An American Champion
Jerry Yang is living the American (poker) dream. From the rags of his youth, Jerry is now a multimillionaire, thanks to a winning hand at the 2007 Word Series of Poker.
A few months back, Yang, who came to America three decades ago from Laos, entered a $265 buy-in satellite at Pechanga Casino in Southern California, and won first prize — a seat at a 2007 World Series of Poker (WSOP) table. Fast-forward to the final table, and Jerry takes the event and a staggering $8.25 million — the most international final table ever. Players were from the United States, Canada, Russia, England and South Africa.
Unbelievably, the chip leader — 31-year-old Dane, Philip Hilm — heading into the final table, with more than $25 million in chips, was the first player eliminated. It’s easy for me to say this, but I do not believe that Hilm should have finished any worse than fourth place. With the blinds and antes super small in comparison to Hilm’s massive chip stack, there is no way that he should have exited before midnight (the final table started at noon), unless he had a series of bad beats. This was not the case, and Hilm busted himself by 1 p.m. while making a massive blunder that will go down in the annals of poker history as one of the biggest “blow ups” ever.
With the blinds at $120,000-$240,000, Yang opened for $1 million with A-K, and Hilm called from the small blind with 8d-5d. The flop was Kd-Jd-5s, Hilm checked, Yang bet out $2 million, and Hilm called. After the 6c hit the turn, Hilm checked, Yang bet out $4 million, and Hilm moved all-in for about $18 million. Yang called fairly quickly, and when the last card was the 4s, Hilm had blown his chance to become a world champion of poker, and his chance to win the $8.25 million (in cash) first-place prize.
Let’s take a closer look at this hand. I like Yang’s raise to $1 million with A-K before the flop. I hate Hilm’s call with 8d-5d. First of all, Hilm was out of position, meaning that he was first to act the entire hand. Second, why play 8d-5d for a raise against anyone, never mind against Yang who was aggressive and was raising tons of pots. Against Yang, you know he’s going to put pressure on you (by making a big bet) after the flop, and it is hard to call his bet when the flop comes down 10-5-3, or something similar. Thirdly, you can get yourself into a lot of trouble with a hand like this. Hilm made a good check on the flop, even though he flopped a big hand: a pair and a flush draw. Why bet out? Why not let Yang make a bluff at the $2.3 pot, or take a free card (in case Yang checks behind you)? Yang’s $2 million bet was about perfect. Hilm’s call here was a good one, with his big drawing hand.
On the turn, I like Hilm’s check. I mean, he has a hand that most of us cannot fold for a decent-sized bet, so why bet out, get raised and be forced to fold your big drawing hand? I like Yang’s $4 million bet — into a $6.3 million pot — here. Yang is protecting his hand against Hilm calling with a pair of jacks, a straight draw or a flush draw. I hate Hilm’s all-in raise here! This was a huge blunder. Why not call Yang’s $4 million bet, or even fold? I admit that a fold would have been difficult, but consider this: If you fold, you still have $18 million in chips and a great chance to win the tournament. Or short of winning, you have a great chance to finish in the top three, and make $3 million for your efforts.
By moving all-in, if you get called and lose the pot, you’re left with only $526,000 for your efforts. Why risk it all on a drawing hand? A call would have been right for most of the world, a fold for a few of us (that can win the tournament without playing that drawing hand), and moving all-in was a “donkey move” that we’ll be talking about 20 years from now. The last move of all in this hand was as impressive as the second-to-last move was awful: I’m speaking of Yang’s $14 million call. That call was amazing! Yang could only beat a bluff or a drawing hand, and he risked his whole tournament on that one $14 million call.
If Yang would have been wrong, then he would have suffered some ridicule, but since he was right, a pile of credit should be given to him. Congrats, Jerry, on both an amazing call, and for finishing the job and winning the 2007 WSOP.
Blowing a massive chip lead is:
A) Unforgivable (not for a few weeks anyway!)
B) Sickening to watch
C) a waste
D) all of the above