Erupting in London
After playing for nine days at the World Series of Poker Europe in London, the highlight of my trip was a publicity stunt. I’m a person that prides himself on winning poker tournaments and making the final tables (the final nine players) — or at least making the money (the final 10 percent of the field). Since none of that happened, at least I had a stunt to remember the trip by:
UltimateBet.com rented a red double-decker bus with my face painted on it and signs reading “Phil Hellmuth Invades London” (for video check out youtube.com). Right from the bus, I walked into the Casino at the Empire on Leicester Square (where the WSOPE was held) with 12 beautiful models (sorry, honey) all in tow. At least I can say that I won the “best entrance” award.
In my last column I described a hand that I played on Day 1, and mentioned that I made it through Day 1 in the third-place chip position. On Day 2, things started swimmingly well, and before long I had the chip lead with around 120,000 P ($240,000; from this point forward, I’ll be using the approximate American equivalent). Then the wheels fell off for me. With the blinds at $600 to $1,200 and a $200-per-player ante, Farzad “Freddy” Bonyadi opened for $3,600, and I called in the big blind with 5s-4s. The flop was As-Qh-5d, I checked, Bonyadi bet out $6,000 and I called. The next card was the 8d, I checked and Bonyadi bet out $10,000. I now made it $36,000 to go, and Bonyadi moved all-in. Ouch! I was forced to fold my hand.
Let’s take a closer look at this play:
First, let’s assume that Bonyadi had A-J (he told me later that that was what he had). Bonyadi’s raise of $3,600 to go was pretty standard. I think that my call — for $2,400 more in the big blind — before the flop was OK. A fold would have been OK, too. Bonyadi’s $6,000 bet on the flop was a good one. My $6,000 call on the flop was a bit weak, but still OK. On the turn, Bonyadi’s $8,000 bet was about perfect. My raise on the turn was awful! Why not simply fold my hand right then and there? Why risk $36,000 worth of chips on a bluff against a great player? If Bonyadi did have A-J, then his all-in move was really strong. I mean, Bonyadi put his whole tournament on the line with a very weak hand, in a spot where he could only beat a bluff. After this hand, I felt a bit sick — I had given away $36,000!
A little while later, my bad play continued when I called $1,200 with A-2, and Bonyadi called behind me with Ah-6h. The flop came down Ac-Qd-6s, I bet out $4,000, Bonyadi made it $14,000 to go, and I called. The turn card was a three, I checked, Bonyadi bet out $20,000 and I called. The river was an eight, I checked, Bonyadi bet out $30,000 and I called. He showed me A-6, and I nearly threw up, as I had played this hand absolutely horribly! Maybe I could justify the $10,000 call — of Bonyadi’s raise — on the flop, but the other $50,000 was ridiculously bad. Did I think that Bonyadi was trying to bluff me? Was I trying to lose? I felt like I had given away $86,000 to Bonyadi, and I was enormously frustrated.
It is one thing to fly all the way to London (or wherever) and get unlucky — like losing with K-K versus an opponent’s J-J — and quite another to just “blow up” (give my chips away). Finally, I regained my senses and started playing some world-class poker. Unfortunately, I then had 7-7 on a Jd-7s-2d flop, and I lost $50,000 to a player holding J-J. Although I couldn’t do anything about losing $50,000 on this hand, the combination of bad luck and bad play left me low on chips.
Somehow, I limped into Day 3 with only $21,000, which placed me in 18th place out of 82 remaining players (there were 368 entries). As I left Leicester Square in a foul mood, amid dozens of people asking me for autographs and pictures, I did my level best to smile through it all. But the bitterness lived on! In those moments, I really needed to recognize how blessed I am, if only by the fact that so many people want my picture or autograph. Still, I couldn’t shake the frustration, no matter how hard I tried. Nothing ticks me off more than when I play poker like a donkey!
Trying to bluff great players for no reason is:
A) Not wise.
B) Not profitable.
C) Satisfying when it works.
D) All of the above.