How David Haye (almost) Slayed Goliath
Former World Heavyweight boxing champ David Haye was tasked with going from absolute beginner to taking on Goliath, the biggest poker tournament outside of Las Vegas, and he very nearly did it! Here, Grosvenor Poker Pro Jeff Kimber analyses the 10 key hands that saw The Hayemaker go so close before eventually finishing in 40th place from a field of over 9000 players
Just 12 short months ago David Haye didn’t know whether a flush beat a full house, still called a straight a run and didn’t even know clubs from spades.
Fast forward a year and the retired boxer faced off against 9300 sceptical poker players at the 2019 Goliath, all determined to take their shot at knocking out the former World Heavyweight Champion.
With everyone waiting for Haye to fall on his face, the hard work done by David in the past year, along with the Grosvenor sponsored poker pros charged with coaching this absolute newbie, Joe Beevers, Katie Swift and me, paid amazing dividends as he came within 10 minutes of making the final day, eventually busting in 40th place in the biggest tournament ever held outside of Vegas, finishing ahead of not only all of his coaches, but over 9250 others!
While far from the finished article, David has come on in leaps and bounds in his poker journey and while he still has plenty to work on, that competitive edge that saw Haye take on the biggest and baddest fighters in the world over 20 years as an elite pugilist saw him enjoying life as one of the top five stacks for much of day 2 of the Goliath.
I’ve picked out some of the key hands from David’s run at the Goliath in early August, showing how far he’s come as well as some newer concepts that he will need to take on to take that next step on his poker journey.
Action – Deep stacked in level 4 of Goliath (100/300), David looks down at AQ UTG2 facing a 1200 raise from the under the gun player. He calls with AQo. A 25bb stack moves all in and the button cold calls a third of his stack behind. The raiser passes, David shoves and the button calls all in.
Analysis – David’s play is fine up to a point. His call of the under the gun raise is correct given the perceived strength of the open from that position. Calling does open you up to being squeezed out of the pot without seeing a flop, but that’s unlikely to happen with a worse hand at this stage. When the 25bb stack shoves, that’s something we could consider calling if the action is passed back to us, but the cold call for a third of his stack by a player not yet invested in this pot exudes strength and is never being done with any hand Haye dominates, people are just folding AJ and AT. In fact the cold caller is probably at the stone bottom of his range with two jacks, the other hands he plays like this being AA, KK, QQ and AK.
Conclusion – David needs to recognise how strong it is to enter a pot with 3 or 4 other players already in there, one of them all in, and pass hands like AQ here. His original call was fine, but the shove and cold call have now given us extra information about the hands we’re up against and AQ doesn’t fare well against this new range, meaning it’s a fold.
Outcome – David called with AQ, was up against JJ and 88 and turned a queen to score a fortunate double knockout.
Action – Having safely negotiated the bubble and made the money in his first ever clash with Goliath (if you exclude his World Heavyweight title clash with real life 7ft2 Goliath Nikolai Valuev), David starts his quest for a deep run in the best possible way with pocket aces.
The table big stack, with nearly 90bb, makes it 21k from UTG3 with KTdd and action passes to David in the hijack. Rather than shove his 13bb he 3bets to 42k, 40% of his stack. The big stack peels but folds to a 30k c-bet on the 983cc flop and David wins the pot.
Analysis – David has a fear of not being paid with his big hands, a classic beginner mistake and something we’ve worked on him with him, but his old habits came out here. It’s possible he could have won a bigger pot but at least he emerged unscathed here.
Conclusion – Not only does the small 3bet look super strong, it puts you in tricky spots postflop, where even a small c-bet in relation to the pot was half of David’s stack. Shoving our whole range with 13bb facing a 2.5x open is much better, he exudes strength with the min 3bet.
Action – Playing 23bb, David opens to 20k UTG with pocket jacks. The next player to act shoves his whole 44bb stack in and it’s folded back round to David. He thinks for a while, looks his opponent up and down and folds his jacks face up. His opponent taps the table and shows David what a great fold he’d made by showing his pocket queens.
Analysis – David’s open and sizing is fine, and when the next player makes such a large move all-in it’s easy to think you’ve got the best hand and are most probably up against AK. David used the lessons he’s been given in reading body language, as well as thinking back over hands he’d seen this opponent play, taking his time and eventually making a great fold. It’s probably no coincidence that he folded jacks preflop in one of the warm-up events we watched him play despite being very card dead, and was shown queens that time too.
