• A Dirty Win to Start the New Season

    Date: 2007.10.29 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    Recently, I played on the hit show “Poker After Dark” (NBC, 2 a.m., six nights a week). This episode is being called “The Dream Team” (first episode of 2008), as amateur poker player Todd Light handpicked the opponents of his dreams: me “The Poker Brat,” Daniel “Kid Poker” Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, Scotty “The Prince of Poker” Nguyen, Mike “The Mouth” Matusow — a tough lineup for sure.

    Everyone was playing well, as hour after hour passed and no one was eliminated. Maybe we all really wanted television time, because if you last four hours, you’ll find yourself in four days of coverage on NBC. Or maybe we really just wanted to win. In victory, not only do you pick up bragging rights and a nationally televised win, you also pick up $120,000 for first place in this winner-take-all format. I believe that I wanted to win this thing as much as — or more than — anyone else in our heat. After finishing sixth, fifth, fourth, third, second and fourth in the 2007 season of “Poker After Dark,” I wanted a victory. While I was playing in the 2007 season, it didn’t seem that important to win. But after watching the show quite a bit, I started to get pissed off. Why hadn’t I played better? Why hadn’t I won one?

    In advance of the 2008 season, I made myself watch the show for two weeks to prepare my mind and tactics for the format — and to remind myself that I hadn’t won a match yet. So I came in for my three “Poker After Dark” tapings fired up and playing great. I won the first one, I won the second one and then I finished in second place to Johnny Chan in my third attempt. Three in a row would have been sweet, but two firsts and a second weren’t too shabby. Despite the sweetness of my victory, I must say that in this “Dream Team” episode, I won ugly.

    After Matusow was eliminated in sixth place, the blinds hit $1,500 to $3,000 with no ante. We all started with $20,000 in chips, so the blinds were relatively high. In one key hand, Negreanu limped in from the small blind, and I looked down at K-10 in the big blind. I checked, and the flop came down Kc-Jc-6h, prompting Negreanu to check. I bet out $3,000, and Negreanu announced, “I’m all-in,” and I instacalled.

    Negreanu flipped up Js-6s, for two pair, and I showed down my K-10, and said, “I’ve been pretty unlucky on this show over the last six episodes, but I think that I’m going to win this pot.” I said that knowing I was almost a 3-to-1 underdog to win the hand. The turn card was an eight, but the river was a big fat 10, and I won the pot. This was a huge swing for me — out from fifth place to chip leader.

    Let’s take a closer look at this hand. First of all, I probably should have moved all-in before the flop. Negreanu called the $3,000 pre-flop bet quickly (which showed weakness to me), and I thought that K-10 was the best hand, so why not move all-in and win $6,000 risk-free? At the time, I overruled this tactic, deciding to just call and hope that I would flop top pair. After I flopped top pair, I bet out $3,000, hoping that Negreanu would raise. He did, and I instantly called. In my mind I had set him up, yet Negreanu still held the better hand. Kudos to Negreanu — he put his money in when holding the right cards (he was roughly a 2.5-to-1 favorite on the flop).

    For the final hand, Harman raised it up to $10,000 to go, which was an illegal amount since the blinds were $3,000 to $6,000 (the ruling said she had to make it exactly $12,000). Light went all-in for $8,700 in the small blind, and I called $6,000 more with 9-7 off suit in the big blind. The flop came down 10-7-5, and I studied a long time before I bet out $6,000 into the $6,600 side pot. Harman studied for a long while before she moved all-in for $22,900 more. I called, and Harman showed down Q-10 (top pair), Light showed down 9h-8h (an open-ended straight draw), making me the least likely player to win this pot. I was calling for an eight (for a shot at a straight), when the dealer peeled off a seven. When a king hit on the river, the title was mine. I’m not sure any of us played the hand poorly, although I could have folded on the $22,900 raise. Like I said, I won ugly.

    With relatively high blinds, it makes sense to:
    A) Raise it up big when you think you have the best hand
    B) Make a few more bluffs
    C) Stay patient
    D) All of the above

    Answer: A