Ryan Hohner Goes For Solve And Gets There at Borgata

Ryan Hohner picked up his largest career score for taking second in the Winter Poker Open Event 1. (Borgata photo)

Ryan ‘shipthesherb’ Hohner’s road to solve in a field of 4,515 entrants wasn’t paved overnight. Hohner placed second in the Borgata Winter Poker Open Event #1 for $245,967. That number is the culmination of tireless effort and a change in strategy for the 25-year-old.

Any Borgata Poker Open Event #1 requires an off-brand style of poker to exceed in, according to Hohner. A year before winning the World Series of Poker Main Event, Scott Blumstein won the 2016 Summer Poker Open kickoff for close to $200,000. Blumstein’s style of play is far from conventional and Hohner recognized he had to adapt in order to improve his game both live and online.

The Main Event live stream was the last straw for Hohner to make the necessary changes to his game.

“Watching Scott play the Main Event motivated me to reevaluate my own game and different elements of my game,” Hohner said.

Learning His Own Way

Hohner bucked the Game Theory Optimal method of tournament play that his peers prefer in lieu of an exploitable strategy that changes on a hand-by-hand basis.

“A lot of people that go deep in these tournaments, they don’t play GTO. They’re not playing the most fundamentally sound but you keep seeing the same names going deep for a reason. Throughout any tournament, it’s like a marathon. You’re always adapting your strategy to how many chips you have, how many chips your opponents have. Your strategy is constantly evolving, variables are changing. The big reasons for a lot of success, the people that you consistently see at the top, they figured how to beat the game. Sometimes game theory goes out the window. You’re doing what you have to do to get the most chips.”

According to Hohner, every hand is an “experiment.” Even if there is a better long-term strategy to how to play a spot, Hohner is willing to take the necessary risks to maximize his immediate value.

“This hand is what I’ve been building up to and preparing for in these moments.”

On Day 2, Hohner won one of the most important pots of his tournament and gave his stack a boost near the end of play. Hohner’s preflop overcall with pocket kings was due to him anticipating a move from a familiar opponent in the blinds. The exploitative nature of the call is something Hohner says might not work all the time but was the best way to accumulate chips in the moment.

“It’s a high-risk, high-reward play,” Hohner said. “Ed [Py] could not squeeze the bb there. It’s definitely non-GTO. It’s an exploitative play. I’ve seen Ed with big stacks. I know he likes to apply so much pressure. What I think is going to give me the most chips. Players dependent, I would do it online.”

The work Hohner put into his game at the end of 2017 gave him the required confidence to play his best poker on Day 3.

Hohner says he “went to sleep knowing that I’m the best player in this tournament” before Day 3.

A six-figure score to start the year is nice and Hohner isn’t satisfied just yet. The difference between first and second place is almost equal to the $137,168 Vinny Pahuja earned for fourth place.

What Comes Next?

Hohner wants to improve on his silver-medal performance in the coming months by traveling to play events outside of the Borgata-Parx Corridor. There are leaks from Event 1 that Hohner is already in the lab adjusting to close the deal the next time around.

“I’d say the money is great,” Hohner reflected. “I definitely felt like a kid on Christmas when I saw the money at the cage. That was a good feeling. I’m not content. I’d be lying if I said getting second didn’t make me hungrier. I’d be lying if I said that there were a few hands on Day 3 and the final table that I wish I could have back.”

What Hohner thinks is the driver for future results is being able to maximize each spot even if the “experts” might not agree with it.

“I’d say in terms of playing online or live, you have to cater the way you play to your opponents. In order to beat the game long run, you’re going to have to do things that are ‘non-GTO.’”