Archive for Monday, October 9, 2006

Play it cool with best hands

Big bets not always a good move with strong cards

October 9, 2006

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In order to write this, I will have to admit what I had in a hand versus one of my business partners who also happens to be the 1992 World Champion of poker, Russ Hamilton. I did not want to tell him what I had in this hand, as he is already too perceptive! It will also confirm to him that he played a hand really well against me last week in Aruba (I do not want to give him that much credit at the poker table!).

The game was no limit Hold 'em, with $10-$20 blinds, and the buy-in was $5,000. In the game that night we had Antonio "the magician" Esfandiari, Hamilton, businessman Greg Pierson, Aviation Club (Paris) manager Bruno Fitoussi and blackjack champion Ken Einiger.

Four of us called a $20 bet, including me one off of the button, when Einiger raised it up to $240 to go. Hamilton called from the small blind as did the rest of us, so six people took the flop. I had 10-9, the flop was 7c-6s-2h, and everyone checked. Of course I thought that a great card for me would be an eight, which would make me the best possible hand, and lo and behold an eight came off and Hamilton bet out $1,500. Fold, fold, fold to me, and I thought, "OK, I have the best possible hand here and I'm going to raise it up, but how much? A $3,000 raise may induce Russ to move all-in or at least call the $3,000 bet. Since the eight was a club, Russ could have a flush draw. He could also have trips, two pair, or a straight. I'm sick of raising it up $2,000 or $3,000 and having a bad card (that beats me) come off on the end. Thus I will move all-in to protect my hand, which may fool Russ into thinking that I have a club draw or a straight draw."

So I pushed all of my chips into the pot, which amounted to a $10,700 raise. I knew that I was making a huge over raise ($10,700 into only $4,500 or so), but at least I would force Hamilton to put all of his chips into the pot if he wanted to draw. (He wouldn't be bluffing me this hand!) I figured that he would call me with a straight or perhaps trips, but that he would be forced to fold a strong drawing hand or two pair. Of course, I hoped that he would call the bet with two pair, because I was roughly a 10-to-1 favorite over two pair with my made straight. Hamilton went into the tank for almost two minutes, which is a long time in a poker hand. Since Hamilton is very perceptive, I had to make sure that I didn't say anything or act in any way. So there I sat, not moving a muscle or saying a word, just staring down at the table.

Eventually Hamilton folded his hand (darn it!), and he asked me, "Did you have the Ac-9c?" I knew that I had the 9c, and thought that he might think I was lying if I told him I had the Ac-9c, since he may well have had the Ac in his hand. Away from the poker table I never lie, but at the table it's a different story, so I quickly said, "Nope, I had the Jc-9c." No one seemed to harass me or doubt my story, so I went with it and asked that the last card be shown. It was the Qc, and the actor in me came out as I said, "Darn it, I would have made the flush. I finally bluffed you out, but I would have hit my hand anyway, you are a lucky dog!" (I said this so that the next time I had a strong hand and moved all-in - like I did in this case - Hamilton would think I was bluffing.)

Looking back on that hand now, I would have preferred to raise it up only $3,000 or so, in order to keep Hamilton in there. After all, there was a good chance that Hamilton had a hand that he could not win the pot with no matter what the last card was - like 9-8, or an over pair -- or that he had two pair in which case I was a 10-to-1 favorite.

Having now written all of the above, I picked up the phone and called Hamilton to find out what he had that hand. After letting him know that I had the 10-9, he told me that he had two pair, sevens and deuces. This much must be said: Hamilton made a good fold; and I wish I would have played the hand better and raised it up less. ... After all, I know the last card was not a seven or a deuce!

When you have the best possible hand:

A) many times you should not raise an opponent too much money

B) you should raise it up

C) do not rush to move all-in

D) all of the above

Answer: A

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