All In For The Premiership of Poker
When I was invited to London to compete in the Premiership of Poker, what impressed me the most was that the TV coverage was going to be broadcast in dozens of countries. So it was going to be a great chance for me to get some more international exposure. Poker is exploding abroad, especially in the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe and China, where ESPN is carrying the no-limit Hold ‘Em torch.
The Premiership works like this: 12 invited world-class players would each play six separate six-player “heats.” Points are awarded based on performance: eight points for first place, six for second place, three for third place, two for fourth place and one for fifth place (sixth place gets nothing). Each heat would be a random drawing, so that you could face the same opponent several times. For example, I drew Tony G (Shall we say that he is a famously “theatrical” player?) in five matches, and I knew that that could make for a highly combustible show. The players with the top four point totals would advance to the six-player finale, with their chip stacks to be 10,000 times their point totals. The players who finished in fifth through eighth place would then play heads-up matches, with two of them advancing to the six-player finale (making it a 16-week TV series).
I arrived in Maidstone (50 miles east of London) and was asked to play in the first match, along with Tony G, the Devilfish (Dave Ulliott), Liz Liu, Kiril Gerasimov and Andy Black. We all knew that finishing in first or second was the key to success, what with six or eight points, compared to the other totals. Third was acceptable — three points wasn’t too bad — but you would need some firsts and seconds to reach the top four point positions and advance straight to the finale.
With five players left and the blinds at $2,000-$4,000, I was in the small blind with As-Qs, when Gerasimov limped in on the button. I decided to raise it up, and made it $9,000 more to go. Liu folded in the big blind, and Gerasimov called the $9,000 raise. The flop came down Ah-Ks-9d, and I bet out $12,000, Gerasimov called. The turn card was the 5c, and I checked. Gerasimov bet out $17,000, and I studied long and hard before I called the bet. The last card was the 4d, I checked, and Gerasimov waited about 45 seconds before betting all of his chips, less $10,000, which was roughly $78,000. I studied for a few seconds, before I finally folded my hand, face up on the table. This caused quite a bit of stir amongst the other players. Had I folded at the right time, or was A-Q — top pair with top kicker — the best hand? It turned out that Gerasimov had A-5, and had outdrawn me when he hit the five on the turn card.
Let’s take a closer look at the play of this hand. I like my raise with A-Q preflop. Gerasimov could have folded or called, either play is OK with me. I defend his call only because he had position on me. On the flop, I like my $12,000 bet. I had a super strong hand, and I wanted Gerasimov to call me with a pair of aces or kings. I couldn’t check on the flop because I didn’t want him to get a free card and outdraw me, like maybe a jack in the case of him having Q-10. As to my check on the turn, I love that play.
First off, I was setting up Gerasimov to call me on the river. Second, in case he had me beat, I was allowing myself to lose the minimum. I like Gerasimov’s $17,000 bet on the turn. Why bet more than that, and scare me off of my hand? After he bet the $17,000, my instincts were saying that I should move all-in, but I considered the source of the bet. Gersaimov had been playing very few hands, and I decided at the last minute to just call. Thank goodness! I still wasn’t sure when I called whether I had the best hand or not.
On the end, I love my check. This check allows Gerasimov to continue bluffing me (if he was bluffing), and allows him to bet A-J, A-10 or A-8, for value. I made him think that one of these hands was good, by checking two rounds of betting in a row. I hate Gerasimov’s bet on the end. Why not bet $20,000-$40,000? Why give a great player like me a chance to make a great lay down? For the record, I was expecting Gerasimov to bet $30,000 with his A-J, or A-10, and I believe that I would have called him straight off (as they say in London). If he bets $30,000 or less, I call right away. Perhaps I could have folded for $40,000. In any case, I went on to win my first heat, and claim eight points.
When you’re super strong, most times it is better to:
A) Bet an amount that you think your opponent could call
B) Move all-in
C) Bet a small amount