How a Young Gun Won $461,369 at the WSOP

How a Young Gun Won $461,369 at the WSOP

An interview by Mike Brady.

Congrats on your absurdly sick run, Greg! You came into the final table of 6 with a middling stack, but you caught a huge bluff on the very first hand to take the chip lead.

Hand #68: Ector Bluffs, Katamaya Grabs the Lead
Level 40: 600,000-1,200,000, 1,200,000 ante

Benjamin Ector raised to 2.5 million on the button and Gregory Katayama defended from the big blind. The flop came {q-Diamonds}{10-Hearts}{2-Spades} and Katayama check-called a bet of 2.1 million from Ector.

The turn was the {6-Diamonds} and Katayama checked again. Ector slid out a bet of 11 million and Katayama stuck around to see the {k-Hearts} on the river.
Katayama checked for the third time and Ector announced all in, putting Katayama to the test for his remaining 38.3 million chips. Katayama called and Ector showed {4-Diamonds}{3-Spades}. Katayama had turned a set of sixes with {6-Spades}{6-Clubs} and a massive pot has provided a stunning start to the day's play.

What you were thinking on each street?
I just want to first thank my friends and family for all the support I have received during my journey in the tournament. It was truly special that my dad Leonard, my brother Orion, my fiance Marlise, and my friends were able to rail the final table and experience this achievement in my career. I also want to thank my mom, who passed away two years ago from cancer, as I know she was there in spirit cheering me on.

The first hand was quite something. I would have never thought that such a crucial hand would take place right away on the stream. I played with Ben a bunch on Day 4 and we battled in a lot of heads-up pots. I knew he was aggressive and he would put people to tough decisions coming in as the chip leader.

"BAM! A 6! Now I'm thinking 'sweet! I got him!'"

He opens button, I defend 66 — pretty standard. When the flop came down and he bet, I initially wanted to fold but since he is probably c-betting his whole range, I figured I would peel a card and play a turn.

BAM! A 6! Now I'm thinking "sweet! I got him!" and he puts out a pretty sizable bet on the turn. Now, I think he could have a big hand, a flush draw, or putting pressure so if I call and he is bluffing, he will bluff the river again. So, I call.

The river is a king and he shoves pretty quickly. I hated that card because he could have gotten there with J9 or he could have a set. If I did have a {q-} hand, it would be so hard to call as it would be an ICM disaster and I would feel gross. I thought “my hand is under repped, so I'm going to call and if he does have it, I'm happy to have come this far.” I’m glad he was bluffing.

I hate to make you relive it, but you played another key pot that didn't go so well, coincidentally against the same hand of four-three off.

Hand #112: Hands #109-112: McCue-Unciano Hits A Monster Gutterball
Level 42: 1,000,000-2,000,000, 2,000,000 ante

Katayama raised it up to 4 million and McCue-Unciano made the call. After Katayama bet 4 million on the {2-Hearts}{9-Diamonds}{6-Spades} flop, McCue-Unciano check-raised it to 9.5 million and was called by Katayama.

The turn was the {10-Clubs} and McCue continued for 12.5 million, which was called by Katayama. The river was the {5-Spades} and McCue-Unciano now bet out a massive 60 million, Katayama again made the call, but mucked his pocket tens in dismay when McCue-Unciano tabled {4-Diamonds}{3-Spades} for the rivered gutshot. With that, McCue-Unciano scooped the biggest pot of the tournament.

Taking a beat like that would send some players into a month-long depression. What was your immediate reaction at the table and how have you been handling it since?
Yeah that's totally fine. I don't mind talking about it — that hand was honestly so gross. Once again, I’m against an aggressive opponent and when he bet that big, I thought he could have it. Unfortunately, he did and ultimately led to my demise.

After that, I just felt like "wow, I can't believe that just happened in the most important moment in my poker career." I tried not to show it, but I was devastated for sure and it threw me off my game. But hey, that's poker and congrats to Kainilu for winning the Monster Stack. I've come to terms with it, I ran pretty good to get to the final table and at the end of the day, I still won 461K and I am happy. It's seriously life changing money and helps set me up for my future.

