Doing Monte Carlo in Style
I have never, ever missed my turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. To miss it would be downright unpatriotic! But this year, I was in Monte Carlo playing two poker tournaments. One of them was the $25,000 buy-in Monte Carlo Millions (a topic for a future column).
Today, I’m focusing on the second tournament — a seven-player affair with a $120,000 buy-in that went out live to over 110 million homes worldwide on Fox Sports Network and Sky Sports. (Of course, Thanksgiving is purely an American holiday, so after searching high and low, I discovered that there was no turkey, stuffing, cranberries and mashed potatoes to be had in Monaco.)
The tournament was held behind closed doors in the spectacular Monte Carlo Casino. The field was world-class: Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey, David “Devilfish” Ulliot, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, John Juanda, Mike “the Mouth” Matusow and me. The tournament began at midnight in Monte Carlo (6 p.m. on the U.S. East Coast). It was scheduled to last four hours, and we knew that it wouldn’t go past that because the blinds were to be carefully monitored and controlled.
All seven of the field came to the table in fine form. Ivey had won the Monte Carlo Millions ($1 million for first) the night before: Juanda won the second-chance tournament the night before; Hansen had finished in the final four of another event held the week before; Matusow had won two big events for $1.5 million in the weeks just prior; Ferguson had won a big tournament within the last month; Devilfish had scooped up a big event in Europe; and I had just finished high up in two events in the preceding month. So we all expected some great poker.
Devilfish came out firing: he was raising and reraising seemingly every hand, and accumulated a nice chip lead of around $300,000 or so. (We had all started with $143,000.) I was off to a nice start as well, making a straight flush one hand with my Js-9s and a board of As-10s-7s-8s-4h. Some 90 minutes into the game, I had roughly $175,000, and was feeling pretty good about my play, when the following hand came up.
The blinds were $3,000-$6,000, with a $500 ante, when Devilfish made it $20,000 to go in late position (one off the button). I was in the small blind with 10-10, and couldn’t decide what to do. Devilfish was the only one who had me covered, and third place was $120,000, which amounted to having your buy-in handed back. I had a bad feeling about the hand, but that doesn’t really mean much. Finally, I decided just to call. I announced, “I check,” before the flop cards were even turned up. The flop came down Q-8-4, and Devilfish bet out $30,000.
At this point, I was set up to go broke. Only a queen, or pocket kings or pocket aces could beat me, and Howard “the Professor” Lederer, who was announcing the hand from the truck, predicted that I would go broke. Lederer, of course, knew what I didn’t, because, along with the live audience, he could see all of our hole cards, and saw that Devilfish had Qc-2c. But instead of going broke, I decided to fold, saying to Devilfish, “I think you have pocket kings.”
Saying that made me look bad, but I was right that he had me beat, and I did make a world-class fold. Devilfish did have queens — his Q-2 plus the queen on board — and I folded, saving my chips to fight another day. I’m proud of this fold, but not of the statement! Of course, trying to get under my skin, Devilfish took the opportunity to show a deuce, and to laugh at my pocket kings statement. I then said, “You probably have a queen with that deuce.” Then he said, “No … would I raise with Q-2?” Umm, yes.
How did I decide to fold on the flop? When Devilfish bet $30,000 on the flop, I read extreme strength, and it turned out (fortunately) that I was right. After all, I didn’t make it this far in poker without trusting my reads. Perhaps it was the way he casually, but quite quickly, lobbed the chips into the pot.
The great players that were there that night all believe I should have reraised all-in before the flop. And it’s certainly true that if I had gone all-in, then I would have won the pot. But if Devilfish hadn’t hit that queen, I believe he would have bluffed at the pot anyway, enabling me to win a lot more money that hand. Next column, more about this tournament.
Coming out “firing” means:
A) Lighting up a cigar
B) raising and reraising, constantly
C) getting Donald “Trumped”
D) shooting a few rounds from your gun