• In New Orleans, Robin in Batman

    Date: 2006.07.03 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    Here was the lineup for the fifth “Celebrity Poker Showdown,” shown on Bravo on June 28: Macy Gray (Grammy Award-winning singer), Joy Behar (“The View”), Christopher Meloni, Andy Dick (“bad boy” and actor), and Robin Tunney (“Prison Break”). We shot the whole series in New Orleans, and one thing is certain, the partying in the French Quarter, although not as gigantic a scale as in the past, continues around the clock! The French Quarter, fortunately, was not engulfed during Hurricane Katrina, which means that many historic landmarks were left standing and in good shape. But throughout much of the rest of the city the Katrina damage has not been cleaned up, and there are many thousands of now worthless homes and cars that are just sort of left there to linger.

    Dave Foley and I were happy to be co-hosting “Poker,” especially in light of the fact that so much of the show focuses on New Orleans, and the $1 million prize pool goes directly to New Orleans-based charities. What’s more, all of the charities’ phone numbers were given onscreen throughout the series, and one can hope that that will raise several million dollars more. As for our fifth show, Foley picked Andy Dick to win (out of loyalty, since they were co-stars on the hit TV show “News Radio”), and I picked Robin Tunney to win, but the celebrities all thought Macy Gray was the favorite. As the show progressed, I could see that Gray was the best Hold ’em player in this heat.

    Gray was unlucky early, though, when she picked up one side of what is known in poker as the “classic match-up” (A-K vs. Q-Q). Gray had the A-K, against Meloni’s Q-Q. This match-up usually leads to both players moving all-in before the flop, whereupon the Q-Q is roughly a 13-to-10 favorite to win the pot. This pot followed form, both players indeed moving all-in before the flop, and Gray lost the “coin flip” for a $19,000 pot. This was a huge pot, since each player had begun the heat with $10,000 in chips.

    Andy Dick was out in the second hand, and Joy Behar followed when Meloni made a flush against her. But the big story in this heat was that Tunney kept “milking” Meloni out of chips (making modest-sized bets when she did have a strong hand)! For Tunney, the lucky side of it was that she kept beating Meloni, hand after hand. The skill side of it was what kept the milk machine running with brilliantly devised easy-to-call bets.

    One hand, when the blinds were $200-$400, Tunney limped in on the button with K-8, Meloni called in the small blind with A-J, and Gray checked in the big blind with Q-4. With a flop of K-J-2, it was another impending disaster for Meloni, who bet out $500 into the $1,200 pot, and Tunney raised it up to $1,500 to go. Meloni had to call, and he did. The next card was a nine, Meloni checked, Tunney bet out $1,000, and Meloni pretty much had to call again (I would have as well). The last card was a five, Meloni checked, Tunney bet out another $1,000, and Meloni had to call again (I would have called too). Tunney had Meloni deeply frustrated by the end of this match, because of her milking tactics, but his frustration was compounded by another factor: when Meloni did have Tunney beat, he bet way too much! So whenever Meloni had the best hand, he would bet too much and win nothing, and whenever Tunney had the best hand, she would milk him with small bets that forced him to call. Late in the game, Meloni made two nice adjustments: first, since Tunney never called his big bets, he started to make big bets on a bluff; and second, when he did have a strong hand he started his own milk machine. But alas for Chris, in his first attempt at a big-bet bluff, Tunney actually had a super-strong hand! And in his first attempt to bet small when he had a big hand, Tunney had nothing to call him with!

    Finally, with the blinds at $400-$800, Meloni called with Q-6 in the small blind, Tunney raised it up $1,800 more with 9-9, and Meloni called (I hate his call here). The flop, a disastrous one for Meloni, came down 6-3-2, and Tunney won the match when her 9-9 held up. I was impressed with Tunney’s play: she was tough to read, and she bet the right amounts throughout the heat. Finally, I had picked a winner, for the first time in five shows (Foley picked three out of five!), and now we’ll see how she does in this week’s finale.

    Now the cash heavy “Poker” finale is set: the celebrities will win $900,000 for their charities, with $500,000 going to the winner’s charity and the gold medallion going to the winner! Will it be Jason Alexander (“Seinfeld”), Michael Ian Black (“The Pleasure of Your Company”), Ida Siconolfi (the bravotv.com winner), Keegan-Michael Key (“MADtv”), or Robin Tunney (“Prison Break”)?

    Watch the finale on Bravo this Wednesday, July 5.

    Milking an opponent entails:
    A) Making easy-to-call bets when you have a strong hand
    B) Making huge bluffs
    C) Making good folds
    D) All of the above
    Answer: A