Tunica, Miss., part 2
My editors told me that I should have kept part 1 and part 2 in consecutive weeks, but I couldn’t resist having the column about tennis great Andy Roddick, and the way that he won his own charity poker tournament, in the middle. Two columns ago (at www.philhellmuth.com), I was talking about my last-minute arrival in Tunica, Miss., early Sunday morning for the annual World Poker Tour event held there. I talked about how I felt compelled to be in Tunica for this tournament — to the point at which I chartered a jet out of Los Angeles at midnight Saturday night — because I sensed that I was on top of my game. By Sunday night, I was one of the chip leaders, and we had lost 100 players in the 308-player field. The tournament had a great structure — one that was first instituted by legendary tournament director Jack McClelland — that featured five 90-minute levels of play a day for the first four days. We all knew in advance that we would play from noon until about 8:30 p.m. or so — 7.5 hours plus four 15 minute breaks. This is a nice change from the old days (now we can make dinner plans!), when we would play from noon until 2 a.m., or later.
In any case, the second day started off fairly well for me, and I fluctuated between $65,000 and $100,000 in chips. In two nearly full days of play, I had been all-in only one time. In part one I talked about how I was all-in with my three 10s vs. my opponent’s three nines. Now, I know that I’m playing my best when I’m never at risk of going broke in a single hand. It is hard for an amateur to understand how difficult it is to navigate your chips so that you’re never all-in. It takes patience, cunning, timing, or, to sum it up, it takes “the right moves at the right time.” If you know whether your opponents are weak or strong, then you can make the right moves at the right time. (Check out my new poker course at www.blackbeltphil.com for more on this.) I do not usually play at that level, but I always strive to.
With two hours to go in the day, Hoyt Corkins came to my table. In the poker world, Corkins is known as my nemesis. I don’t feel like he is my nemesis, but all evidence is to the contrary; that is, so far. He has crushed me so far, but I feel like I’ll get him back. You see, in every single case in which someone beat me up for a while in the poker world, I was eventually able to exact my revenge — everyone, that is, except Corkins. Corkins crushed me at the final table in the 2006 Tournament of Champions and the WPT event at Foxwood’s in 2004. In those cases, Corkins had position on me, and this time I had position on him: I was in the seven seat and he was in the six seat.
Corkins came over to my table with $35,000 in chips and moved all-in several times, even though the blinds were only $600 to $1,200. He was making huge, oversized raises (which I hadn’t seen in years), opening for 30 times the big blind vs. the standard of three and a half ($4,200). Eventually, someone called him, and before long Corkins had almost $300,000 in chips. At this point, he was raising every hand and was pretty tough to play against. One hand, I opened with J-J for $4,500, and he reraised $9,000 from the big blind, and I just folded my hand because I felt like he was strong.
Then, with 50 players left and 40 minutes left to go in day two, Corkins opened for $5,000 from the button, and I made it $15,000 to go from the small blind with 9-9. Corkins then announced, “I’m all-in,” but something didn’t smell right to me. I hated to call off all of my money with 9-9, but my instincts were going haywire. So I counted down my last $52,000 in chips, pushed it into the pot and said, “I think I have you crushed.” Corkins then screamed, “I’m thirty percent, I’m thirty percent,” like he was proud of that fact! Then he said, “I hate the fact that you have the nine of clubs in your hand,” as he flipped up Ac-6c. The flop was 5d-3c-2d, the turn was the 8c, and the river was the 5c. Corkins had made a flush on the last card to bust me. I shouted, “No!” and reeled back from the table, and suddenly it seemed like the press was everywhere.
The disappointment I felt was awful. I even experienced a little shortness of breath! This is no way to handle losing. Did I play way above the rim for two days? Did I want to show the world that I’m a great poker player? Did I travel a long way for this one tournament? Yes, yes, and yes, but so what? Smile, get over it, count your blessings and fly home.
Easier said than done!
The right move at the right time:
A) takes a lot of luck out of the game
B) keeps you in the chips
C) is possible if you read perfectly
D) all of the above