Every player dreams of being a big stack and applying pressure at a huge final table like this, but sometimes the cards don't cooperate. What was your experience as a final table big stack like?
I tried to apply pressure, but it did start to feel that people knew that and I kept getting three-bet, which was getting annoying. When we played from nine to six players Day 4, I would say I was pretty card dead. At the same time, I was still trying to play my game. It was a fun experience for sure and it has prepared me for future final tables.

"I was just trying to take it one hand at a time, find a bag at the end of the day, and not think about the money."

Let's zoom out and talk about the tournament generally. What are one/some of the most interesting hands you played in this tournament?
I think the most important hand I played on Day 4 was when an aggressive player opened from the button, I had {a-Clubs}{10-Clubs} in the small blind with about thirty big blinds to start the hand. I elected to flat because I thought it would be a gross spot if I three-bet and he shoved and I didn't even get to see the flop. I called and so did the big blind.

The flop was {9-Clubs}{4-Clubs}{3-Clubs} — I flopped the nut flush. The action checked to the button, he c-bet, and I called. The turn was the {j-Hearts}. I checked, he bet again. I could have check-raised, but I felt that since he was aggressive, he might bluff the river. The river was another {j-} and he shoved after I checked. I snapped it off and he had {k-}{k-Clubs}. From there, the good run of cards came and I played well to get to the final table.

Five straight days of play is intense. What were you doing before each day started and after each day ended? Any routines or rituals?
I don't really have routines or rituals, just after the day ends, I review some hands with my roommate, look at some preflop charts, eat, and relax. I was just trying to take it one hand at a time, find a bag at the end of the day, and not think about the money.

How did you prepare for this tournament and the WSOP?
I prepped for the WSOP by rewatching Nick Petrangelo’s Winning Poker Tournaments course and looking at charts. I think this was the sixth tourney I played since I had been [in Vegas], so I was just looking to cash one for confidence before the Main.

Gregory Katayama
Gregory Katayama

You wrote a post in Upswing Poker’s advanced tournament group thanking Nick for helping you make this run with his course. What concepts from the course helped you the most in the Monster Stack?
I think Nick stated it best in the course when he said preflop and c-betting strategies are the most important. So, looking at opening and 3-betting charts at certain stack depths and c-betting strategies on different boards against the big blind or in multiway pots helped a lot. Big blind defends are really important as well. Once again I would like to thank Nick for all the great content and I'm sure it has helped not just me but many people as well.

You're also a member of the Upswing Lab course. How long have you been a member and what is the most valuable takeaway you've gotten from Upswing as a whole?
I’ve been a member for three years. I think the biggest takeaways are just the range of hands we get to each street with whether it be preflop, flop, turn, or river' so we know what hands to bluff, raise, or call.

All the videos by all of the coaches give great insight into the game and knowing these strategies can help us know what our opponents are thinking so we can exploit their leaks. Shout to Doug and Ryan who's videos I started watching when I first joined the Lab. I learned a lot from those early videos!

What are your poker goals for the future?
My poker goals would be to just keep enjoying to play the game whether it would be in cash or tournament. For sure; one day I would like to win a major tournament, like a WSOP, WPT, or a partypoker MILLIONS.

Any advice for aspiring pros and your fellow grinders?
Enjoy the grind, work hard, and find a group of people who you not only can discuss poker with, but can also hang out outside of the game with. Bankroll management is also a big key and one of the reasons I have been able to keep playing until this day.

Plug time: where can people follow your poker journey?
You can follow me on Instagram @Gkatayama for my poker journey. Thanks again for everything!

Greg cashed for $461,369 with the help of Upswing Poker courses. What will you accomplish? Take this poker personality quiz to find out which Upswing course is right for you. Start the quiz now!

Sponsor generated content by Upswing Poker written by Mike Brady.

Gregory Katayama
Gregory Katayama
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