Archive for Monday, October 23, 2006

Make the most of it, Phil says

October 23, 2006


As I write this, the World Poker Tour (WPT) rolled on through the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The $10,000 buy-in poker tournament began on Monday and ended on Friday. With more than 600 players and a first place prize of more than $1 million, winning it will be pretty sweet for someone (I wrote this article on Wednesday).

Day 1 things didn't go very well for me, although I did make it to Day 2. I didn't pick up very many strong hands and my bluffs didn't seem to work out very well. When you have a day like this, then you need to make the most of the strong hands that you do hold. One hand, with the blinds at $200-$400 I had A-A in the big blind. With one caller, Player A made it $2,000 to go and everyone else folded to me. What to do? Should I move Player A all-in for his last $12,000 and thus make it look like I have A-K? Or should I just call the $2,000 raise and trap Player A and the other caller? Or should I raise an amount somewhere in between $2,000-$12,000?

Thinking that Player A was a bit of a loose cannon, I felt like a reraise of some sort was the right move. I mean, if Player A was a "loose cannon" then how could he fold for a $3,000-$4,000 reraise? And I certainly wanted him in there against me for a reraise seeing as how I had the strongest possible starting hand (A-A). So I called the $2,000 bet and raised it $4,000 more. Player A folded, and I was left wondering if I had played the hand correctly. In retrospect I wish I would have raised it up only $2,000 more as this probably would have lured Player A into the pot.

I believe that I can throw the "move all-in" idea right out the window unless I read my opponent as having a lot of strength. When players move all-in for a large amount before the flop, it usually means that they have A-K. Thus many of us will call the all-in with a medium pair like 10-10 or 9-9. So moving all-in with A-A can deceive other into thinking that you have A-K. Still, when you make a big all-in move like that you rarely get called. I will still do it sometimes, particularly when I think that my opponent is capable of calling my big bet with a medium pair or worse.

The "smooth call" idea is a good one that involves a risk/reward scenario. Just calling Player A's raise allows letting him see the flop for "free" (Player A is investing zero additional dollars after his initial raise). Player A may outdraw you on the "free flop," and win the rest of your chips when you have the worst hand. For example, Player A may have K-Q and have a flop of K-Q-2. On the other hand, Player A may have K-Q and lose all of his chips to you when the flop comes down say, Q-3-2. So when you have A-A or K-K you want to give others some rope, but make sure that they don't hang you with it!

Early on, I raised it up to $500 to go with 10s-7s and was called by Player A - who held Ah-Kh - and two other players. The flop came down As-Js-4s, I bet out $700, Player A called, and my two other opponents folded. The next card was the 7c, I bet out $1,800 and Player A called. The last card was the 10c, and now I knew I had the best hand. Now I wondered, what was the maximum I could safely extract on the last round of betting? If I bet too much, then I risked Player A folding. If I bet too little, then I wasn't maximizing my opportunities. Finally I bet $4,800, thinking that Player A would call, and fortunately I was right.

Looking back on the hand now I feel like I should have bet more on the flop. I mean firing out $700 into a $2,100 pot was way too weak of a bet. On the turn I like the $1,800 bet into the $3,500 pot, but I could have bet more, say $2,400. On the end I love the $4,800 bet into the $7,100 pot, and I feel like that was the perfect amount to bet. Deciding the right amount to bet is dependent on the situation, the opponent, and the board. Sometimes you'll bet out to protect your hand, and other times you'll bet out trying to get value out of your hand. When you're faced with these dilemmas, make sure you think the situation through in your mind, and then make a well thought out bet.

Winning the most with your strong hand is:

A) all about choosing the perfect bet size

B) all about your opponent

C) all about what is on board

D) all of the above

Answer: D

- 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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