This is not Phil Helmuth’s ป๊อกเด้ง ไฮโล Hand of the Week
I had the experience of playing this year’s Shooting Start Tournament at Bay 101 in San Jose. It was another Matt Savage tournament. I really enjoy the way he structures his events. Even though I never made the money I got a lot of play in two of the events. What follows are a few interesting hands that came up in the Shooting Star Main event.
The main event is a $1560 buy-in event. You receive 10,000 in tournament chips. The blinds start at 25-50, so you get a lot of play for your money. There was a designated star at each table and you received a $1500 bounty for eliminating a star. Marsha Waggoner was the star at my table. I had never played with her before. I sat next to her, and we had some very nice conversations. I didn’t want to bust her, because I enjoyed conversing with her so much.
The first big hand for me came when the blinds were 50-100. I had pocket Jacks and raised from early position for 300. My stack was around the original 10,000. An Asian player 3 to my left raised it to 2,000, and everyone folded around to me. As I considered the ป๊อกเด้ง ไฮโล hands that he would raise with I concluded that he most likely had a larger pair, but an A-K was also possible. I decided not to reraise all-in, rather choosing to call. My plan was to see the flop. If my pair was an over pair, then I would bet strong, figuring he would lay down the A-K. If an over card came to my pair, I would surrender. If he raised my bet, I felt that he could only do that with a bigger pair. The flop brought 9-high. I bet 3000, and he moved all-in. I stuck to my plan and said, “Ok, I believe you,” turning face-up my pocket Jacks. He showed his cowboys. Vinny Vihn, sitting between us, complimented me on my lay-down. “It probably would have been a better lay-down before the flop,” was my response. At least I didn’t let myself be busted by the hand, but I also didn’t let myself get bullied either. So I would offer that strategy as a way to play pocket Jacks without investing your entire stack.
Now I was down to under 4000 in chips. I had pocket 3’s, which I limped in with. I am a great believer in trying to see flops with pairs, in hopes of catching a set. There were already three limpers, when it got to Vinny Vihn. Vinny had a huge stack, and it was obvious to me that he was bullying the table. He raised to 800, and one-by one everybody folded. With my small stack, I decided that I would move in, if it was folded around to me. I figured that a limp reraise would potentially win the pot right there, and if Vinny called I felt that he would only have overcards, not a made hand. Everyone folded to me and I moved in. The player between myself and Vinny thought and finally folded, and I was quite relieved, because I figured him, as it turns out correctly, for a bigger pair. Vinny didn’t take much time to call. I said, “I don’t have much.”
He showed A-J, which is kind of what I hoped he had. I was just looking for a coin toss to double my meager stack with. The flop came Q-10-x, but he missed on his huge draw, doubling me up. “You tired?” he asked amazed at my bold play with the pocket threes.
I basically explained what I’ll explain now. I had a small stack, and a chance to gamble against someone who I felt had over cards. Furthermore, there was a reasonable chance that he would lay the hand down. I would not have overcalled anyone. He thought that I was showing him disrespect, which I refuted. I told him I thought he was playing his stack very well, but in his position, the way he was raising aggressively, I knew he had a wide variety of hands that he would play in that way. Having gambled a little, I was back up to nearly even.
I ended up taking pocket tens against a smaller stack with pocket Aces who was in the blind, and I found myself back down to less than 5000 once again. I was moved to another table with Miami John on my right and Phil Helmuth across from me. The blinds were coming up and I was down to about 3600 with the blinds coming up to 300-600. I knew I had to find a hand and move in, but I also felt that I could be patient. I actually got my hand fairly soon, and moved in with pocket Kings after Miami John limped in. When it got back to John, he moved in with his stack of over 20,000. This compelled the one caller I already had to dump his hand. I started laughing, saying, “I guess this is the one time I had to run into Aces.””Oh, I don’t have Aces,” he said, instead revealing pocket 8’s.
It was an easy double through for me, and I was once again alive in the action. The button came to me, and I found a 10-4 suited in clubs. Phil Helmuth had limped along with one other, but I decided not to play my hand. The flop came A-K-J, with K-J suited in clubs. “Wow,” I thought, “That would have been an interesting flop to my hand, giving me a four flush and a gut-shot straight draw”. I was glad I didn’t have to think about that hand. Phil Helmuth bet into the flop, only to get check-raised by the large blind. Phil bet 10,000 of his formidable 30,000 stack. The small blind called and I don’t remember what the check-raiser did. The club came on the turn, with no betting. The small blind moved in on the river, and Phil called with his larger stack. The small blind showed the nut flush, which would have busted me too, had I played the hand.
Phil was beside himself. “That’s the second time you’ve called me down with a flush draw. That’s not no-limit poker. That’s Limit Hold-em. I’m looking for hands to write about in my ‘Hand of the Week’ Column. That’s not one of them. My articles are about the thinking that goes into playing a hand. That’s not thinking. There’s no thought at all, in just throwing your chips in there on a flush-draw.”
