Chan Versus Phil: All-In, All Out, All Over
While filming an episode of “Poker after Dark” (NBC) in Las Vegas, I found myself mano y mano with Johnny Chan. And it wasn’t the first time!
In 1989, Chan and I faced off for the World Series of Poker main-event title (170 players entered), which crowned me the youngest main-event champion in history. When we faced off for a second time at the Bicycle Club, Chan took WSOP. Quite a few years later, our showdown resulted in a draw, and our fourth collision, for a WSOP bracelet in the Champions Heads-Up Tournament, was awarded to Chan.
In the our most recent squabble at six player World Champions only invitational, Chan and I eliminated Huck Seed (1996 Champ), Chris “Jesus” Ferguson (2000 Champ), Berry Johnston (1986 Champ) and finally Jamie Gold (2006 Champ). Gold lost his chips when he moved all-in in the small blind for $10,400 more with Q-8, and I called with Q-4 and hit a four. I know you’re asking yourself how I called his all-in bet with Q-4? It just doesn’t sound like me! But there was already $8,000 in the pot when he moved all-in, so that I was getting almost 2-to-1 (my $10,400 to win $18,400) on my call.
After that hand, I was sitting with $45,000 in chips to Chan’s $75,000, and I was preparing for what figured to be a long heads-up match. So much for forecasts and predictions! On the first hand, with the blinds at $2,000-$4,000, I called $2,000 more on the button with Ah-10h, and Chan announced that he was all-in. I called immediately, and Chan showed down his Kc-Jd. I was about a 3-to-2 favorite to win the $90,000 pot, but the cards came off K-J-2-6-9, and the match was over! One hand, all-in, all over. Round five to Chan.
Let’s go through this hand carefully. I called — instead of raising it up — pre-flop to trap Chan. My plan was to limp in, and when Chan raised it up (bluffing or otherwise), I would move all-in. Of course, if I had a strong feeling (read) that Chan had me beat, then I could always go to Plan B and fold. When Chan raised it up $41,000 more into an $8,000 pot, I knew that I had the best hand. Thus, I called immediately.
You see, if Chan had a strong hand (like A-Q or 10-10), then he would have raised it up anywhere from $6,000 to $9,000 more. The reason that Chan would have raised it up a lot less with a strong hand is that he would want to give me a chance to call, or reraise him. Why raise all-in with a strong hand and deny your opponent the chance to call, or attempt a bluff? It was pretty easy for me to see that I had the best hand with my Ah-10h.
Do I like Chan’s bet here? No way! He risked his whole tournament ($41,000) with K-J, when there wasn’t much to be gained ($8,000) by moving all-in. It was an even worse move because Chan knew that I had limped in on the button earlier in the match with Q-Q — so he knew that I was capable of limping in with a strong hand. By betting $41,000, he’ll win $8,000 (big deal) most of the time, but sometimes he’ll get called and find himself a big underdog in a big pot. It is simply too much risk for not enough reward.
A more reasonable play for Chan would have been to raise it up $8,000 — the size of the pot — or so. In fact, Chan hadn’t made a raise over the size of the pot for five straight days, so this was a very uncharacteristic and unusual move for him to make. Of course, had Chan raised it up the standard $8,000 or so, then he may have been forced to fold when I moved all-in. Wouldn’t that have been nice? Of course, while I’m wishing for things, it would have been nice to win the $90,000 pot!
Was I happy to be a three-to-two favorite over Chan in this hand? Absolutely! Did Chan play well for five days? Absolutely! In fact, all of the champions played well, and it was one of my toughest “Poker after Dark” shows ever.
Sometimes the blinds are so big that you:
A) Call an all-in with a weak hand.
B) Move all-in with a weak hand.
C) Alter your play significantly.
D) All of the above.