My Best Move of the Year
A few weeks back, I played no-limit Hold ’em on “High Stakes Poker” on the Game Show Network. The game featured Sammy Farha, Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, Eli Elezra, “Silent Mark,” Bob Safai, Jamie Gold, and I, with appearances by Brandon Adams, and Internet star “omgclayaiken.” The buy-in was $100,000, with $50,000 rebuys, although many players bought in for $300,000 or more. The antes were $100 a man, and the blinds were $300-$600, although the $1,200 “live blind” was posted almost every hand.
A “live blind” is when the player to the left of the big blind voluntarily puts up an amount exactly double the big blind, and then has the option of raising it up when the action gets back to him. Live blinds at least double the size of any game.
I bought in for $100,000, and the very second hand dealt, I called $1,200 (everyone was putting the live blind on today) with 4-4, Farha called, and then Silent Mark raised it up to $7,200 to go. I called, and Sammy called. The flop was 10h-5h-4d. I checked, Sammy checked and Mark bet $30,000. I studied for a moment, then I made it $60,000 to go. Sammy studied a good long while, before eventually folding. Then Mark moved all-in, and I insta-called. As it turned out Mark had 3c-2c, which was an open-ended straight draw (he needed an ace or a six). I won the pot, and the game was on!
A few hours later, my hand of the year came up when Negreanu raised it up to $4,000 to go, I called, Harman called, and then Farha made it $20,000 more to go. Negreanu folded, and I had a sense that Farha had A-K. I called, the flop was 6c-3c-2d, and I checked. Farha bet out $40,000, and I called. The turn card was the 4d, I checked, Farha bet out $70,000, and I studied for several minutes; eventually the other players at the table asked if they could call a clock on me.
I looked at Negreanu and asked, “I haven’t taken that much time, have I?” Negreanu confirmed that I had taken five minutes, which still seemed hard for me to believe, but it may have been true. You see, I couldn’t get over the fact that I had Sammy beat. Even tough all I could beat was a pure bluff. I kept thinking that — at least on the surface — it was an easy fold for me. You just don’t play big pots with pocket nines on this board. I couldn’t beat A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, 10-10, 6-6 (trips), 5-5 (trips), 4-4 (straight), 3-3 (trips), 2-2 (trips) or any hand that had a 4 in it (straight). But my instincts said I had Farha beat. If I was right, then I needed to move all-in, sigh. I mean I couldn’t just call, and let Farha hit a free card and beat me; like a K to his K-Q, a 4 to his 8-7, a six to his A-6 or whatever. By asking him to count down, I discovered that Farha had $110,000 more. So I knew this much; if I did go with my instincts, I would be risking $180,000 ($70,000 plus $110,000). I also knew that I would be sick to my stomach, if I was wrong. I mean, I come all the way to Vegas to play “High Stakes Poker” in front of the whole world, and then I put $180,000 into the pot with 9-9 on a 6-5-3-2 board? If I was wrong, then I would look like a stone-cold idiot!
I counted out the $180,000, and that’s when the clock comments came up from the other players. If I had taken four or five minutes, then it was fine for them to ask for a clock (or in this case, threaten to ask for a clock). Back to my decision — which was now being rushed a bit — I felt stronger than ever that I had to go with my instincts and bet the $180,000. I didn’t want to do it, but I had to do it. I steeled my nerves to make the play that I believed deep in my heart was the right play. I began to push the money in, and as I did Farha feigned that he was insta-calling my bet (he quickly moved his chips towards the pot), and his quick movement froze me for another few seconds. Then I did it, I shoved the whole $180,000 into the pot, and Sammy started to talk. Whew! At least he didn’t insta-call the $110,000 bet. At least he was talking, and not pushing his chips in. Almost as good as that was the fact that Farha sounded weak. He looked and sounded like a man that had his hand caught in the cookie jar, not like a man contemplating a big call. You see, he wasn’t studying me at all, like he would have been with queens, jacks or 10s. Finally, I realized that I was almost certainly right, but I was still sweating until he actually folded his hand. (Farha later admitted to having A-K.)
I had passed the test! I was now up more than $300,000, and when the smoke cleared I was up $402,600.
A great call comes from:
C) Knowing your opponent
D) All of the above