The Blueprint: Marco Johnson

Marco Johnson won his first career bracelet in his fourth career WSOP heads-up match. (Jay Newnum Photo)

Marco Johnson won his first career bracelet in his fourth career WSOP heads-up match. (Jay Newnum Photo)

Marco Johnson had done more in poker than most people could ever dream of. He has played in and beaten some of the biggest cash games around and earned a very lavish lifestyle in the process. The only thing he didn’t have to his name was a WSOP bracelet, having finished second in WSOP events on three separate occasions.

That all changed when he defeated Jeff Thompson heads-up in the $2,500 Limit Hold’em Six-Max event at the 2013 WSOP and earned $206,796 to go with the title. The win was the second largest cash of his career and bumped his career tournament earnings to over $2 million, proving he is one of the most consistent players around.

BLUFF caught up with Johnson to get some insight into his thought process on some of the key hands that he played at the final table en route to his bracelet.

Johnson Takes One From Warchol

Maria Ho was eliminated very early at the final table, which left the final table five-handed.  With limits of 12,000/24,000, action folded to Danny Warchol in the small blind. Warchol raised and Johnson three-bet from the big blind. Warchol called and they saw a T63 flop. Warchol check-called a bet from Johnson and the turn was the 5. Both players checked the turn and they saw an 8 river fall. Warchol bet and Johnson quickly called. Johnson showed A8 and Warchol mucked his hand.

Marco Johnson: “Three-betting preflop is pretty standard. He’s probably raising from the small blind about 80% so I have a pretty easy three-bet and he calls. He checks and I bet and he calls and I think that I have the best hand here most of the time on the flop and I think that his hand is still everything that he had from preflop. On the turn, I think it’s a non-standard check. I would definitely bet this in a cash game just to protect your hand, but in the tournament, each bet is very valuable and given who this guy was, he was the most aggressive player at the table and that when I check he will put me on all sorts of king-high and ace-high hands and he will bet his whole range on the river.

“It was really weird and I didn’t like it at the time, but he turned a five and he was going to check-raise me on the turn and I would have been put in a bad spot. So I just checked turn to call any river and get to showdown a little cheaper. There wasn’t a single card that I was going to fold to on the river so that was why I checked the turn.”

Johnson Knocks Out Schiffman

The table was still five-handed and limits had gone up to 15,000/30,000. Johnson had opened preflop and Michael Schiffman three-bet from the big blind. Johnson called and the flop was A65. Schiffman bet and Johnson called. The turn brought the T and they got the rest of Schiffman’s chips in the middle. Schiffman had A6, giving him two pair and the nut flush draw, but Johnson showed TT, giving him a set. The river bricked out for Schiffman and he was eliminated in fifth place.

MJ: “He’s a good player and a friend of mine as well and he’s very tight. I don’t think I should be four-betting him with anything because then he would just make good folds to me because it looks like I have a big hand and if I were to four-bet I would have a big hand. So to protect that if I have aces, I’m flatting, if I have ace-king I’m flatting, and if I have tens I’m flatting. I’m not just going to fold ace-king on the flop, I might just call every bet to the river and just play it a different way.

“I flatted and got a horrible flop and I don’t think I’m going to fold if the turn was a blank and the river was a blank, so I got lucky that it was a ten. I would fold like king-queen or king-jack on this flop which is why it’s good for him to three-bet preflop.”

Helppi Picks Off Johnson

After another elimination, there were only three players still alive for a bracelet. With limits of 25,000/50,000, Juha Helppi raised on the button and Johnson flatted from the big blind. The flop came JT6 and Johnson check-raised Helppi. Helppi made it three-bets to go and Johnson called. Both players checked the T turn card and Johnson led out on the T river. Helppi thought for a minute or so before tossing in a call. Johnson showed 34, for a busted flush draw and Helppi showed KQ, giving him a busted straight draw, but his king high took the pot.

MJ: “I think that hand was pretty standard on all plays. It was such a bad run out for my hand because I check-raised the flop and he three-bet and when it comes running tens, I can’t really have a ten anymore and it’s hard for me to have a jack and he thinks maybe I wouldn’t value bet a six, although I would. But it was a pretty easy call for him because he has the best straight draw and a lot of my range is straight draws and flush draws and he beats all of them because I didn’t three-bet pre so I can’t have the ace-high flush draw. So he actually has my range dominated and it’s actually a pretty easy call for him.”

Thompson Check-Raises Sixes For Value

Still three-handed with 25,000/50,000 limits, Jeff Thompson raised from the small blind and Johnson three-bet from the big blind. Thompson called and they saw a flop of J53. Thompson check-called a bet from Johnson and the turn was the 5. Thompson checked, Johnson bet, and Thompson put in a check-raise. Johnson called and they saw a 9 river card. Thompson bets and Johnson calls and mucks when he sees pocket sixes turned over by Thompson.

MJ: “He played his hand very good. He’s betting for value and played his hand really tricky and kind of merges his hand. He’s the kind of guy that if he thinks ace-high is good, he will check-raise a 4-4-8 flop. Once he thinks he’s good, he just puts in that bet. So when he put in that bet, I thought he could have the ace-high flush draw and I just had a smaller pair, so I thought he made a good value check-raise and got in two extra bets. In reality, I think I should have folded the turn, but I had a diamond, so I thought I had some extra outs to make a flush or a full house.

“He has no value to check-call the river because if he check-calls, he’s losing, but if he bets, I can call with worse hands on the river. I think there is more value for him to just bet it. The river was a good card for him too, it was an offsuit nine and there aren’t too many nines in my hand.”

Thompson eventually eliminated Helppi, which left him heads-up with Johnson for the gold bracelet. Thompson didn’t have a fourth second place finish this time as he grinded down Thompson and eventually won his first title.

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