Nice Guy Flushes Hellmuth’s Victory
I’m sick of watching everyone else win game after game on ESPN, FSN and the Travel Channel! Am I jealous of them? No, most of the guys deserve to win their events. All-time poker greats Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan, for example, each won their 10th bracelet at the 2005 World Series of Poker (WSOP), shown on ESPN. Of course, I’m not crazy about the fact that Chan, Brunson and I were once all tied on No. 9 and vying to be first to cross the double-digit mark!
No, I’m just irked that I haven’t won a tournament in a while. Yes, I did win the NBC Heads-Up Championships this year, but a big win at WSOP, the World Poker Tour (WPT), the upcoming the Superstars of Poker III (shooting in early November) or another big televised event in Europe (two are being shot in Monte Carlo in late November) wouldn’t hurt. A man has his reputation to think of (and not because he’s a poker brat)!
Feeling hungry to win again, I went to Las Vegas ready to tackle the Doyle Brunson $10,000 buy-in WPT event at the Bellagio. The event began on Oct. 18, and the first order of business was to make it through day one. Making it through that far generally requires playing very few pots, and keeping yourself out of harm’s way by avoiding the weaker starting hands. So what did I do? I reraised with the super-weak 7h-5h!
With the blinds at $200-$400, the player on my right, Player N (N for nice guy) opened by making it $1,200 to go. I felt he was weak, and I reraised it, making it $2,800 to go. He then called my $1,600 reraise. After a flop of As-Qh-9d, Player N checked, I bet out $1,200, and Player N called. As he called the bet, I sensed again that he was pretty weak. The next card was the 6h — for As-Qh-9d-6h — giving me both a straight draw (I needed an eight) and a flush draw.
Player N checked, and now I had a decision to make. I did have a decent draw, but what did Player N have? I had sensed some weakness in him both before and after the flop, so I decided that I had better follow through on my bluff. I bet out $3,000 and he called. The last card was the 3h, yes! (But be careful what you wish for!) I had hit my “back-door” flush (back door meaning that I had hit both the fourth card and the last card in completing my hand), and the fact that it was back door meant that it was even stronger than if I had flopped a draw and hit it on the last card.
It was inconceivable that Player N also had a back-door flush — inconceivable, that is, until he check-raised my $5,000 bet all-in for his last $10,000. No! I sat there in stunned silence, recounting the hand in my head. To gain more information from my opponent, before deciding whether to call, I told him I had made a back-door flush, and now he seemed a bit frightened. In that instant I called his bet, and he said, “Phil, my flush isn’t very big.” Quietly, he flipped up the 10h-8h.
I sat there in disbelief; not only had I lost with a back-door flush in a one-on-one situation, but I had successfully fished around for information by chatting up player N, and he had given me the “weak tell” I needed to see, in order to call him! You see, since Player N knew that I had a flush (I told him), he showed weakness because he feared that I had a king-high or jack-high flush. Talk about great information backfiring.
Was I extremely unlucky in this hand? Sure, but I could have avoided it completely by simply folding the 7h-5h, and waiting until day two or day three to try to outplay my opponents. I blame myself for going against my game plan, namely, to play very conservatively on day one, and make sure I made it to day two!
Making a “back door” hand means:
A) that you make it on the flop
B) that you make it on fourth street
C) that you make it on the end
D) that you hit your draw on fourth street and the end