• Still Doing Monte Carlo in Style

    Date: 2005.12.12 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    Last week, I talked about missing my turkey dinner and losing a pot with pocket 10s as my holdings — after playing them in a controversial way. This happened while I was engaged in a seven-player affair with a $120,000 buy-in that went out live to more than 110 million households worldwide on FSN and Sky Sports. The tournament was held behind closed doors in the Monte Carlo Casino with world-class players Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey, David “Devilfish” Ulliot, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, John Juanda, Mike “the Mouth” Matusow, and me.

    Now let’s continue with another interesting hand that came up, this one between the 2000 World Champion Ferguson and me, when the blinds were $5,000-$10,000 and the ante was $2,000 a player. Everyone else folded to me, and I looked down at Kh-Jh on the button. With $97,000 left, and showing a pretty conservative playing style, I had a decision to make. Of course, I would raise it up, but how high should I make it go?

    I could set it anywhere from $30,000 to $97,000 to go, and I had a decent hand, one that I would have been quite happy simply to win the blinds and antes with. I wasn’t Matusow — who had gone broke pushing all-in with 7-6 off suit 30 minutes earlier — and the guys knew that from years of watching my relatively conservative play. If I were to put in my whole stack, I would be sending a message that I had a pretty good hand. I’d also be making it very tough for anyone to call with a small pocket pair, or an ace-x type hand like As-5s (x being a weak kicker). Whereas if I made it just $30,000 to go, someone could well move all-in, raising it my last $67,000, with his small-pair or ace-weak-kicker type hand.

    Finally, I opted to move all-in. Ivey, in the small blind, folded instantly, and now Ferguson went into the tank for a while. I was thinking that he had A-J, and that he would have to call me with that hand. So I was rooting for him to fold. After a full minute, Ferguson called me with As-5s, and the race was on. When an eight high board came, Ferguson won the pot and busted me in sixth place — out of seven. By the way, I thought Ferguson to be roughly a 54 percent favorite to win the pot before the flop with his As-5s, and that’s about right.

    Now what of Ferguson’s call here? He had only about $130,000 total, and he was committing well over 70 percent of his chips with the relatively weak As-5s. I said live on air that I didn’t like his call, because I believe the great players shouldn’t risk too many chips making weak calls like this one. If I had had merely A-7, then he would have been more than a two-to-one underdog. But this was no average field, and perhaps his call was right, since getting an edge over any of us was going to be a hard thing to do.

    An interesting question now arises: if I had shown Ferguson my Kh-Jh, would his call with As-5s still have been the right move? In most tournaments, for over 70 percent of your chips, I would say no. After all, why shouldn’t Ferguson take advantage of the fact that he’s a great player, and win a lot of chips risk-free by outplaying the other players at the table? Or he could wait until he’s a much bigger favorite than 55 percent. But in this case, with the field as tough as it was, how bad could his call really be? He was, after all, a favorite to win the hand. And, for that matter, was I wrong to go all-in? (I stand by that play.)

    The rest of the story is that Ivey went on to win the title, which was especially impressive considering that he had also won the Monte Carlo Millions the night before. That made $1.6 million in two days for Ivey, not too bad! You think he likes Monte Carlo?

    As-5s will beat Kh-Jh:
    A) 55 percent of the time
    B) 45 percent of the time
    C) 50 percent of the time — it will or it won’t!
    D) 100 percent of the time when lucky Ferguson holds it
    Answer: A

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