Yu takes advice from Justin Bonomo to earn third bracelet and $1,650,773
July 15, 2018 (Las Vegas, NV) - If you’re going to start playing the $25,000 buy-ins and above, Justin Bonomo is a pretty good guy to get advice from. After taking a couple of shots earlier this year in some high roller fields, Ben Yu reached out to Bonomo for some advice on how to improve his no-limit game.
The primarily mixed games player took the advice he was given and put it to good use. The 32-year-old Las Vegas poker pro won his third World Series of Poker bracelet in the early hours of Sunday morning. He defeated 128 entries in the $50,000 no-limit hold’em high roller event. He earned $1,650,773 and his first bracelet in no-limit hold’em.
“I would say that this year, I’ve started to play some more high rollers,” said Yu after his victory. “I played some of the $25K’s in Florida, I played the U.S. Poker Open in February and after playing a few of those I actually wrote a message to Justin Bonomo.”
He was blunt in his message to the two-time bracelet winner and one of the most talented players on the planet.
“I wrote ‘I like playing high rollers. I cash for more money and people irrationally think I’m better at poker because of it. I get to eat free food, free good food using comps. I would like to do this more often and I’m willing to put in whatever work is required for me to do so,’” said Yu.
Bonomo responded that he needed to put in the work away from the table, do more work with PIO solvers and really build out your ranges for every spot.
“It sounds really boring,” said Yu. “This is what it takes to win at the high rollers nowadays for the most part. I don’t think I have the best poker instincts that some of the absolute sickos do. I really need to get by in studying and knowing exactly what my ranges should be.”
It’s not the most glamorous answer in the world, but Yu put in the work and came out with a seven-figure score because of it.
In his opinion, that’s the kind of work needed to be done to stay on top of the poker world right now. With the game and its strategies evolving at such a rapid pace, it’s important to have all your ranges hammered down.
“That isn’t the reason that most people get into poker when they first see it on TV,” said Yu. “They really want to soul read people, and you know, be able to feel themselves out at the table. There’s something really attractive about trying to get a read on someone and feeling your way through a problem. But I think for the most part if you see the guys that compete in this field, the people that are most successful and the people that win time after time in these high rollers … It’s really the guys doing what we call science and studying. It doesn’t sound great, but it is what it takes to win.”
Yu has been a regular at the WSOP for several years. He won his first bracelet in the 2015 $10,000 limit hold’em championship and added a second in last year’s $10,000 2-7 triple draw championship. With his first seven-figure score and no-limit hold’em victory at the WSOP, he cracked the $4 million mark in lifetime earnings at the WSOP alone.
With his no-limit hold’em game, it’s a continual learning process. He puts in the work away from the table and then looks to learn from some of the players he feels are better than him when he sits down to battle in some of these types of fields.
He was three-handed with two of the most feared high roller players on the planet – Sean Winter and Nick Petrangelo. They battled three handed for several levels. Yu used the time spent with those two guys as a learning experience and took mental notes on some of their lines.
“I do feel like I’m at both an experience and knowledge disadvantage to them,” said Yu about playing with some more experienced high roller regulars. “Every tournament I enter is still a learning opportunity for me and that’s how I view it … Like I was limping on the button and Nick was jamming 40 blinds, which I hadn’t even thought of as a possible play before. I am definitely paying attention to that and going to be thinking about how to incorporate that into my game in the future.”
At the end of the day, Yu wrapped up his summer with a win. It caps off a summer in which he cashed 15 times, made four final tables, all of which resulted in top-four finishes, and earned over $2.7 million. He summed up his summer in one, short phrase.
“This has been pretty unreal.”
The second and final day of the event got underway at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon with 31 players still alive. With 40-minute levels, it didn’t take long to burst the money bubble to secure the top 20 players a cash of at least $74,623.
The eight-handed tournament reached its unofficial final table of nine about four hours into the day. Elio Fox busted in ninth and the final eight players were credited with making the final table.
Just two hands into the final table, Jake Schindler was following Fox to the rail. Schindler was all in for his last three big blinds with ace-five against Isaac Haxton’s three-four suited.
Haxton paired his three on the flop to send Schindler home with $173,604.
About an orbit later, Haxton scored another knockout, this time of John Racener. Racener moved all in on the button with king-jack and got action from Haxton out of the small blind with ace-three of clubs.
Racener flopped a gutshot straight draw while Haxton flopped the nut flush draw. Haxton needlessly paired his three on the turn and the river bricked off. Racener, who won the $10,000 Dealers Choice Championship last year finished eighth in his third final table of the summer.
The chips continued to fly with Manig Loeser busting in sixth just four hands after Racener exited the tournament area. He lost a flip with his ace-king of hearts against Winter’s pocket threes, earning $287,174 for sixth-place.
The final five players broke for dinner with Yu and Petrangelo at the top of the counts and Igor Kurganov as the short stack. Kurganov got his stack into the middle just a few hands after they returned.
It was another race with Kurganov’s ace-queen against Winter’s pocket sixes. Kurganov couldn’t make a pair and Winter’s pair won the race, moving him right into the thick of the race for the chip lead.
It left Haxton as the short stack and he only got shorter throughout the 28 hands of four-handed action. Haxton moved all in from the cutoff for just over 12 big blinds and called by Yu on the button.
Yu showed and dominated Haxton’s . The board ran out clean for Yu, coming to move him into the chip lead at the outset of three-handed play against Winter and Petrangelo.
In terms of number of hands played, three-handed action lasted almost as long as the entirety of the final table before it. It took 53 hands to get to three-handed play and another 42 hands before it got to heads-up play.
The lead changed hands several times, but after a rush of cards, it looked like it was going to be Winter running away with it three-handed. As the blinds got bigger and the stacks got shallower, Winter scored a double through Petrangelo and then won a couple pots to sit with about two-thirds of the chips in play, while Yu and Petrangelo were the short stacks.
Yu doubled through Winter with pocket nines against ace-seven and then won a flip with pocket fours against ace-10 to knock out Petrangelo in third. Just like that, it was Yu and Winter heads-up and it was Yu with the slight advantage.
On the second hand of heads-up play, all the chips were in the middle with Yu’s king-queen up against Winter’s pocket fives. The king on the turn sealed the deal for Yu, who denied the 27-year-old pro his first bracelet.
Final Table Results:
1st: Ben Yu - $1,650,773
2nd: Sean Winter - $1,020,253
3rd: Nick Petrangelo - $720,103
4th: Isaac Haxton - $518,882
5th: Igor Kurganov - $381,874
6th: Manig Loeser - $287,174
7th: John Racener - $220,777
8th: Jake Schindler - $173,604
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