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Archive for Monday, March 27, 2006

Good times with bad boys

March 27, 2006

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Queen of clubs, 10 of clubs, Qc-10c, Qc-10c : Phil! Wake up! You're having a nightmare. And you would too, if you lost a $230,000 pot and then a $350,000 pot to your opponent's Qc-10c the same night! At the recent World Poker Tour (WPT) "Bad Boys of Poker" special, I finally made another WPT final table. (Of course, only six of us began the event, so technically I started at the final table.) I was there with Tony G, Mike "The Mouth" Matusow, Men "The Master" Nguyen, John Robert Bellande and defending champion Gus Hansen.

With the blinds at $3,000-$6,000, and the antes at $500 a man, I opened a pot for $18,000 in early position with Kc-Kd, and The Master called me one off of the button with Qc-10c. The flop was Q-J-9, I checked, and The Master checked. We both checked on the flop because we were slow-playing our hands.

On the turn, a five came off, I checked, The Master bet $30,000, and now I began to evaluate my options. I could call, raise all-in with my last $200,000 or so, or make a smaller-size raise. I felt pretty certain that I had the better hand, but if I was beat and moved all-in, I would be eliminated (unless I hit a miracle card on the end). On the other hand, of course, moving all-in would protect my hand from losing if, say, The Master had A J. In that case, he would fold, and I would win the pot, whereas just calling would give him a "free chance" to hit an ace or a jack. The last thing that flashed through my mind was this: if I called, I would still be slow-playing my hand, and then I could bet out $50,000 after the last card hit. On the end, though, it would be hard for The Master to fold a pair, since I hadn't shown any strength at all during the play of this hand. There are many top players who feel the right play here is to raise it up, but I opted to call, both to protect myself from elimination, in case I was beat, and to continue slow-playing the hand, so that The Master would call my bet on the end.

The last card was a king - the board was Q-J-9-5-K - and I quickly checked. Yes, I had made three kings, but if The Master had a 10 in his hand, he now had a straight. The Master then bet out $60,000, and I immediately said, "I call." He announced, "I have a straight," and flipped his Qc-10c face up. Now I was debating folding my hand face down, and The Master said, "I already had top pair," as if to show that he had already had me beat. I decided to show him that he was indeed very lucky to have outdrawn me on the last card, and flipped my hand face up. This being the Bad Boys of Poker, the other players all started berating my play (arguing that I should have moved all-in on the turn instead of calling $30,000), but I was comfortable with the way I'd played the hand, and I believe that The Master would have called my all-in raise (he later said he would have), had I made such a raise, and I would thus have been eliminated on that hand.

But I still had roughly $100,000 in chips, and I certainly wasn't going to give up. Within 10 minutes I managed to double up when The Mouth moved me all-in with his 5d-4d vs. my pocket kings.

One hour later, with three players left - The Mouth, Tony G and me - the blinds were raised to $10,000-$20,000, with a $5,000 a man ante. During the 10-minute break before the blinds were raised, I decided I was going to make a few moves. In fact, I made up my mind that I was going to move all-in on the first hand, while I was on the button, no matter what hand I had. When I looked down at Qs-5s, I felt more comfortable with that tactic and went ahead and moved all-in for my last $180,000. Tony G folded in the small blind, but The Mouth studied for a moment in the big blind, and said, "What the heck, I call." He then flipped up the now-familiar Qc-10c, and I knew that I was roughly a 2.5-to-1 underdog.

The flop was 7d-4s-3c, and the turn card was the Ks, at which point I needed a five for a pair, a six for a straight, or any spade for a flush. Alas, the final card was the 9d, and I finished in third place. I will not tell you who won, but I will tell you that the whole event made for great television, and that one of the players took a big-time bad beat on the last hand.

Before the flop, against Qc-10c, a hand of Qs-5s is roughly:

A) a 5-to-1 underdog

B) a 2.5-to-1 underdog

C) even money

D) the favorite!

Answer: B

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" (both published by HarperCollins).

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