Winning My First UBT Event
This column is normally devoted to no-limit Hold ’em and the tactics used in various hands, but this week I’d like to give you a Ultimate Blackjack Tour (UBT) final-table hand as well as a World Poker Tour (WPT) final-table hand. The WPT runs on the GSN (Game Show Network) and the UBT runs on CBS right before college football every fall (also airing in Australia, Canada and France).
On Sunday, July 15, I played a “Celebrity” final table on the UBT, along with poker stars Annie Duke, Robert Williamson III, Freddy Deeb and champion blackjack players Ken Einiger, Hollywood Dave and Renee Angelil. Angelil and I were the last two standing for the pretty tricky last hand.
Since I bet first, and had a chip lead of $13,000, I wanted to make sure that I had the “Low,” which means I’d be guaranteed the tournament even if the dealer won the hand (the dealer wins any given blackjack hand around 56 percent of the time). So I bet $22,000, knowing that I could surrender 50 percent of the bet and still beat Angelil if he lost the hand. Angelil bet out $60,000, making sure that he had the “high,” winning the tournament if he won the hand.
I was dealt A-A, Angelil was dealt K-7 (17) and the dealer was dealt a 2 for an up card. It was my turn to act, and I considered my possibilities. I could split the aces, betting $22,000 per hand, but Angelil would still have the “high,” and I would still have the “low.” I could hit it out, but it didn’t matter if I made 21 or busted because Angelil would stand on his 17, and if the dealer busted, Angelil would win. Finally, it dawned on me that if I surrendered, I would own the dealers “17,” winning (by $2,000) if the dealer made 17.
I was really happy that I thought of this move, even though an experienced blackjack pro would have known what to do all along. So I surrendered my aces, Angelil stood pat, the dealer flipped up an ace in the hole and hit a 5 to make 18, which won me my first UBT event.
Meanwhile, I had promised Mike “The Mouth” Matusow that I would watch his WPT final table at the Bellagio. So after winning my event at the Venetian, I rushed over to watch Matusow.
Six hours into the WPT final table — at around 10 p.m. — Matusow found himself heads up with young up-and-coming poker pro Kevin Saul. With the blinds a relatively low ($40,000-$80,000) and a $10,000-a-man ante, Saul opened for $200,000 with Qd-Qs, and Matusow called with 8c-7c. The flop came down 10s-6c-5c, Matusow checked, and Saul bet out $375,000. Matusow studied for about five seconds, and then moved all-in for $2.5 million. Saul called instantly, and the race was on! It turns out that Matsusow was about 56.7 percent to win the pot, but unfortunately for Matusow the final two cards came down 3d-Ks.
Let’s take a closer look at this hand: Did Matusow have to call the raise before the flop? Let me add that both and Matusow I noticed that Saul was strong before the flop, reading him for “extreme strength,” based on his body language and the way he put the chips into the pot. Still, the raise was minimal, and Matusow’s call here was fine, even given that Saul gave off a strong vibe. Matusow said, “Yes, Phil, I picked up that Kevin was super strong as well, but the raise was minimal, and I had the perfect hand to bust an overpair with. Not too mention that Kevin could have had A-K, or A-Q.” Good point.
I think that Matusow made a nice check on the flop, especially as Saul was betting every single flop after raising pre-flop. Why not check, let Saul bluff off some money and then move all-in? Matusow says this about moving all-in, “I was really happy to move all-in there as a favorite to win the $5 million pot. Would you have played the hand differently?” No Mikey, I wouldn’t have. Well played, except that you forgot to hit the club, the four or the nine!
When someone makes a minimum raise, it is:
A) Easier to call it with a weak hand
B) Sometimes a sign of strength
C) A good opportunity to beat them for a big pot
D) All of the above