• I’m a Lucky ‘Bad Boy’

    Date: 2007.11.12 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    Recently, I played on NBC’s “Poker after Dark.” One of the episodes was called “The Bad Boys of Poker,” and featured Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, Gavin Smith, Bobby Bellande (the poker player on “Survivor”), Sean “The Sheik” Sheikhan, Sam Grizzle, and I. One thing was for sure about this lineup — it was loud!

    When we hit three-handed, Bellande, Sheikhan and I were left battling. With the blinds at $2,000-$4,000, Sheikhan folded on the button, I looked at A-4 in the small blind and moved Bellande all-in for his last $18,000. Bellande called with A-8, and I was a 2-1/2-to-1 underdog to win the pot. Bellande spent a full minute chatting about how unlucky he was, and telling the world that I would win the pot. The flop was 8-6-4, and Sheikhan said, “See bro, you can’t lose this one now.” Bellande said, “With my luck, I could.” Amazingly, the turn card was a four! Now Bellande needed an eight to win the pot, and found himself a 22-to-1 underdog (22 cards for me and 2 for him). The river was a seven, and Sheikhan said, “See bro, you brought it on yourself. You have a bad attitude; you expect to lose, and then you lose.” Brutal, it is bad enough to lose like that — to a two-outer — but then Bellande had to listen to Sheikhan! Still we all knew that trash talking was going to be a big part of this show. I have no problem with the way this hand was played by either of us, when the blinds get big enough, then ace high becomes a strong hand.

    Sheikhan and I had a long heads up battle where we both employed the strategy of limping in with strong hands. As far as I could tell Sheikhan hadn’t used this strategy much before. For some reason, whenever I play someone heads up for a title, it seems that we play most of our poker after the flop. I’m not sure why it comes down this way. But one more time, there wasn’t much pre-flop raising. I know that I did set the tone by not raising a single pot before the flop for almost an hour. If I had A-A, then I would call, if it was 7-5, then I would call. The reason that I employed this strategy is that it made it difficult to raise it up when I entered a pot. So I could play any two cards before the flop without the threat of Sheikhan raising it up.

    Eventually — with the blinds at $2,000-$4,000 — I limped in with 7-7 on the button, Sheikhan made it $8,000 more to go, and I sensed my opportunity. Sheikhan seemed weak to me, and I knew that he couldn’t call off his last $34,000 with a weak hand. So I moved all-in. Sheikhan then studied a moment and eventually he did call with Qd-8d! I was stunned, and I played the part of the “Poker Brat” and said, “Have you lost your mind?” The cards came down A-A-K-K-6, and I was left with seven high! Two pair; aces and kings with a seven. Sheikhan won the pot and then I went off, saying, “My stomach actually hurts. You played that hand so bad that I feel sick. I need to spit because I cannot believe that you called off all of your money with Q-8! Sheikhan, you’re not a Hold ’em player.” I wish that I hadn’t said it. Sure it will be entertaining for y’all to watch on television, but I like Sheikhan, and I wish that I could control myself better when someone plays poorly and outdraws me.

    Let’s take a closer look at this hand. I love my limp in with 7-7, although old-school tactics say that I should raise it up before the flop. I don’t mind Sheikhan’s $8,000 raise. Queen high may well be good (the best hand), and it gives him a chance to win the $8,000 pot right then and there. I love my all-in reraise, because I made the right read (Sheikhan was weak). I hate Sheikhan’s all-in call, because he knows that I have him beat, and he may well be dominated. Why knowingly put all of your money in with the worst hand? On the other hand, if Sheikhan knew that I had exactly 7-7, then the call was a good one (Qd-8d vs. 7-7 is close). There is another point here for Sheikhan’s call, and that is this: if Sheikhan assumes that I’m the better player, then he may as well play a big pot with the worst hand and try to get lucky.
    Limping in with big hands in heads up play is:
    A) Non-traditional
    B) Tricky
    C) Means that the money goes in after the flop
    D) All of the above

    Answer: C