It’s September. And, as usual, we here at PokerStars Blog are talking to Shaun.
Shaun Deeb, that is, annual crusher of all things ‘COOP at PokerStars, including the ongoing World Championship of Online Poker where he’s once again found a spot in the winner’s circle. Earlier this week Deeb captured his seventh WCOOP win in Event #9-H, the $1,050 buy-in no-limit five-card draw event played with progressive knockouts.
It was the same event Deeb won three years ago, a victory made all the more memorable because it came on the same day his second child was born, his son Chance.
Speaking of chance, we all know poker contains a certain element of luck, although Deeb’s repeated successes proves as well how important skill is, too.
There was little luck involved in our happening to choose Deeb as one of several “Players set to smash WCOOP” prior to the series getting underway. Nor was it too remarkable to find another of our players to watch at Deeb’s final table and making it all of the way to heads-up — Denis “aDrENalin710” Strebkov.
“I’ve played with him a bunch over the years,” Deeb told us yesterday. “Then I met him at the PSPC this year for the first time and I saw him in Vegas. He tried to kind of stay anonymous for a while, but after that year that he did, his name finally got out there.”
Deeb alludes to Strebkov winning five WCOOP titles in 2018, enough to catapult him ahead of Deeb and everyone else to the overall lead of nine titles — a lead which Deeb moved closer to with his win this week.
“That tournament went really well,” Deeb recounts. “With two tables remaining I ended up getting like 30 percent of the chips in play, so I was a big chip leader the whole way. That’s very plus-EV in progressive knockouts because you’re likely to win and get your knockouts, and every knockout is not just half, as you’re getting probably 40-50 percent extra because you’re so likely to win.”
Indeed, on his way to topping the 70-entry field Deeb ended up collecting even more from bounties ($14,875) than from the first-place prize ($10,500).
“It’s very important [in Progressive KOs] to be really aggressive and make sure you knock people out, so you take some more gambles that you wouldn’t [otherwise] against shorter stacks,” Deeb explains.
Speaking of taking gambles, Deeb’s experience with no-limit five-card draw well served him throughout the tournament and at the final table, helping him know when and where to get his chips in the middle.
“It’s such a weird game — five-card draw high — the way the equities work. But I just got very convenient spots where people shoved into me with way the worst hand. So I was able to chip up, and then we got heads-up about even.”
At that point Deeb suggested to Strebkov they cut things short, but the latter wanted to play it out.
“We were like 140 big blinds deep, and it’s a very slow game that deep heads-up…. I knew these heads-up matches could probably take a couple of hours, and I’d just rather during this WCOOP grind play less hours when I can, because it’s just so exhausting,” says Deeb.
“So he declines it, because for some reason he thought he had an edge — which he doesn’t. I’ve played a lot more of that game that he has, and I definitely think I exploited him a bit. I’m sure he’s going to watch the replay and see how wide I was in some spots and why my sizings might have been better than his. But he made some sick folds. So did I. I’m not sure if all the ones I made were correct yet, but definitely a couple of the ones he made early were correct, but then he made a couple of poor ones later.”
“That’s the thing — when you’re playing heads-up for that many hours, you can’t make every perfect decision.”
As Deeb anticipated, it proved a lengthy battle, ultimately lasting the two hours or so he expected it would. Relatively speaking, there was a lot on the line during heads-up, including a $7K swing in bounties since the winner gets to claim his full bounty back — and after having knocked out so many players along the way, Deeb’s bounty was a big one.
“For a while he ran the best, he made trips every time I made a pair, then for a while I did, and then the tournament was over. You know, it’s whoever gets 20 minutes of run-good over 10 minutes of run-good.”
As often happens at these “High” final tables, there were a number of familiar usernames popping up at the final table — people them Andrey “kroko-dill” Zaichenko (who finished fourth), Konstantin “krakukra” Maslak (sixth), Niklas “Lena900” Åstedt (seventh), and Jussi “calvin7v” Nevanlinna (eighth) — although mixed in were some lesser knowns as well.
“That’s going to happen when you have a $1K comfy event. There are not specialists in five-card draw. It’s just not a popular enough game where someone can play full-time and get a lot of hours in. It used to be a lot popular pre-Black Friday — you’d see limit, no-limit, and pot-limit running frequently, and you had some regs back then. But they are all gone,” says Deeb.
With one title in hand already this series, Deeb continues to seek more, as well as to eye the WCOOP Player of the Series leaderboard where despite the early success he knows there’s a lot of work to be done.
“I’m pretty far behind — I have a ton of cashes, but only that one final table. Things have not gone well in the money for a bunch of events. But four or five days in is so early. I know what it takes to win leaderboards, and I know that every day I have to get up and play more events.”
We’ll continue watching that leaderboard, too — both the Player of the Series one and the overall WCOOP titles one. And we’ll go ahead and say there’s a chance we might be talking to Deeb again before September is done.
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