• No New Orleans Focus

    Date: 2006.04.17 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    While filming Celebrity Poker Showdown (CPS) in New Orleans recently, I had some free time and stopped by Harrah’s poker room to hang out. I say “hang out” because whatever it was that I did there — I bought three bottles of Dom Perignon for the players at the table and sat in on the $2-$5 blind no limit Hold ’em game — I would not exactly want to call it playing poker. Sometimes, it’s not easy for me to play low-limit poker and maintain my focus. I guess I need something meaningful at stake before I bring my A game.

    Sitting behind me were my agent, Brian Balsbaugh (from Poker Royalty); the man who is second in command at the World Series of Poker, Ty Stewart; and my CPS co-host (and former “Kids in the Hall” star) Dave Foley. I was trying to give Foley a lesson, but mostly I’d hear myself saying something like this: “You really shouldn’t play the 6-3 off suit for $20, but I’m going to anyway.” In other words, I was employing the strategy of playing almost every hand, which is not a good idea if you plan on staying at the table for very long.

    The following situation illustrates what can go wrong when you play every hand. Before the flop, a gentleman raised it up to $30 to go. I was in the blind with Q-8 off suit, and decided to call $25 more. What was I thinking here? Q-8 is a pretty weak hand, and the raise was pretty big. The problem with Q-8 is that even if I were to hit my queen, I could run into an opponent with A-Q or an overpair.

    Well, the flop was Qd-4d-4s, I checked, and my opponent bet out $50. Now I was pretty much forced into calling, since I had top pair, and my opponent could reasonably have been betting a pocket pair, like 7-7, or a flush draw, like Ad-Jd. The turn card was the 4c, making the board Q-4-4-4. At this point, I figured I was pretty much in there like a bear! I mean, it would take an overpair (K-K or A-A) to beat me. Of course, if my opponent had Q-Q or a four in his hand, like A-4, then that would beat me as well. But if he had A-Q, or any queen, I had him tied, because we would both be playing Q-Q-4-4-4.

    So this card pretty much sealed the deal for me. I checked, my opponent bet $140, and I asked for a chip count. It was determined that he had another $370 left. I felt that a fold at this point couldn’t be the right move, and I stand by that decision. I felt I had no choice other than to move him all-in. After all, calling this bet wasn’t the right play, because if he was drawing or bluffing I didn’t want to give him a chance to hit a card. For example, he may have had A-K, and calling here would have given him a shot at hitting an ace or a king.

    So I moved my opponent all-in and he called immediately, which is always a bad sign. Sure enough, he showed me pocket kings, and there were now only two cards in the deck, two queens, that could save me (can you say, “two outs”?). Considering that the other 42 cards would win for him, I was a 21-1 underdog, and there was no miracle here as the 7h hit on the last card.

    Looked at in the right light, one could say that my $30 pre-flop call was a big mistake, one that set me up to lose $580 on the hand. Looked at another way, one could say that I was pretty unlucky to have the third four hit the board, because it ensured that I would lose another $510 on the hand. In any case, the champagne was good, and I managed to cut my loss to only $370 for the night. Frankly, the way I was playing, I got off cheap! (By the way, I never did help Foley much.)

    As to New Orleans itself, they need a ton of money down there to help with the dozens of kinds of problems still blocking recovery, but it is business as usual on Bourbon Street. The city is encouraging people to come on down and enjoy the French Quarter, which was mostly unaffected by Katrina, and remains a fun place hang out and have a few drinks and a nice meal.

    A “two outer” means that you can win the pot:
    A) if you hit one of two cards
    B) if you hit both of those two cards
    C) if you hit a two
    D) none of the above
    Answer: D

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