Did I Deserve Better?
Here comes an article that I have been dreading writing for the last couple of weeks. I’m going to tell you exactly how I went out in the “big one” this year. First, I would like to say, “Please don’t feel sorry for poor old nine-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) Champion Phil Hellmuth jr.!” After all, I don’t even feel sorry for myself.
You see, I feel blessed with great health for me and my family, a hot new book, nine WSOP wins, etc'(Jeff Shulman cut me off here!)
First off, after winning two Hold’em bracelets at the 2003 WSOP, I liked my chances in the big one. You see, I don’t always play great poker, and sometimes I don’t even feel like a great poker player, but occasionally I play spectacular poker for a month or two. And the WSOP in 2003 was my time to play spectacular poker!
As the first three days ended, I found myself with $362,000 in chips. I had never had to even move close to all-in, much less ever been called all-in. If I had K-K or Q-Q against an equal stack, then I chose to play a small pot. If I flopped a set, then I chose to play a small pot. In the first three days, the biggest bet I made or called was only $40,000.
Therefore I felt like I had about a 20% chance to win the whole thing with 45 players left. However, I was dismayed to find out that Sammy Farhad was drawn to my right at the beginning of day 4, not because I fear him at all (although I believe that he is the best pot limit Omaha player in the world), but because he is very-very reckless in no limit Hold’em (by the way, I love Sammy!). Although I expected Farhad to do more damage to himself then to the other great players, I did witness him take out Tony Dee on day 4, when Farhad played Q-J off suit very poorly.
Tony had raised it in middle position with Q-10, and Sammy called with Q-J off suit (I hate his call here before the flop). After a flop of Qh-10h-3d, Tony bet out big, and Sammy called (his call here was OK). On fourth street the 6s came off, and now Tony bet out $40,000, and Sammy called (by now, even the spectators in the hand knew Tony had Q-J beat). At this point Sammy cannot beat any hand at all, and he has to know that Tony is going to bet his last $50,000 on the river if he has Q-J beat. I believe that this adds up to an easy fold for Sammy. However, a jack did hit on the river, and Tony bet his last $50,000, and Sammy called and won.
This was a pretty brutal way for Tony to go out! Sammy would have only had about $170,000 left if he hadn’t hit the jack on the river against Tony-assuming he called the river. In any case, I thought, “Whoa, I didn’t like the way Sammy played that hand at all. He will come after me weak soon, and hopefully give me a bunch of chips.”
With 37 players left, I now had $430,000 in chips when the following hand came up. Sammy opened for $12,000, and I looked down at K-Q. I studied him for a moment, and felt strongly that I had him beat. Therefore, I called the $12,000, and raised it $35,000 more. Sammy beat me in the pot with Qd-Jd: this is a very bad hand to call a raise with anytime in the big one, period (especially $35,000 more). When he called quickly, I re-evaluated his hand strength in my mind.
With a flop of Kd-9s-3d, Sammy checked, and I checked. Fourth street brought the 2d, and now Sammy bet out $50,000 with his flush (he made a good bet here), I called quickly because I was looking for him to bluff after I checked the flop to him. When the 2s hit the river, Sammy bet out $80,000 (another very good bet on his part), and I studied him and called. I went a little ballistic when he showed me Qd-Jd, because all champions and semi-champions know you don’t call off your money with Q-J in a no limit Hold’em tourney. If he had showed me A-K, a set, or A-A, then I wouldn’t have been nearly as upset.
About twenty hands later Sammy played the Q-J again to my Kd-Qd, but I only won back $35,000 when I flopped him dead (K-Q-4). So I was hanging around $280,000 or so for the next couple hours. When we hit 27 players, I felt a lot better. I was thinking, “I’ll still have one million at the end of the day without too much difficulty.”
With the blinds at $3,000-$6,000, Sammy opened for $20,000, and Jason Lester quickly moved all-in for $167,000 (he said, “I’m all-in again”). In the big blind, I looked down at Q-Q. I began to first study Jason, and I kept thinking he bet way too fast for A-A or K-K. I kept thinking that he had 10-10 or J-J, but I couldn’t get J-J out of my mind. I had watched Jason play K-K twice earlier in the day, and it certainly wasn’t that hand again based on everything that I saw, and felt.
I just kept thinking that he had J-J, and my reads all month had been spot on. Obviously, Jason knew I had a huge hand as I studied him, and I smelled some serious weakness there as well. OK, it all adds up to Jason having J-J; now what about Sammy” I studied Sammy for awhile, but he just looked disgusted, and ready to fold his hand. Finally, I said, “I call.” To my relief, Sammy quickly folded, and now I said, “Jason I just have queens.” I should have said, “I believe you have jacks,” just to show the world why I made this big call here.
If I thought that he had A-K, then I would have folded. Now the flop came down Ks-8s-2s, and I looked over to see the suits we had. Did either of us have a spade” Nope, he had clubs and hearts and so did I. I thought, “Please don’t let it come spade, spade for a split.” The next card was the 6d, and now I thought, “Just let me dodge one more card.” Alas, the last card was a jack!
I very calmly said, “Nice hand.” Inside, I still felt blessed, but I knew that I would have had over $430,000 in chips, and the chip lead at my table. Still, it was OK; I still had almost $100,000 left, which was enough for me to last’one more hand!
The very next hand, in the small blind, I picked up A-K, and the man two off of the button opened for $20,000. I very quickly announced, “I’m all-in” for the first time in four days. I got called by his 10-10, and the board brought, 3-6-J-J-J. I played four strong days of poker, and bang, bang I was gone. In my mind, I knew that I was going to win, and so did my parents, but inconceivably; I was out! Still, I was calm, and I still felt blessed as I said, “Nice hand” and got up and left. No tantrums, no whining (for once!); I left the WSOP acting like a man who is blessed.
Yes, I felt like I deserved better, but I can’t complain to the powers that be over this with everything else that is going my way. After all, I didn’t even have to take the four and a half to one favorite. In 2003, I could have folded my Q-Q, even knowing that Jason had J-J. In 2002 after playing no big pots in three days, I could have folded my A-K suited vs. Varkonyis Q-10 for a $220,000 pot. And in 2001 after playing no big pots in five days, I could have folded my 9-9 vs. Phil Gordon’s 6-6 for a $1.2 million pot.
There is no law that says you have to play a big pot, even if you have a strong feeling (“know”) that your opponent is weak.
The last thing is this: I really feel that if someone keeps on deserving better, then eventually they will get it! Look out at the big one next year, for Phil Hellmuth jr. will win the 2004 World Series of Poker, despite 1,000 or more other entrants.
I hope that everyone enjoyed this week’s Hand of the Week’. Good luck playing your hands this week.