Archive for Monday, July 24, 2006

Final table jinx strikes again

Phil falls short in Omaha, Hold ‘em

July 24, 2006

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Once again, I made a final table at the 2006 World Series of Poker (WSOP). This time, the game was Omaha 8/b (a high/low split game). With a chance to win my historic 10th bracelet and tie Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan with 10 apiece for the WSOP all-time lead, I fell short once again. Although I was able to beat 360 players, there were five that I could not outlast. I did manage to set the record for most finishes in the money in WSOP history at 53, but this wasn't the record that I wanted.

One game was a $2,500 buy-in pot limit Hold 'em tournament, I sat down and actually knew more than one player at my starting table; which is unusual with 1,000 player plus fields almost everyday. In fact, Howard "The Professor" Lederer was on my right, and Mike Sexton (the commentator for the World Poker Tour) was on my left. Naturally, I arrived more than two hours late, and my starting stack of $2,500 in chips had dwindled down to $1,775. Although I woke up in a timely manner, I felt tired and simply didn't feel like playing poker right then. So I went for a long workout, sauna, coffee and lunch. I arrived in the tournament area feeling strong.

With the blinds at $50-$100, I raised it up to $300 to go on the very first hand with A-9, and the small blind moved all-in for another $600 or so. I called, my opponent showed 10-10, and I lost the pot with a final board of 9-6-3-Q-7. After losing more than half of my chips on my first hand, I told the table, "I guess I should have shown up 30 seconds later." A few minutes later, I called a small raise with K-Q from the small blind, as did Sexton from the big blind. The flop was K-9-4, and I checked. Sexton bet his 9-6, and I called all-in and doubled up. This was good - I was back!

A round later, I called $100 on the button with K-9, and Sexton raised it up $250 more from the small blind. The big blind folded and it was back to me. I felt like Sexton was playing me very aggressively, and that he was going to raise it up almost every time I just called a bet on the button. So I studied my options. The smart move was to fold my hand right then and there, unless I felt strongly that Sexton was bluffing. I didn't really read Sexton for strength or weakness, but then the dealer was sitting right between us. I made a mistake here: I should have thought it out a bit more. Instead of thinking, or studying Sexton for 20 seconds, I acted. I moved all-in, and now Sexton thought for about 40 seconds before he called my bet with his Ad-Qd. Had I studied Sexton for 20 seconds or longer, I might have been able to make the obvious and easy play: fold this weak K-9 hand! Instead, I put my money in with the worst hand, which I almost never do in any Hold 'em tournament. Sexton was only about a 58 percent favorite, but this was a hand that I should not have played in the first place.

The door card to the flop gave me hope - it was the king of clubs - but then the other two cards were shown, and they were the Jd and the 4d. Although I had flopped top pair, Sexton had flopped a straight draw (he needed a 10), an ace draw, and a flush draw (any diamond). When the turn card was the 6c, my hopes began to rise, but then the last card was the 7d, making Sexton the ace-high flush. What could I say, other than "Nice hand, Mike."

Too bad I busted myself out in 15 minutes when I was ready (workout and everything) to play all day long and make it deep into the field. Too bad I played poorly one more time in my life. Too bad I couldn't outdraw Sexton! On the other hand, tomorrow (as I write this) is the $5,000 buy-in no limit Hold 'em event (a great one for me), and I will get plenty of rest. You can follow me or your favorite poker player live everyday - while we try to make poker history - at CardPlayer.com, or read my Weblog at PhilHellmuth.com.

Ad-Qd is favored by this much over K-9:

A) even money

B) a small underdog

C) about a 3-to-2 favorite

D) over a 2-to-1 favorite

Answer: C

- Phil Hellmuth is a nine-time World Series of Poker champion and the author of "Play Poker like the Pros" and "Bad Beats and Lucky Draws."

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