Phil was later busted on an A-K that he moved in with, but the pocket tens that faded the bet held up. He shook everyone’s hand at the table, and acted like a gentleman as he exited. I still think Phil is perhaps the most brilliant poker mind in the business. I wish I could play at his table more, because I really think I can learn about poker from watching his play. I love his articles. They are some of the best-written dissections of poker hands I have ever seen. I wanted to buy his new book, when I was there, but I couldn’t get free when they were available for purchase. Phil whines about the play of others who defeat him by virtue of their mistakes. It is very astute whining indeed. Poker is a strange game that often rewards bad play. You make a bad play in chess and you loose your queen, and ultimately the match. You make a bad play in poker, and they make you world champion, while a former World Champion has his head shaved in your honor. That is the frustration that Phil Hellmuth experiences.
I built my stack up nicely. Eventually reaching 23,000. The Asian player who had chased Phil Helmuth with his flush draws was yet again at my table. I had noticed that he was not aggressive after the flop, and played some marginal hands. He often raised before the flop with hands that I would often muck. The blinds were about 600-1200, and Phil’s nemesis raised to 3,000. I saw an A-K in my hand. Phil’s nemesis was down to 17,000, after having over 30,000 at one time. I made it 10,000, actually hoping to win the pot right there. I was dismayed to find another inexperienced player call from the small blind, however his stack was about 40,000. I noted him to be a loose caller before the flop, but very timid after the flop. Then further compounding my dismay, I saw Phil’s nemesis put in the 10,000. With over 30,000 in the pot, people started gathering around to watch. The flop came A-x-x, all suited in hearts. They both checked. I both loved and hated the flop. I put them both on smaller pairs, potentially with hearts. I had no choice but to bet. The small blind who had the bigger stack folded, but Phil’s nemesis went into a huddle. I could actually see him figuring pot odds, so I knew he had one heart. He had about 6,000, which I wanted him to keep for later play. There were about 30 people watching as he through in his remaining chips. I showed the A-K without the king of hearts. He showed pocket deuces, with a deuce of hearts. I was amazed at how weak his hand was. He committed 2/3’s of a descent stack with two deuces, after there was a reraise, and an overcall. Then he called with a deuce high flush draw. He told me he thought I had a set of Aces, therefore I had no heart. I stood up and began cheering, “Black card. Black card!”
This brought more people over, as the six of spades fell on the turn. I continued my chant to the river, which brought the four of hearts. That was a painful river. I reached the point of temporary insanity, as I picked up my chair and hurled it at the idiot who put 17,000 into a pot with a deuce high flush draw. After which I was escorted to the parking lot, and banned from the Bay 101 and the World Series, since Matt runs that one too. Actually, I didn’t do that, but I did utter a few expletives as he raked in the 40+ thousand pot. Now I have something in common with Phil Helmuth, unfortunately it’s not winning, it’s whining. The same guy who buzzed through Phil Helmuth’s stack with flush draws had done it to me too. I was left with a lonely 5,000 chip and a little change. I said, “I need a break. How long til the break.”
There was only 8 minutes left til break time, and everyone was watching me sulk. I had to stay, because my blind was coming up, and my stack was short yet again. With my angry, desperate demeanor on display, I moved in under the gun with pocket Jacks. I expected callers. I only got one. It was the other guy who had been in the big pot with Phil’s nemesis and I. He called with a Q-10 offsuit, and I doubled up. On the next hand I was in the large blind, and I faded the same player’s raise to 4,000 with an A-10 offsuit, only because I had seen him play a lot of marginal hands for raises. The flop came Q-J-x, giving me a gut shot straight draw. I bet into him, figuring he may have a smaller pair and he folded to my semi-bluff. I felt a little better as I was now back up to 17,000 and everyone had written me off two hands earlier.
I was still angry about the pocket deuces. But at that moment, I had to admit to myself that that was one of the most enjoyable hands of poker I had ever played. It had all of the excitement that I yearned for, and, had I won, it would have set me up very nicely to make the money.
I actually rebuilt all the way to 30,000, but I never made a descent hand after that, and now the blinds and antes were costing 8,000 a round. Finally, I pushed my last 15,000 into the middle from the button with no limpers, holding K-6 suited in clubs. I was called by J-10o, and lost when he flopped two pair.
This wasn’t Phil Helmuth’s hand of the week, so I decided to offer my own version of it, since Phil passed on his opportunity to describe it. I hope you enjoyed my hand of the week. Ironically the guy with the pocket deuces was moved to another table on the next hand and was out of the tournament less than 30 minutes later. Interestingly, a key hand at the final table was also won by a deuce high flush draw. David Sprinkle drew out on Men Nguyen with pocket deuces. He actually had to catch runner-runner to do it.