Tom Marchese is one of those silent poker killers. He's not the biggest name in poker, he's rarely if ever considered one of the best players in the game, he doesn't have any WSOP, WPT or EPT titles. However, the guy is an extremely talented grinder, he has a bunch of high roller tournament wins, loads of final tables and he's in the top 20 on the All Time Money List with more than $16.000.000 in tournament winnings.
Claiming a place near the top of the list of the biggest tournament poker winners in the history of poker without a huge one time payday guaranteed by something like an EPT tournament win is ironically even more impressive than getting there by virtue of a single score in a gigantic donkament like WSOP ME or Big One for One Drop.
Folding Cowboys Like a Boss
"Can I fold KK in this spot?" has to be one of the most popular topic names in the strategy section of every poker forum ever. Results oriented beginners that haven't yet gotten used to the inevitability of the KK vs AA spot are desperate to find some special circumstances that would allow them to avoid the mental pain of losing a stack due to variance. Time and time again they are disappointed to hear from the more advanced players that folding KK preflop is virtually never correct. Emphasis on the word 'virtually' given how in the video clip linked above Tom Marchese managed to find one of those incredibly rare spots where folding kings preflop might actually be correct.
First of all, he played the hand against Jennifer Tilly who isn't exactly known for her loose-aggressive play style. Second of all, he was more than 200bb deep which is basically a necessary prerequisite to even start considering folding the cowboy's pre. Lastly, the overcall with TT from Justin Schwartz made the perceived range for Tilly's 5bet over the top even stronger, basically narrowing it down to just aces.
As Thin As Thin Can Be
Every schmuck with some experience and chips burning a hole in his pocket can play well in the big and obvious pots. What differentiates truly great players from solid grinders is their ability to make the most out of the medium parts of their range. In this interesting hand from the WPT Super High Roller against John Juanda, Tom Marchese showed exactly how to go about making an extremely impressive thin value bet in an extremely tough environment. The hand started with Tom opening K6o three handed on the button followed by a call with 54s by John Juanda. On a Js4d6s board many players would've likely checked back the flop in position to control the size of the pot, but Tom knew that the relative strength of his second pair high kicker hand was fairly high and went with a value bet.
He was also aware of the fact that John's range for the check/raise was unlikely to contain top and middle set which automatically made it more draw heavy and allowed Marchese to bet/call the flop. Juanda should’ve continued his aggression on the turn with both the top and the bottom part of his range and given how Tom had medium part of his opponent's range beat, he went for a very impressive bet for thin value and protection.
Hand Reading and Punishing Dishonesty
Tony Dunst did a very good job providing an explanation for the hand linked above and the attempt to improve on his expert analysis would most likely prove to be redundant. Instead, let's focus on the bigger picture and once again try to define what makes a difference between a good player and truly brilliant one.
In order to thrive in the live high stakes poker environment, expert level hand reading is absolutely essential and the fact that Marchese's ability seems to be on a similar level than that of more experienced and more famous pros is truly awe-inspiring. On top of that, Tom seems to be great at putting the maximum amount of pressure on dishonest lines which is another important skill to have in the game of small edges.