• I Dominated, and Still Lost

    Date: 2005.08.08 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    I recently wrote about the tactic of folding a lot of hands when my opponents reraise me, and how this eventually induces them to reraise me even with bad hands. In other words, they begin to count on me to fold when they reraise, thus expecting they can bluff me out with their weak hands. This line of logic pretty much explains how I lost the following pot at the $10,000-buy-in main event of the 2005 World Series of Poker (WSOP).

    The blinds were $250-$500, with a $50 ante, and I was in the big blind. Everyone folded around to player Z in the small blind, and he fiddled around, then called the $500 bet and raised it $700 more. I looked down at my hand, a beautiful-looking A-K. At this point I was thinking, “OK, player Z has roughly $16,500 in chips to my $34,000. Finally, I have a powerful hand in a great situation. For a long time I have been folding when players reraise me. Z will probably stick to form and reraise me if I reraise him here. How can I induce him to move all-in here? Or have I already induced this sweet situation?”

    Of course, I decided that I had to reraise, so that he could move all-in, but the real question was, how much should I raise, and how should I put the chips into the pot? Finally, I decided to raise it $2,500 more, by throwing a $5,000 chip into the pot and declaring, “Make it $3,200 to go.” In an instant player Z moved all-in, and as quickly as he acted, I acted even faster, announcing “call” within half an instant.

    Z looked sick as he flipped over Kh-Jh. He looked even sicker when I flipped up A-K. He was “dominated,” which means that I had his king covered with a higher kicker. (Being dominated also means that you are a 2-1/2-to-1 underdog.)

    I was pretty content, feeling that my tactics had worked perfectly. The flop was 4-4-3, then a nine, and then, on the river, came a card that caused “Mount Hellmuth” to erupt. Yep, you guessed it; the last card was a jack! Any other card in the deck, and I win the $33,000 pot. My tactics had worked to perfection; I had induced another player to shove nearly $17,000 into the pot, at the WSOP, with K-J!

    From $52,000 and a “lock” to make day two, suddenly I was down to $17,000 and verbally venting, as ESPN was hoping I might. I was mumbling under my breath about how poorly Z had played to stick $17,000 into the pot with K-J. I was mumbling to the poker gods about the last card, the jack, and I was telling my wife (who was in the stands) what I’d been mumbling. Not a particularly gracious bleat.

    After walking around the tournament room cooling down for 12 minutes or so, I came back to the table feeling better. We had started at 11 a.m., it was now 1:30 a.m., and at 2:30 a.m., day one would be over. After making three more raises, having my opponents reraise each time, and folding each time, I finally picked up A-Q and opened for $1,600. I was hoping that Paul “X22” Magriel would reraise me (I had been expecting him to overplay a hand against me).
    Magriel did in fact reraise me — $5,000 more — and I felt some real weakness there. I also knew that he regularly overplayed his hands. So I moved all-in for my last $11,700. He hesitated for a moment and then called the $6,700 raise, showing his 7-7. After losing the A-K vs. K-J race, and suffering another unlucky situation where I had A-K to my opponent’s A-A and the flop was an ace, I was feeling as if I “deserved” to win this pot with my A-Q. I was an 11-to-10 underdog before the flop.

    When the flop and the turn came down J-9-4-9, I was still pretty sure that I would hit my winning card (now a jack, ace or a queen). But, alas, I was eliminated from the 2005 WSOP. From $52,000 in chips and a lock to make day two, stunningly, I was out. Who knows who “deserves” what in life, and I am thankful for all of my blessings, but it would have been nice to win that pot!

    Being “dominated” in a hand means:
    a.) your opponent has one of your cards with a higher kicker
    b.) you’re a two-and-a-half-to-one underdog
    c.) you’ve put your chips into the pot in a tough spot
    d.) all of the above

    Answer: D