Going for the Big M in Monte Carlo
I talked about playing in a $120,000 buy-in tournament in Monte Carlo, a seven-player affair carried live on Fox Spots Net and Sky Sports. We flew over there for just two tournaments, the first of which I covered in recent columns. The second tournament was the $25,000 buy-in Monte Carlo Millions, to be played on FSN and Sky Sports at a later date. With a sell-out field of 120 players and a first-place win of $1 million. Because we started with $50,000 in chips, and the blinds were moved up slowly and incrementally, there was a lot of play (and thus skill) in this tournament.
With 60 of us coming back for day two, I was feeling pretty good about my chances, still holding almost $100,000 in chips. We would play down to the final nine players, and I was feeling at or near the peak of my game. I was on! On the third hand, with the blinds at $500-$1,000, the defending champion, Player X, made it $4,000 to go in first position. In the big blind, I looked down at 2-2, and pondered my decision. Normally, I would merely call, to try to flop trip deuces, but my radar was on, and I felt some weakness from Player X. So I raised it up $12,000 more, and Player X called. The flop was 8-8-5, I bet out $16,000, and X folded quickly.
On the very next hand, all hell broke loose! The player on the button raised it up to $3,500 to go, and I looked down at J-J. What to do? I could smooth call, trying to trap the big blind as well as the original raiser, or I could go ahead and reraise. I opted to smooth call.
Now the big blind (Player X again) announced “I raise,” and proceeded to make it $15,000 more. I was watching him closely as he announced his action and threw his chips into the pot. The whole time I was asking myself, “Can he beat pocket jacks?” Does he have pocket queens, kings or aces? As he acted, I knew that he wasn’t expecting me to be reading him, because I had given no indication of strength at all. This gave me an edge (he wasn’t hiding anything from me), not too mention the fact that I had just read him right the hand before. Now my radar was saying that he didn’t have one of those three high hands. I felt pretty certain that I had the best hand, so when the player on the button folded, I announced, “I’m all-in,” and pushed my imposing stack of around $105,000 into the pot.
My opponent then began to study, and ponder, and finally he announced, “I call.” I flipped up my jacks, and he flipped up A-K. I was a bit shocked that he had called with A-K. I mean, what kind of hand did he think I had? Did he think I had A-Q, or what? No way am I going to risk my whole tournament with A-Q on the fifth hand, with the blinds that small. He had called off all of his money in a situation where I could easily have shown him A-A or K-K.
In any case, I was a 13-to-10 favorite to have almost $200,000 in chips (he had started the hand with $90,000 or so). The flop, 9c-8c-6s, was pretty good for me, and I had the jack of clubs. (He didn’t have a club.) The turn card, the Kc, rocked my world, giving him the best hand, but giving me a flush draw. At this point I needed a jack or a club on the last card to win the pot. When the 5h hit on the river, I lost the pot and all semblance of control.
The Poker Brat in me came out saying (on camera), “You’re the defending champion? I cannot believe that the defending champion would ‘call off’ all of his money with A-K! You called the third raise, for over $90,000, with the blinds at $500-$1,000. What a horrible play! Just out of curiosity, what in the world did you think I had?” Everything I said was true, and I do hate his call; especially against someone like me, who is known for his conservative play. But, as usual, I wish I had handled myself with some class. I should have smiled and said “Nice hand.”
In any case, I picked up A-A two hands later, and lost a small pot when I just called the $1,000 bet before the flop, checked on a flop of 9-8-6, and then watched in horror as the player behind me bet and the big blind check-raised all-in, in front of me. I was forced to fold. Two hands later I picked up Q-Q and moved all-in for about $16,000 vs. my opponent’s Kh-6h. Expecting to lose because of the way the day was going so far, I stood up, put on my jacket, and then watched as the board came down 2h-2s-10h-6c-Ks. Bye, bye, Phil. Jacks, aces, and queens, all in the first round! What a dream — or in this case, a nightmare.
Phil Ivey went on to win the million, and then added another $600,000 for first place the next night (in the seven-player affair I talked about at the beginning of this column).
Pocket jacks are roughly this much favorite to beat A-K:
A) a 13-to-10 favorite
B) a two-to-one favorite
C) even money
D) an underdog against a defending champion J