Conclusion – Now we’re playing some poker! Some players, even vastly experienced ones, would snap this all-in off thinking there’s no way they’re up against aces, kings or queens, but David was calm and considered and decided folding was his best move. Afterwards he told me that he was happy with the fold even if the guy had shown him a worse hand, understanding that it’s better to make a bad fold than a bad call and there’s many different routes to winning a poker tournament.
2 hr 59
With the post bubble carnage ensuing, there were a lot of all-ins in this level as people looked to go big or go home. UTG3 open shipped all-in for 9bb and the action passed to David in the cutoff with A4dd and 21bb. He reshoved to isolate and while he got heads-up, he also was given the bad news that the short stack had found pocket kings.However, a 98AQ3 run out saw David score the knockout.
Analysis – It’s very close whether David should just fold A4 suited here or not, but given the sheer number of all-ins at this stage of the tournament and some of the cards being shown, it’s understandable why he didn’t fold. Once he decides to play, reshoving is definitely the best idea, and his aggression actually got TT to fold behind.
Conclusion – At this stage of the tournament we’d really rather be the aggressor with suited wheel cards rather than the caller, but David’s reshove was good and he earned his good luck.
4 hr 35
Action – The UTG player min-raised to 24k off a 22bb stack. The small blind called and, David, playing 550k, made it 50k from the big blind with A8cc.Both opponents called and the three of them saw a 789r flop. David c-bet 100k into 162k when it was checked to him on the flop, the UTG player moved all in for just over 100k more and the small blind passed. David called, saw he was winning against KTo and his hand held.
Analysis – While it’s good that David balanced his small 3betting hands to include holdings like A8 suited and not just premiums, the sizing across the board needs to be bigger. A8 suited is a fine defending (rather than 3betting) hand against an under the gun player, but this aggression was targeted particularly towards a loose opener. His c-bet sizing was good, and he was priced in to call the shove. Getting the great news he was in front and needed to hold was a massive bonus.
Conclusion – A lot about this hand was good, the targeted aggression, the c-bet sizing, the knowledge that this is a must call even though he felt he was losing. While I’d in general prefer a call preflop, and if I was 3betting to make it bigger, as with a lot of these hands, David’s play is much better than his opponent’s, which after only 12 months of playing is some statement.
(Later Day 2 session)
Action – UTG1 limps for 24k off a 28bb stack. It folds round to the small blind who makes it up and David looks down at QJo in the big blind and raises to 70k total, which just the limper calls. The flop comes KJ6r and David cbets 150k, ¾ pot, which is called. The turn is the Jc, giving David trips. David checks, his opponent makes a tiny bet, 100k into nearly 500, and David check raises all in. Luke snap calls with K8cc, a turned flush draw to go with top pair, and bricks
Analysis – While the raise size is slightly small (I like to go over 3x to a limp when out of position), David’s aggression and seizing control is excellent. His c-bet size is good and when he hits a beautiful turn the check to allow floats to barrel is perfect, getting all the money in as a strong favourite.
Conclusion – While the run out was perfect given the flop call, David’s basics of taking control, punishing limps and imposing himself on the table is excellent.
Action – It’s passed to David in the cut off and he makes it 110k with 77. The small blind shoves 410k (10bb) with A2dd and David makes the call. The small blind can’t find one of his three outs, but wins the pot anyway on a cruel KTKTJ run out to counterfeit David’s pocket sevens.
Analysis – David played this pot perfectly and got a harsh lesson that the poker Gods can be cruel at times too!
Conclusion – A lot of people have pointed out David ran pretty well during Goliath. Like all those people you think run well, he got unlucky at times too, and this was one of them.
Action – The UTG+1 player raises to 115k from a 1.1m (27bb) stack. David, who just covered his opponent, 3bet to 230k UTG+3 with two red kings. The raiser called with A7o. Despite the ugly AT8dd flop, David bet 300k into 560k, when checked to. His opponent called. The turn was a beautiful king and even better, the UTG1 player decided to open ship all in for 590k drawing stone dead!
Analysis – While the 3bet size is again on the small size, David got the pot heads up in position with the best hand. The ace high flop was ugly and probably warranted a mixture of checking or a small c-bet, though just over half pot wasn’t outrageous. Again, a dreamy turn card meant we didn’t get to see what the plan was if he didn’t get there once called on the flop, but it’s always nice for our opponent to shove drawing dead! Another case of David’s play being far superior to his opponent, who really was opening and peeling far too light with A7 offsuit.
Conclusion – A lucky turn card for David, but he’d found an unlucky flop given the hands and again his general play of seizing the initiative and taking control paid dividends here.
