Since he turned 21 eight years ago, Daniel Strelitz has quietly been one of the most consistent pros on the tournament circuit. The 29-year-old poker pro from Southern California has racked up more than $4.5 million in career tournament earnings before his 30th birthday, including a seven-figure score from a World Poker Tour title at the 2017 Los Angeles Poker Classic for $1.001 million.
2019 has been a solid year for Strelitz thus far. He finished runner-up in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event for $951,480 and added his first World Series of Poker bracelet this past summer in the $5,000 no-limit hold’em for another $442,385. Including his victory, Strelitz cashed seven times at the 2019 WSOP.
He sat down with Card Player to disclose his thought process from a few hands he played at the final table of his first bracelet win.
Concepts: Using blockers to choose good hands to turn into bluffs.
The Action: Shannon Shorr raised to 60,000 from the cutoff and Daniel Strelitz called out of the big blind. On the flop, Strelitz checked, Shorr bet 55,000 and Strelitz called. They both checked the turn and Strelitz checked the river as well. Shorr bet 185,000, Strelitz raised to 700,000 and Shorr folded.
Steve Schult: At this point, you’re the chip leader and Shannon is second or third in chips. You’re both pretty deep by tournament standards. You both have around 80 big blinds effective. Does that make you less inclined to apply ICM pressure on him preflop?
Daniel Strelitz: I think it makes me a little bit less inclined. I’m not going to be going crazy against him. We aren’t incentivized to battle each other with so many other shorter stacks at the table.
SS: What hands would you normally three-bet against him at shallower stacks that you would just call against him in this spot?
DS: Some offsuit kings and weak offsuit aces and stuff like that. They are kind of good to use as bluffs. I’m obviously going to be three-betting all of my strong hands. I’m not flatting A-K or anything just to not build a pot. I’m still going to be three-betting my pretty strong hands against him.
SS: Do you expect Shannon to tighten up his range a little bit preflop with you in the big blind or does the stack depth allow him to play a more straight forward style since you aren’t incentivized to put pressure on him?
DS: I think it’s going to be in between that. I think he’s going to be not too tight, but also not quite as loose as he would normally be in that case. Maybe just a little bit tighter than he would if he weren’t at a final table.
SS: With you check-calling and Shannon betting, what are some reasonable flop ranges for both of you?
DS: I’m going to have a bunch of hands that want to continue on this board. All my pairs. A bunch of gutshot combos. Some overs and backdoor flush draw type hands. Like A-7 of diamonds or whatever if there was a diamond on the board.
I think this is a board that he is going to c-bet a decent amount. If he has an ace, he is going to bet. If he has a gutshot, he is going to bet. And then he’s going to check back some of his weaker pairs and some of his weaker Q-X type hands.
SS: When you both check the turn, does that take a straight out of his range?
DS: For the most part, yeah. I think he might trap with a straight very seldomly, but he’s not going to have a straight there very often.
SS: Outside of maybe K-10, Q-10, it doesn’t seem like he could have many 10s in his range. Is this just going to be a card that favors your range more than his?
DS: Once he checks it does, but he is still going to have a bunch of 10s on the flop, so I can’t really like lead or anything. But I think once he checks back, if the river was a blank, I think I would be much more favored.
SS: The river counterfeits your two pair. You check and he bets 185,000. Since he checked back the turn, does this make his river bet polarized to the nuts or nothing? Can he value betting thin here?
DS: Because I checked, I think he can pretty easily value bet a queen here. I don’t know if he would use this sizing with a queen, so I think he is slightly polarizing. He didn’t go too big, but he went bigger than I would expect with a queen. He’s basically saying ‘I have a boat here’ and occasionally a check-backed trapped straight.
SS: When you check-raise the river, you’re clearly bluffing. Is this just because you have full house blockers and it’s unlikely that he’s got a straight?
DS: Basically, yeah. I had enough showdown value, so I don’t feel the need to bet the river myself. When he bets this sizing, he is saying ‘I mostly have a full house.’ So when I have some of the best full house blockers, I think this is a good hand to bluff with.
SS: Does ICM play any factor in you choosing to bluff here? Is this just a better spot to apply pressure with so many shorter stacks at the table as opposed to a more typical preflop three-bet?
DS: I don’t think so. I think that we’re deep enough that it wasn’t really an ICM spot. There’s no chance of him going bust in this hand. He’s just going to either call or fold. And yeah, it will affect future hands, but I don’t think that’s really a concern.
Concepts: Identifying when to apply pressure as the chip leader.
The Action: Shannon Shorr raised to 80,000 from the cutoff, Maria Ho called out of the small blind, and Daniel Strelitz three-bet to 440,000 out of the big blind. Shorr called and Ho folded. On the flop, Strelitz bet 400,000 and Shorr called. Strelitz shoved all in on the turn and Shorr called all in for his last 1,600,000.
SS: What kind of range do you think Shannon has to call your three-bet preflop?
