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…