Greg Pierson is the man! No, you haven’t heard of him yet, but mark my words: GP’s new company, IoVation’an internet security company–will have a billion dollar valuation by 2008. Considering how much respect I have for Greg, and considering the fact that I’m lucky enough to be an investor in IoVation, I vowed to Greg that he could get some private lessons from me anytime.
Greg was playing in the $10-$20 blind no limit Hold’em game at the Bellagio when the following hand came up. He had run his $1,000 buy-in all the way up to about $4,200, and limped in with 9s-7s. When the fellow behind him also limped, and the aggressive played behind both of them made it $100 to go; Greg called the bet as did the fellow (Player B) behind him. So far so good, I told Greg. There’s nothing wrong with taking a flyer here or there for 2 1/2 % of your chips.
OK I admit it. I skipped the $10,000 buy-in WPT (World Poker Tour) no limit Hold’em tournament at the Bellagio, and a slot on”Primetime”(the ABC News program) to attend, of all things’a baseball game. Now bear in mind that my brand new book”Bad Beats and Lucky Draws”and my new DVD”Phil Hellmuth’s Million Dollar Poker System”had just been released into retail. My wife thought I was being a bit self-destructive, but what the heck man, couldn’t it just have been a guy wanting to catch a Yankees-Red Sox ALCS game (American League Championship Series–game five) at old school Fenway Park”
After watching a 14 inning classic while rooting home the Red Sox–not rooting against the Yankees, just rooting for the Sox’to victory, I had no regrets. I went with my heart this time, not with my head. In any case, I had to go to the Bellagio for business reasons the very next day where I witnessed the following big hand come up between Carlos Mortenson, John Juanda, and another fellow (player B) I didn’t know.
OK, so I’m minding my own business one day a few weeks back when CAA’s Uber-agent Nick Styne, who represents Cameron Diaz, Luke Wilson, and many other top stars, emails me to ask about a hand that Tobey McGuire played vs. me. The email reads, “Was it a jackpot hand'” I wonder, “How is it possible that Nick knows details about this hand'”
It turns out that I have finally arrived . . . . Yeah right! You see, I made page six of the New York Post-which I had never even heard of, but it is supposed to be a big deal-where it was written, “A spy told me that Tobey crippled cantankerous poker pro Phil Hellmuth jr. when his four of a kind beat Hellmuth’s full house at the WPT’s (World Poker Tour) Mirage championship no limit Hold’em tournament. Hellmuth responded by throwing a tirade.”
Well… Not exactly. I mean, Tobey did beat my full house with four of a kind: and yes Nick, it was a jackpot hand. [And my wife and I agree that cantankerous is a good word to describe me!] However, as far as throwing a tirade goes, I didn’t mind them writing that I did throw a tirade (given that I have thrown way too many in my poker life), but in this case, I didn’t throw a tirade. Instead I said, “Nice hand Tobey.” You see, I didn’t feel like Tobey did anything wrong, and I happen to like Tobey as well-by all accounts he is a good guy.
Back in 1992 at the World Series of Poker (WSOP), World Champions Mansour Matloubi and Stuey Ungar faced off in a series of $50,000 buy-in heads-up freeze outs. Mansour tells me he was at the top of his game at this point in his poker career, having just won the WSOP in 1990. The game they were playing that day was no-limit Hold’em, and the blinds were $200-$400 when the following hand came up. Stuey opened for $1600 in the small blind, and Mansour called with 4-5 off suit. After a flop of 3-3-7 rainbow (no suits), Stuey bet $6,000–he started the hand with $60,000 to Mansour’s $40,000–and Mansour called the $6,000 bet. On fourth-street a K came off and both players checked. On the river a Q came off to make a board of 3-3-7-K-Q, and Mansour, smelling weakness in Stuey, bet his last $32,000 or so. Stuey looked “right through” Mansour, and within ten seconds he said, “You have 4-5 or 5-6, I’m gonna call you with this.” Stuey then flipped up 10-9, and called the $32,000 bet with merely ten-high! Wow, what an unbelievable call! Stuey can’t even beat a jack-high-bluff with his hand, never mind any pair. In fact, Stuey could only beat 4-5, 4-6 or 5-6 in this scenario.
Ever have someone act out of turn and cost you a ton of chips” (Note: I can’t believe I’m going to write this article and make myself look bad, again! Oh man, why did I ask Russ for a Hand of the Week”, and why did he choose this hand…) With fourteen players left in the Casino Europa’s World Poker Tour (WPT) Championship event in Costa Rica (first place was $110,000), and three World Champions left-Scotty, Russ and I-that’s exactly what happened to 1994 World Champion Russ Hamilton, when some “inexperienced player” did exactly that. Er…did I mention that I was the player that did it”
You see, we came back from break to $1,000-$2,000 blinds, and right before the first hand started, Dewey Tomko (in the small blind) said to Russ (in the big blind), “What would you do with pocket jacks right now'” Russ laughed and said, “I don’t know.” The first hand I made it $7,000 to go (I started the hand with $17,000) with A-7 three off of the button. Now R.A. Head moved all-in on the button for about $18,000, and I thought I saw both blinds fold. So I flipped up my ace, to show I had a legitimate raising hand, and I was about to fold, when, much to my horror, I noticed that Russ (in the big blind) hadn’t folded his hand yet! In my defense, I cannot remember doing that for many, many years, but clearly I had acted prematurely, and now the damage was done.
My old friend Chad Blackburn, who now works as a poker dealer at Canterbury Park Card Room near Minneapolis, Min, recalls the following four interesting hands from the old days. First, when Chad just began playing poker on the Madison, Wis. “circuit” in about 1992, the following hand came up in the $2-$3 blind pot limit Hold’em game. Chad remembers me coming in at 10:00 PM and blasting (raising and re-raising) every hand before the flop, and then betting the pot size on every flop! I did generally come in at 10:00 PM; the main reason was that I could hang out with my wife and kids; also the game started at 4:00 PM, and by then there were a lot of chips on the table. “Blasting” also sounds right to me, after all the game was relatively tiny compared to the $400-$800 games and the huge buy-in poker tournaments that I was accustomed too. My theory at the time was to play super-fast with nothing (winning many pots on the bluff), and then bust someone when I did finally have a big hand. That is a very volatile way to play pot limit Hold’em, but oftentimes it worked well for me, as the first story demonstrates.