Interview: Martin Gonzales talks of his recent MPC Red Dragon deep finish

Martin Rundulf Gonzales was the talk of the town in Manila during the recent Macau Poker Cup Red Dragon event. The Filipino pro stole away the chip leader’s status at the end of Day 2 with a fantastic read on a player while holding just King high. Gonzales took the time to discuss the details of the hand and also shared advice for Filipino first-timers planning a poker trip to Macau.

Martin Rundulf Gonzales (Photo Long Guan – Courtesy of PokerStars)

SMP: One year after finishing 15th at the WPTN Manila Main Event, you finished 10th at the recent MPC Red Dragon event, another close run to the final table. How do you feel?

Martin: Looking back at the WPT last year, I felt really terrible about my game because I made some big mistakes. I was second chip leader and I bluffed my stack dry. At the Red Dragon, I felt my game was good. I entered Day 3 with the biggest stack but the problem was the structure. The pacing down to two tables was fast, and no one had 100 big blinds. Although I had a pretty good stack, I was in several all in situations and was rivered five times.

SMP: A hand you played has been discussed a lot in Chinese media. You apparently made a King-high call to take the chip lead at the end of Day 2. Can you run us through what happened and what led you to make the big call for your tournament life?

Martin: It happened during the last two deals of Day 2. The average stack was 300k and I had 485k. Chip leader was at my table with over 500k on the big blind. The hand began with blinds at 6k-12k.  The utg player raised to 24k, I flat- called with my suited KxTx in mid position, and the bb also flat-called. This player (bb) in particular has been so aggressive at the table, always laying out a three-bet when he has a hand. So when he called, I knew he had a mediocre hand.

The flop was QhJh7x with two hearts on the board. Both players checked, I had an open-ended and was deciding what to do. Before I acted, the dealer laid out the turn card prematurely so I requested for the floor. They asked for my action, and I bet 40k. They then placed the turn card back in the deck and reshuffled. Action was now on the chip leader (bb) who re-raised me double to 80k. The utg player folded and I flat-called.

The turn was another Jx and the bb player bet 80k. I felt he was representing a full house. I flat-called the 80k. Then a 2x came on the river and he put me all in. I had 300k. So if on the turn he was representing a full house, then on the river I don’t understand why he bet so big. I keep asking myself why the big bet. If he has a big hand why all in? So he put me in a very tough spot because I also felt I couldn’t fold my hand after what he did, his all in seemed very questionable.

SMP: Did he go all in immediately?

Martin: No. He was thinking. He asked me how much my stack was behind. I told him I had 300k. Then he said, “Ok, all in”. So I started thinking, I have 300k entering Day 3, that’s ok, it is average. I can fold the King high, no need to risk. But I felt I was ahead. Then I recalled that I joined the event to play, I didn’t come to play scared and think about Day 3 with the thought of “just let it go, at least I’ll be in Day 3”. I came to compete. Since I was thinking I was ahead, I had to call it. I was thinking for about five minutes and I called it.

But the hand was controversial again with the player immediately mucking his hand. The floor was called back and luckily his hand had not yet touched the muck pile. In an all in situation on the river, hands in play must be shown. It was turned over and he had 6x4x bluff offsuit.

SMP: Wow what a great read! Had he bet differently would you have folded?

Martin: Yes. I would have. If he bet 150k, a value bet, then I think yes I would have folded. He was really good. He put pressure on me. It was the last two hands already. He was the chip leader and he didn’t have to risk his stack. I think he is a good player but I am better. (laughs)

SMP: After that, you became the chip leader and took that into Day 3. How was that day for you?

Martin: The next day there were 75 of us left, and it was hard to maintain that stack especially that it was turbo. For me what happened in Macau was like Final Destination. It was so sick because during the last two tables with 13 players left, we were seven at our table, six on the other. What happened next really got me enraged. The floor made an error, which changed the outcome of the game.

The floor removed Alan Lau, the one who championed the event, out of our table and moved him to the other table because they thought it wasn’t balanced. They thought there were only five players at the other table. When Alan was moved, the guy who eventually came in second place went all in with Kx5x and I had KxTx. His five hit and doubled up. The next hand, he had pocket tens and Terry Fan had pocket kings. It was another all in and he hit a ten on the turn. So if the floor did not make a mistake, the scenario would be different. It changed the game. They changed the outcome due to their mistake.

I told the floor (Jane) that due to their mistake, the outcome had changed. I asked her if she saw what happened, that Terry Fan and I got hit. Then she apologized on the mic and sent Alan back to our table, still with 13 players remaining in the event. They added that since they made the mistake, they wanted to correct it by returning Alan to the right table.

After that, my stack swung up and down several times including my pocket jacks were hit by Ax9x, ace on the river.

SMP: Are we going to see more of you in the live tournament scene?

Martin: Actually I am more of a cash game player. I rarely play tournaments but I may play a bit more this year. I am heading to Davao next to play the cash games.

SMP: Do you also play cash games outside of the country?

Martin: Mostly here but I’ve also played in Macau and Singapore. The only reason I played the Red Dragon is because I recently had a very big loss at a cash game in Singapore. I want to be more active in the tournament scene because first, I want to score a big one so I can recover from my cash game losses.

SMP: So you have been playing events both in Manila and Macau. As a poker player, what are the differences between the two destinations and what recommendations / advice would you give to a Filipino player who plans to try out Macau for the first time?

Martin: Don’t be scared. Just play your game. At the recent event, there were so many of us (Filipinos) who went. Some of them were scared to bust whereas in Manila they have no fear.  They have the mentality of just getting into the next day. For me, we went to Macau to compete so we need to show that we are ready to play. But instead, when they are eliminated, they feel sorry for themselves. They need to move on. You can’t win all the time. Just think of why you were eliminated so they can improve on the next game.

For me, I feel that if you were eliminated because you were short-stacked, it is your fault. You can’t tell me it was just a bad beat or you were card-dead. That’s not valid enough. You need to find a way to build your stack. At every stage there are different plays so you must always have a strategy to make your stack grow. That way when you do get hit with a bad beat, you have enough to absorb it. You can’t avoid those. Sometimes you will receive bad beats and sometimes you will deliver bad beats.

SMP: Do you find that the players in Macau are better than the players in Manila?

Martin: No. The players in Metro Card Club (in Manila) are better than the players in Macau. The problem is, the players in Metro think that the buy-in in Macau is high so it changes their game. They play scared. In Macau, players there find their buy-in low so it is an advantage because they become more aggressive and are able to make many plays.

SMP: What are your goals as a poker player for the coming months?

Martin: First, focus on the cash games. Davao tomorrow. I am told there are good cash games there. They also have a small tournament I plan to join. It will be good practice. I will be at the next Macau Poker Cup, compete again, and hopefully score another. Just keep trying. I also plan to join the next APT, the one in April.

SMP: Thank you very much for taking the time to sit with us. Good luck to you in Davao!

Somuchpoker would also like to thank Ashby Rivera for joining the interview and for participating in some of the questions and Ian Brion for the introduction.

Interview by Triccia David


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Tricia David

Tricia David has long experience as a recreational poker player and has been covering poker events since 2010 for numerous outfits in Asia. She spent one year working part time with Poker Portal Asia then became editor and lead writer for all event coverage of the Philippine Poker Tour (PPT). Under the PPT, she overlooked content for their website, and produced live updates on all their events. In addition, she served as the live and online events website content writer for the Asian Poker Tour. Currently, she does live events reporting in Asia for online news site Somuchpoker and is also one of their news contributors.

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