DS: I think he’s going to have a lot of pocket pairs. Maybe some A-Q, A-K type hands. I think he is going to be really tight here. Like even fold K-Q suited. I think he’ll have something like 9-9 or better, A-K and then a couple traps with aces or kings.
SS: If that’s the range you’re putting him on and the flop is 8-4-4, do you think much of that range folds to a downbet?
DS: I think that I can get him to fold certain parts of his range by the turn or river, and some hands are going to fold the flop. If he has A-K or A-Q, he is just going to fold the flop, which I’m fine with. By betting, I also give myself a good price to see a turn and possibly a river with my hand.
Because I really want to see all five cards when I have A-K and I think he’s got a lot of pocket pairs in his range.
SS: Why did you decide to downbet on this board?
DS: Mainly because there is no reason to bet any bigger. I typically go with a smaller sizing unless I feel like I need to go bigger. I didn’t really see a need to go bigger here.
SS: When Shannon calls the flop bet, is it just always a pocket pair?
DS: Yeah, basically.
SS: When you shove the turn, are you ever going to be shoving a worse pair? Or is this just Q-Q or better and some bluffs?
DS: That’s exactly right. It might be like J-J or better. It’s always going to be a big pocket pair or A-K.
SS: Put yourself in Shannon’s shoes. What are you calling this shove with?
DS: It’s a really gross spot. You don’t want to be in this spot with any hand other than like pocket kings or better. But you have to call sometimes. I think I would be calling with J-J or better and then thinking about it 9-9 or 10-10. Probably fold nines and then 10s flip a coin and call or fold.
SS: Is your shove on the turn because you have A-K specifically? So you block some of his traps? Would you do this with worse A-high bluffs or is it because you block both aces and kings.
DS: I actually don’t like my shove on the turn. I think I should just be giving up. And I think I should be shoving some hands worse than A-K because I’m not as worried about him having aces or kings as I am about him having queens or jacks. So I think having Q-J suited would be a better shove on the turn than A-K. And I think both should probably just be give-ups in this spot.
Concepts: Protecting your equity in a multi-way pot.
The Action: _ Ognjen Sekularec raised to 130,000 from under the gun and Daniel Stretitz three-bet to 500,000 out of the small blind. Ali Imsirovic moved all in from the big blind for 550,000 and was called by both Sekularec and Strelitz. On the flop, Strelitz bet 350,000 into a dry side pot and Sekularec folded._
SS: You decide to three-bet K-10 offsuit from the small blind. Is this standard or is this just an ICM pressure spot.
DS: This is mainly ICM pressure. We were four-handed at this point, so he’s raising from the cutoff essentially, and three-betting K-10 against the cutoff isn’t the craziest thing ever, but when you’re chip leader and Ali is that short, it becomes a really strong move.
SS: How far did you deviate from your normal three-bet range in this spot? Would K-J be a standard three-bet or is this way out there from your normal range?
DS: I think it’s close. You can mix with a bunch of different hands. I would advocate for a mix of calling and three-betting with this hand, so it’s really not that crazy. It almost becomes necessary with the ICM involve though.
SS: How does Ali’s short stack in the big blind affect your range in general? Are there any spots where you could see yourself folding the bottom of your range out of fear that Ali sticks it in and you have to go to showdown?
DS: Yeah. I wouldn’t be going too nuts. Especially because Sekularec had been going nuts and didn’t really seem to care about ICM too much. So I can’t really go too crazy, but at the same time, I want to be able to put as much pressure as I can on him without punting too hard.
SS: So you three-bet, Ali moves all in, and Sekularec calls. You said he doesn’t care too much about ICM, but he’s got to have a reasonable hand at this point, right?
DS: I think so, but at the same time, he showed up with a hand that I think he should just be folding (A-5 offsuit). So I’m not really sure what he’s thinking there. He should have a pretty strong hand to continue. I made it pretty big and he shouldn’t be incentivized to call Ali just to try to knock him out because he’s just going to end up tripling him up a decent amount.
SS: If he’s not folding A-5 offsuit, what hands do you think he would be folding?
DS: Not a lot. Just the bottom of his range.
SS: You go three-ways to a flop and you decide to bet when you flop top pair. What are the pros of betting as opposed to just checking down and trying to eliminate Ali?
DS: I think I’m just going to have the best hand a vast majority of the time, but at the same time, there are like nine cards that could come on the turn that could possibly hit them. Well, 12, but if they have one of them, then it’s just nine. So, I think just a really small blocker or protection bet is going to work out really nicely.
SS: If Sekularec were to raise the flop bet, how would you proceed?
DS: Depending on sizing, I would either call or fold. I would probably just fold if he raised. That just looks super strong.
SS: What would you expect him to raise on this flop? If he would raise anything.
DS: I wouldn’t really expect a raise nearly at all. Maybe just pocket jacks exactly or something like that.