I was delighted Mike Matusow won the World Heads Up Championships and the $750,000 prize this week, beating fellow old timer Phil Hellmuth heads up in the final.
41 year old Matusow hasn’t been up to much on the poker front recently and this was his first tournament win for 5 years. A lot of people said he didn’t deserve his place in the 64 strong line up but at the end of the day it was a televised invitation event and the organisers’ prerogative who they invited along. There were bound to be some people upset not to get an invite.
And when you look at who Matusow beat en route to the final it’s hard to argue he didn’t deserve it. He defeated Michael Mizrachi in round 1, Viktor Blom in round 2, Barry Greenstein the third round and Scott Seiver in the semi final, before dispatching Phil Hellmuth. That’s not a bad effort! So I say fair play to him.
This week’s hand is the last hand of the final and it is one of the simplest examples of calculating pot odds: drawing to a flush with one card to come.
At the start of the hand the stacks were 1.18m to Mike Matusow and 420k to Phil Hellmuth. Blinds were 8k/16k. Matusow was dealt 8d 4d and min-raised on the button to 32,000. Hellmuth called in the big blind with Ks 10h and the flop came down Kd Js 2d. Hellmuth then check-called a bet of 30,000 and the 6s came to give a board of Kd Js 2d 6s. Hellmuth checked again and Matusow bet 105,000 this time. Hellmuth thought for a couple of minutes, said “I’m thinking of making one of the worst laydowns of my life”, thought for a couple of minutes more and then announced that he was all-in, a total of 357k! After some thought Matusow made the call and what do you know? The Qd hit the river, giving him the match and the $750k first prize.
So, would you call with a flush draw and is it the mathematically correct decision? Let’s work it out.
Looking at it from Matusow’s point of view, hitting an 8 or a 4 almost certainly won’t win. He has to hit a diamond and there are 9 possible diamonds left in the deck out of 46 cards (we count all 46 unknown cards because unlike us, he obviously doesn’t know what Hellmuth is holding). 9/46 is 19.6% so he needs odds of 4.11-1 for the call to be profitable.
Already in the pot is 586k (64k preflop, 60k on the flop, 105k + 357k on the turn). So it’s 252k to call to win a pot of 586k. That’s only 2.33 to 1, a long way short of the odds he needs to make the call valid. In fact the pot would need to be greater than 1m for the 252k call to be “value”.
Now it’s not as if Matusow doesn’t know the odds. So why is he calling? Well I reckon he probably just figured it was an opportunity to end the match there and then. And even if he lost the hand he wouldn’t be eliminated. (Like Mike Matusow gives a monkeys right now!)
Hellmuth can consider himself unlucky though. There was an 80% chance that he won that pot and then it would have been game on with level stacks, which would make him a favourite in my opinion. Just one other thing – I’m a bit surprised Hellmuth considered laying down top pair here (assuming he wasn’t Hollywooding) when he had that long tank on the turn). With his chip disadvantage and blinds as big as they were, holding a King high top pair heads up is a pretty good situation to get it in.
I once heard a player joke “if I didn’t have bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck at all”. And you could say Matusow’s had some bad luck over the years. So I’d never begrudge him this.
And as for Hellmuth, who is even more “old school” than Matusow but undeniably in prime form these last few years . Well he famously said, in his typical modest fashion: “if it wasn’t for luck he’d win every time”.
This hand won’t have made him change his tune!