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  • All Poker All the Time

    Date: 2008.03.10 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    On Saturday, Feb. 23, 660 competitors began play in the L.A. Poker Classic at the Commerce Casino in Commerce, Calif. This World Poker Tour event featured a $10,000 buy-in and a $1.6 million first prize.

    For me, personally, I was extra motivated to play my best poker for several reasons. First, despite a good track record, I have never won a WPT event, and the new players like to remind me of that little fact. Second, I skipped this event last year and regretted missing it — the tournament is truly a “classic.” Third, I had a terrible result over in London, England, in the Premier League Poker series earlier in February. And finally, after being home with my wife and kids for seven straight weeks, my ego was feeling pretty beat up! After all, when I’m on the road, people swarm me for autographs and pictures (ego rising), and when I’m at home, my kids think I’m lame and my wife expects me to take out the trash (ego falling). I really wanted to play great poker and show the world — and myself — that I could still do it.

    On the flip side of the coin, I had some solid backup plans for the week. First, we had the Grammys on Sunday night, then a VIP booth at the Pearl concert (my favorite new band) on Monday at the Viper Club in Los Angeles, and finally, NBC wanted me to shoot ads for the “NBC Heads-Up” poker championships on Tuesday in Las Vegas. Although the “fluff” — attending the Grammys, partying with Pearl and filming the NBC commercials (with jets and helicopters) — would have been a lot of fun, I wanted to win the tournament. My mind-set: all poker, all day, all week, all the time. Just win, baby!

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  • LA Story: And Then There Were Six

    Date: 2008.03.03 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    I’m writing this article under a little duress. I began playing in the World Poker Tour’s L.A. Classic — at the Commerce Casino in Commerce, Calif. — on Saturday, Feb. 23. It is now Wednesday, Feb. 27, and I haven’t answered a single e-mail (just looked and it is only 47) or returned a phone call in five days. And now, after a grueling “day five” has just finished — at midnight, mind you — I still have to write this column! Of course, the fact that I am in the final six players, along with chip leader Phil Ivey, makes me smile. I have a good shot at winning the thing, which would be worth $1.6 million (for first). But more importantly, it would be my first WPT victory. I have $2.3 million in chips, and Ivey has $4.3 million in chips. It should be one helluva final table.

    Here are a few interesting hands. On day four, with the blinds at $3,000 to $6,000, Shawn Buchanan limped in with 6-6, and I raised it up to $33,000 with 10-8 off suit. I started the hand with $750,000 in chips. The flop was 6-3-3, and Buchanan bet out $15,000. I called. The turn was a 10, and Buchanan bet out $20,000. I called, then the river displayed another 10, and Buchanan bet out $40,000. I raised him $55,000, and he called.

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  • Good Read, Bad Outcome

    Date: 2008.02.25 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    For 12 days in early February, I played in the Premier League poker tournament. This one-of-a-kind event features 12 players in six heats, six players per heat, for points. The top four point earners advance to the six-player finals, the middle four point earners play heads-up for the other two seats and the bottom four are “relegated” (a common word in European sports, meaning something like “sent down to the minors”). The players receive nine points for first place, five for second, three for third, two for fourth, one for fifth and zero for sixth place. This year, you needed 18 points to advance to the heads-up portion, and only 21 points to make the top four. With an average of 20 points per heat, hitting 18 is almost too easy, right?

    Alas, not for me. I was well on my way to breaking a record, but the wrong kind of record — the lowest points total ever! In the end, I had scored an abysmal eight points. At least I avoided tying the all-time low of seven points. This year, the players were Rolande de Wolfe, Andy Black, Eddy Scharf, Ian Frazer, Juha Helppi, Dave Ulliott, Tony G., Annie Duke, Marcel Luske, Vicky Coren, Alex Kravchenko and me.

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  • Youth is Served — With a “False Tell”

    Date: 2008.02.18 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    This week, I’m staying in London playing in, and commentating for, the European Open IV. Since I finished second in my six-player heat, I found myself in the booth doing the commentary for the final. I needed a win to make the championship round. The six-player EO IV final included 19-year-old sensation Annette Obrestad (who won the World Series of Poker Europe and $2 million at age 18), Nick “The Detective” Slade, 2007 Premier League winner Juha Helppi, Craig Burgess, Ian “The Raiser” Frazer and Josh Tyler. In this format, each arrived at the finals with their chip count from the semis, and Frazer had more than $400,000, compared to $100,000 for Slade and Burgess.

    Slade played an aggressive final, and moved up in chips quickly. Slade looked brilliant and idiotic with A-8. First, he looked smart when he raised it up with A-8. Obrestad reraised with J-4, and Slade moved all-in and won the pot uncontested. An hour later, however, Slade looked foolish when he raised it up with A-8. Tyler reraised with Q-Q, and Slade moved all-in for a huge amount. Although Slade put it all-in as a two-and-a-half-to-one underdog, he came out smelling like a rose when the board came down 8-6-4-A-K. In fact, that was Slade’s only bad play of the day. I think Slade realized he had made a mistake, and afterward, he played brilliantly.

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  • Another Late-Night Poker Gambit

    Date: 2008.02.11 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    In these last two columns, I have featured a hand that I saw played on NBC’s “Poker after Dark.” Last week, it was Jennifer Harmon versus Eli Elezra, and this week it is a hand between Allen Cunningham and Phil Ivey. I watched “PAD” last week, and it featured Barry Greenstein, David Benyamine, Harmon, Ivey, Cunningham and Elezra. Usually the players buy-in for $20,000, with a first-place prize of $120,000; but in this case, it was a $60,000 buy-in, with a $360,000 first-place prize. I love watching “PAD!”

    When this hand went down, Cunningham was the chip leader with $108,000, Ivey was in second place with $102,000, and they were playing four handed, as Harmon and Benyamine had already been eliminated. With the blinds at $2,000-$4,000, Cunningham opened for $10,000 with K-Q on the button. Ivey made it $30,000 to go from the small blind with A-6 off suit, and Greenstein folded A-J. Cunningham studied for a moment, both staring down Ivey for a few seconds and scratching his head, before saying, “I’ll go all-in.” Ivey then “insta-folded” his hand, and Greenstein said, “I was going to move all-in if Ivey called or folded.”

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  • Small Bets Can Bring Big Payoffs

    Date: 2008.02.04 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    This week on “Poker After Dark,” I watched a rerun from 2007, featuring Barry Greenstein, Eli Elezra, Jennifer Harmon, Phil Ivey, Allen Cunningham and David Benyamine. Usually the players buy-in for $20,000, with a first-place prize of $120,000; but in this case, the buy-in was $60,000, with a $360,000 first-place prize. I love watching “PAD”! It reminds me of the old days when I used to play primarily with great players — the same ones who regularly play on “PAD” now. These days, I’m not around the poker tour as much — until the World Series of Poker events begin — and I miss the guys (and gals). I miss the witty banter, the big mood swings (OK, that’s just me!), the intelligent conversations, the side bets, the high-stakes poker and just the feel of competing against the best. (“PAD” runs six days a week on NBC at 2:05 a.m.)

    With the blinds at $300 to $600, Elezra opened for $1,500 with 5-2 on the button. Cunningham folded out of the small blind, and Harmon called out of the big blind with A-4. The flop came down K-5-2, Harmon checked and Elezra bet $1,500 into the $3,300 pot with his two pair.

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