The Blueprint: How Jonathan Jaffe Won WPT Montreal

Jonathan Jaffe battled through a tough final table and a back and forth heads-up match on the way to his first WPT title and $409,656. (Photo c/o World Poker Tour)

Jonathan Jaffe battled through a tough final table and a back and forth heads-up match on the way to his first WPT title and $409,656. (Photo c/o World Poker Tour)

Jonathan Jaffe celebrated his Thanksgiving north of the border by adding $429,106 and a WPT title to his already impressive poker resume. Jaffe defeated Ratharam Sivagnanam heads-up to take home his first major title at the WPT Montreal Main Event.

The Massachusetts native brings his career earnings to just shy of $2 million after besting a field of 732 players. Jaffe sat down with BLUFF to go through his thought process from a few hands at the final table.

Jaffe Eliminates MacPhee in 4th Place 

Jaffe was quiet early at the final table as Guillaume Nolet and Samuel Chartier were eliminated in sixth and fifth place, respectively. Jaffe then played his first significant pot when he eliminated Kevin MacPhee in fourth place.

With blinds of 50,000/100,000 with a 10,000 ante, Jaffe raised to 215,000 on the button and MacPhee moved all in for 1,795,000 from the small blind. Jaffe called with AQ and was in the lead against MacPhee’s KT. The board ran out AQ8A7 giving Jaffe a full house and eliminated MacPhee in fourth place.

Jonathan Jaffe: “When I watched the livestream after the fact, I realized how tight he was playing. If I had known how tight he was playing, I probably would have opened about 90% of hands. But where I was at that moment, the best indicator is that the last button, I folded 8-7 off on the button because I basically had him shipping J-9 off plus. I had him shoving a lot wider than he actually was.”

“[If I were him], it depends on how much I put on winning the tournament vs. ICM. If I put more emphasis on winning the tournament, I would probably be shoving J-8 off plus on me, but if I care more about ICM, I’m probably starting at J-9 suited and K-T off. I definitely don’t put ever fold his K-T off there. I’m jamming that every time.”

Sivagnanam Takes Pot With a Full House

Jaffe eliminated Mukul Pahuja in third place to leave him heads-up with Sivagnanam. With blinds of 60,000/120,000 and a 20,000 ante, Jaffe raised to 280,000 on the button and Sivagnanam called from the big blind.

The flop was 955 and Sivagnanam check-called 230,000 from Jaffe. Both players checked the 5 turn and the 9 fell on the river. Sivagnanam bet 650,000 and Jaffe called. Sivagnanam tabled J9 and took the pot after Jaffe mucked.

Jaffe: “At the time, I would probably open about 8-4 off-suit plus and I wasn’t going to limp anything. I like to drop a few folds on the button just to lower his three-bet frequency and I wanted to play smaller pots rather than big ones. I think it’s positive EV to open any two on the button, but I think it’s negative for my game and what I’m trying to do.”

“I definitely have a check-back range on this flop depending on the dynamic. There are times when I would check-back aces, I could check-back a five and there are rare times when I would check-back a no equity hand like 3-4 or something if I thought my opponent is floating as wide as Q-8 and is also defending a normal range because I think he’s going to call me on the flop with about 75% of his defend range and I’m not going to have many place to proceed and I would wait to stab.”

“I can definitely have a big hand when I check-back the turn, especially if we are really deep stacked. If we are only 20-25 big blinds deep, I am usually just going to keep betting and try to get the rest in, but if we are over 40 big blinds deep, I see value in checking back so that I get value when I raise the river and it looks like I am capped at ace-high or a pair smaller than a nine and he’s confused because I have like pocket kings or something.”

“Absolutely, I’m just calling trying to chop on the river. I didn’t have a pair or anything that beat the board. I was just thinking that he knows that he’s in spot where if he’s going to check-call, he might as well bet a lot of the time. Unfortunately, I need to be chopping with him about 80% of the time to make a correct call there, so he made a really good bet there.”

Jaffe Makes a Monster Bluff

With blinds of 150,000/300,000 with a 50,000 ante, Sivagnanam raised to 700,000 on the button and Jaffe called. The flop was KJ22 and Jaffe led out for 450,000. Sivagnanam called and the turn was the 2. Jaffe checked and Sivagnanam bet 950,000. Jaffe check-raised to 2,350,000 and Sivagnanam called.

Jaffe fired 2,600,000 on the river when the Q fell and Sivagnanam tanked for six minutes before tossing his hand in the muck. After a little negotiation, they both agreed to show one card. Jaffe showed the 7 and Sivagnanam showed the 6.

Jaffe: “Yea, I had 7-6 and he had K-6. This is a lead [on the flop] that I think really good players would criticize a lot. It’s not that I thought Ratharam wasn’t a good player because he is, but he just isn’t very experienced at heads-up play. So when I lead for like 32% pot, I think he’s going to fold everything that’s weaker than Q-9 and he might even fold A-6 and A-7. I really don’t have him ditching anything of any kind of strength. I felt like he was going to fold all of his air. You need to be really sure that your opponent isn’t going to take a shot at you with 10-8 off because even if he does it 10% of the time, that is enough to take the equity out of this bluff.” 

“I thought I would take the pot down about 40% of the time, which has a lot of value in it right there and then I think I have a little bit of back door equity in the times that maybe, it’s probably 14% of the time that I hit a six or seven on the turn or river and then of that 14%, it probably gets checked down and I have the best hand maybe 3-4% of the time against hands like Q-10, maybe Q-9 and more likely some ace-highs and pocket threes or fours. So I think I would win this pot maybe 43-44% of the time for a stab of 32% pot if I don’t touch it again. I don’t think you need to worry about balance in this spot where we won’t play too many more hands against each other in a live heads-up situation.”

“When the deuce hits on the turn, it’s a really bad card for my range and I just checked and was done with the hand. He bets 950,000 into a pot of 2.35 million and I got the feeling that he was never betting a king there, which was a big misread because he was. It was essentially this big misread that led me to winning a swing pot. At this point in the hand, it was the worst play I made at the final table was this check-raise.”

“There were two mistakes in this. One was just a misread. I thought that he wouldn’t bet a king there because he would check back for pot control. I don’t represent very much here, but I think he was going to pay more attention to his hand. I thought he was going to bet all of his weaker hands like Q-9 and Q-10 and would only be bet a two for value. I don’t think he would bet a jack on the turn and I think he would bet a king again on the river. I think to make this crazy raise though, you need to be like 95% sure that he isn’t betting a king and there is no way I could be more than 75% sure.” 

“The second mistake I made was sizing. I went way too small where even if he had junk diamonds or Q-10 or Q-9 and I was going way too small where he might still peel in position. That was a real stretch to only make it only 2.35 million and be kind of lost on the river whether the draw gets there or not. If I’m going to make this thin play, I should have went bigger and made it 3 million. The main reason I didn’t was because in my head, I was overbalancing because I would never make it that big for value, so I should make it the same for when I’m bluffing.”

“On the river, I think he makes a queen a lot and I think he drops a queen a lot on the river to a small bet. That being said, if I had seen his hand, I would have check-folded, so I don’t want to take credit for some great play, but I thought he would fold a queen and so often he would have missed random diamonds and he would fold those as well. So I thought 2.6 million was a good investment into a pot of like 6.1 million or something.” 

That pot put some distance between Jaffe and Sivagnanam. Jaffe went on to take the majority of key pots to eventually take home the title and the first place prize money.

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