• A Happy Outcome at Camp Hellmuth

    Date: 2006.03.06 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    With three players left in the Camp Hellmuth finale — which played out onstage in front of 200 people, with the hands being shown on a big screen, and with me announcing the hands to the audience — Gordon Higgins, from Kansas City, was getting low on chips. But after what he’s been through this past year, it didn’t bother him at all.

    You see, Higgins’ girlfriend had given him a Camp Hellmuth ticket as a present, and they planned to turn the two-day camp into a real Vegas vacation by adding two days for themselves after the camp ended.

    Higgins, however, was being treated for thyroid cancer and was feeling low on energy.

    Higgins now says, “I told the little lady going in that I may not feel up to doing much more than the camp-planned activities.” Her response was classic: “That’s OK; I just expect some great poker this weekend!” And Higgins delivered! When Amy Graves, from Fairfax Station, Va., finished in third place, Higgins was looking down the barrel of a 6-to-1 chip deficit versus Allan Kennedy, from Valdosta, Ga. It would have been easy for him to give up, or to do something stupid to try to catch up in chips quickly. Higgins, though, says, “Honestly, after the things I’ve been through this last year (thyroid cancer and a bad appendix), I wasn’t overly stressed out about playing from behind.”

    By then Higgins had watched T.J. Cloutier’s “21 Tips” presentation and Antonio Esfandiari’s spiel as well. Interestingly, these two very successful poker players give seminars that don’t accord well at all with each other — and that’s poker. While Cloutier preached controlled aggression, Esfandiari preached all-out aggression, and both styles work well. Then we had Joe Navarro, who taught everyone how to read people using the nonverbal tells that he had developed over 25 years as an FBI interrogator. Remarkable stuff: I took three pages of notes from Navarro’s seminar, and so did Cloutier. Later, T.J. and I joked about how we’d never taken notes in a poker presentation at all before, much less three pages worth!

    Navarro told us that when people hit the flop well, they lean in toward the middle of the table, and when they miss the flop, they lean back away from the table. Another key tip from Navarro is that if your opponent’s feet are shaking (“happy feet”), then he is super strong. Higgins now says, “I’m sure I’ll just be part of the broken record club here, but … Joe Navarro gave us invaluable information. In fact, during one of the breaks at the final table (no offense to all my deserving final-table opponents!), I went up to Joe and told him, ‘Thanks; they’re just giving me their money up there.”

    When Higgins and Kennedy were at last even in chips, with the blinds at $10,000-$20,000 and the ante at $4,000 apiece, the following hand came up. Higgins called $10,000 on the button with 7s-5s, and Kennedy checked with his 6s-3c. The flop came down 7d-7h-6d, Kennedy checked his two pair, and Higgins checked his trip sevens. When the turn card came up the 10h, Kennedy checked again and Higgins bet out $50,000. At that point, Kennedy raised it up, making it $150,000 to go. But Higgins, sensing the kill, raised it up another $100,000 ($250,000 total), and Kennedy moved all in for $450,000. Higgins called instantly, and it was all over.

    Higgins had played the hand perfectly, but Kennedy, I think, put too much money into this pot with his meager pair of sixes. After all, he couldn’t have beaten even a pair of 10s, which would have been a reasonable possibility for Higgins, given that there was a 10 on the board and the betting was heavy. In any case, both of them had played great poker to have become the final two, and I hope this is just one victory for Higgins this year: beating thyroid cancer and conquering his other health issues are the real victories he’ll be looking forward to in 2006.

    A player leaning forward when the flop comes down usually:
    A) has a strong hand
    B) has a week hand
    C) is responding to his iPod
    D) none of the above

    Answer: A