Action – With a limp in front of him, David limps along on the button with pocket deuces, which is fine. Four players see the AJ7hh flop. It’s checked round to David who bets 100k, about half pot, and the UTG limper makes it 225k with what turned out to be T9cc, a gutshot. Even though his opponent had put in 40% of his stack, David went with a read and set him in, forcing the fold.
Analysis – It’s taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to a stage where David knows he should generally enter a pot with a raise, should only really limp in the small blind when passed round but it’s fine on occasion to see a cheap flop multiway in position with a hand that can flop big. David’s limp is fine, as is his bet and sizing on the flop when checked to. The check raise from the UTG limper is scary, but David thought about what hands this guy had limped with previously, as well as taking in his body language, and decided he was weighted towards a flush draw or nothing, and went with his hand. Great power poker.
Conclusion – Excellent stuff from David. From his opponent, just bet the flop with your gutter and if called go with it and hope that even a weak ace might fold!
Action – UTG1 makes it 90k with QJo, David 3bets the cutoff to 320k with 77. Unfortunately for David, while his read on the opener being weak was correct, the big blind woke up with pocket jacks and moved in for 620k total. Fortunately for David, who had to call given the small raise and his dominating 3.1m stack, he got there on a 9T7TK run out to move over 4m chips.
Analysis – .With a big stack, David continued his good aggressive play with the preflop 3bet, and interestingly the sizing was much better, 3.5x the open. He was unlucky to run into a bigger hand behind.
Conclusion – Another concept hard to grasp for beginners is you can play perfect and get your money in bad, and big stacked David’s play here is perfect, including the 3bet size!
Action – UTG makes it 90k preflop and it’s passed to David in the big blind, who flicks in the call with TJo. On a J86r flop David decides to lead out, betting 300k into 240k. The under the gun raiser shoves his whole 1.3m in with pocket kings and David makes the bad call, but gets lucky with another jack on the turn to move over 5m!
Analysis – David played this one badly. His preflop play is fine, but his hand is 100% a check call on the flop. When he decides to lead, the sizing is far too big, overbetting the pot. What that sizing does do is make it basically impossible for the opponent to bluff though, so again it’s a mistake to not fold to the 1m raise all in.
Conclusion – I think the adrenaline got to the Hayemaker in this hand. He’d been playing aggressively and winning lots of pots and obviously thought he’d blast another opponent away on this flop. Luckily, the deck bailed him out.
Action – It’s passed to David in the cutoff who makes it 250k with 77. The big blind peels Q9hh off a 1.4m stack and flops a flush draw on JJ6hh. The big blind leads 360k with 850k back to put David in a tricky spot, but having got himself in a mess half an hour earlier donk betting, he learns from his mistake, making a great read to set his opponent trying something similar, forcing the fold.
Analysis – David correctly surmised that his opponent was unlikely to be leading with three jacks, and he beats most other hands that he hasn’t heard from preflop. If he’s up against a flush draw he’d rather they folded their equity now, and that’s exactly what happened. Good read and fine play. David’s 6x preflop raise size was unusual, possibly a live misclick.
Conclusion – I actually like the way both players played this pot. The big blind lead will see opponents fold a lot of big card hands, or at least only call and give you the chance to realise equity. His hand is strongest on the flop, and while he could try and check raise all-in, he knows that David’s c-bets are meaty and might commit him to calling, and also there’s a danger it’s checked behind and the turn bricks. David though makes a great read and shuts it down on the flop, taking down another uncontested pot.
Action – Having moved off the feature table, David’s stack had taken some hits, but he was still looking good to make it through to day 3 with 40 players left. David, in the big blind with 78dd, calls a mid-position raise, and with the button also peeling, they see a three-way flop of AT6 with two diamonds. It’s checked to the button, who bets. David just calls and the preflop aggressor comes along too. The turn is the 5c, and this time the preflop aggressor leads when David checks. The button raises, David cold calls with his unimproved flush and straight draw and the third player also calls. Looking for a 9 or a diamond, David found both with the 9d and open shoved 1m all-in with his flush, the preflop raiser called, the button made it 3m and forced the raiser to fold. The button showed T5dd for the bigger flush.
Analysis – David had his fair share of luck on his day 2 run as one of the big stacks, but that ran out here when he made flush under flush in a monster pot. His holding – 78dd – is far more playable than the button’s T5dd, but when a third diamond hits the river and David has less than a pot sized bet left, all the money is going in and David is hitting the rail.
Conclusion – David was playing to win and wasn’t scared of getting his money in so close to the end of day 2 (they played 4 more hands after this one). This was a bit of a cold deck and a cruel way to end a fantastic run that proved so many wrong as David took on Goliath and performed better than anyone maybe bar himself expected.
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