of the night. I seem to switch off. If I would have focused on this hand I could have check-raised the river. Justin Liberto is moved to our table with a huge stack. A combination of him playing every hand and me being card dead sees me dwindle down to 20bb in Level 10 and I lose a flip against pocket Jacks.

Maria Ho Feedback: I like the peel pre-flop, the flop check and the turn bet. I would bet this river myself as we risk him checking back worse hands that he might call a river bet with. Sounds like you played pretty well overall and stayed aggressive when needed. Your bust out sounds like a pretty standard tournament scenario.

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