Carlos Takes the Pot Odds
OK I admit it. I skipped the $10,000 buy-in WPT (World Poker Tour) no limit Hold’em tournament at the Bellagio, and a slot on”Primetime”(the ABC News program) to attend, of all things’a baseball game. Now bear in mind that my brand new book”Bad Beats and Lucky Draws”and my new DVD”Phil Hellmuth’s Million Dollar Poker System”had just been released into retail. My wife thought I was being a bit self-destructive, but what the heck man, couldn’t it just have been a guy wanting to catch a Yankees-Red Sox ALCS game (American League Championship Series–game five) at old school Fenway Park”
After watching a 14 inning classic while rooting home the Red Sox–not rooting against the Yankees, just rooting for the Sox’to victory, I had no regrets. I went with my heart this time, not with my head. In any case, I had to go to the Bellagio for business reasons the very next day where I witnessed the following big hand come up between Carlos Mortenson, John Juanda, and another fellow (player B) I didn’t know.
With 19 players left in the tournament, the antes at $1,000 a player, and the blinds at $4,000-$8,000; Carlos opened on the button for $25,000 with Ks-Qs, player B moved all-in for $174,000 from the small blind with 6h-6d, and John Juanda then moved all-in from the big blind for $154,000 total with Qd-Qh. With the action now back on Carlos, he went into the tank for awhile while counting out the $149,000 in chips that it would take to call the bet. Carlos figured out he would have $390,000 left if he called the bet and lost the pot. Finally, he pushed in the $149,000 chip stack and called.
With everyone in the potential cut-off position (again 19 players remained) from a redraw to two tables and 18 players–and thus more prize money–the excitement was palatable. The flop came down J-2-2, followed by a three, then an ace. Normally an ace on the river, in a big three-way hand like this one, would cause a lot of commotion! But in this case, Juanda won the pot with his Q-Q. Juanda then stacked the main pot of $468,000 as player B stacked a smallish side-pot of $40,000 with his pair of sixes. Annie Duke, having arrived late on the scene said,”How in the world did they get all of that money in before the flop'” I told her the particulars of the hand, and then she said,”I don’t like Carlos’s call here, do you” Judging by the action, he was probably dominated.” [By”Dominated”Annie means that Carlos was likely looking at one opponent with A-K or A-Q or Q-Q or K-K or A-A, where he would be at minimum a 2.5-to-1 underdog.]
While Annie’s point is excellent, so was Carlos’s point when he asked me about the hand at the 10-minute break. With $359,000 ($75,000 + $6,000 + $129,000 + $149,000) in the pot, and Carlos only having to call $149,000 more, the pot was laying Carlos 2.4-to-1. If he was looking at A-K, Q-Q or A-Q, then he would only be a 2.5-to-1 underdog, and based on that assessment Carlos’s call was OK.
Carlos said,”Phil I was getting laid 2.4-to-1 in a spot where I thought that they both had a pair. If Juanda had J-J and player B had 9-9, then I’m in great shape, and the call would be an easy one to make.” Based on Carlos’s assessment, and Carlos was the one doing the”reading”of the players, his call was a good one.
Both Annie and Carlos wanted to hear my opinion. I like Carlos’s call here because he raises a lot of pots (effectively stealing a lot of blinds and antes), and if you raise a lot of pots, then people will start to reraise you a lot (they get sick of you stealing all of their blinds and antes). Thus it is good for someone who raises a lot of pots to show his opponents that he will call them down with a hand like K-Q sometimes. This way he’s saying,”Yes, I’m stealing a lot of blinds and antes, but if you play back at me I’ll probably call you down anyway, even if I’m somewhat weak.’
I believe that by calling this bet, Carlos was putting the fear of god into the other players”minds. They start to think,”Carlos is reckless and dangerous; I better let him continue to steal the blinds and antes, and wait until I have a real hand before I reraise him.” And what do you think happened over the next six hands” Carlos raised five of them, and won them all uncontested before the flop, increasing his stack by $72,000 in the process.
For me, I don’t like the call, because in general I haven’t been stealing blinds and antes as much lately because all of the new internet players expect me to do that. Also, many new players expect me to fold my hand when they reraise me, even if it is a strong hand. Thus I am facing opponents that reraise me more often than ever before in my career, which in turn forces me to raise it up less often.
So the answer is this: if you’re an aggressive player, the call is more right, but if you’re a passive player, the call is more wrong (if your passive then your opponents give you credit for a hand when you raise it up, thus they will usually have a real hand when they reraise you.) Good luck!