• 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.

    Let’s break down this hand. Buchanan’s limp for $6,000 was OK with me. My $33,000 bet was an attempt to steal the pot, as I thought that Buchanan had a small pair, or a weaker hand. Buchanan’s $15,000 bet was genius! We call a small bet on the flop like this one a “floater bet.” By betting $15,000 into a $72,000 pot, he made it easy for me to call or raise him. My call was OK. With such a small bet, I thought that if the next card was a high card, I could steal the pot with a big bet.

    I called with a plan, but considering that Buchanan already had a full house, it was a flawed plan. The $20,000 bet was another perfect bet by Buchanan, and again made it easy for me to call him with ace high or raise him with an over pair like Q-Q. My call on the turn seemed pretty natural, as I did hit top pair. Buchanan’s bet on the river was brilliant, too. He gave me the chance to call him down with ace high — an easier call with the board double-paired. My $55,000 raise seemed about right, especially considering that Buchanan only had $85,000 left. Buchanan’s call was OK, but he pretty much knew that I had a 10. He announced as much, but throwing away his hand for $55,000 more was nearly impossible. This was a super-lucky hand for me.

    On day five, with seven players remaining, I made a big bluff in a hand. With the blinds at $40,000 to $80,000, Nam Le opened for $220,000 with 10-10, and I studied a while with Ac-2c. First, I felt as if Le couldn’t call an all-in move. Second, I knew that six players would come back the next day to play at the “TV table,” and since Le had exactly the same amount in chips, I felt there was additional pressure planted firmly on his shoulders. I mean, if he called and lost the pot, he would miss the WPT final table — and the chance to win $1.6 million. So I pulled the trigger, and I moved all-in for $1,240,000.

    Le studied for a long time, so I stood up and said, “Just don’t put a bad beat on me.” I had reraised three times at the final table, and each time I had stood up and said the same thing. Those three times I actually showed my hole cards: K-K, A-K and A-K. I knew that Le had watched all three of those hands. He said to me, “Will you show me the hand if I fold?” I said, “Of course I will.” Le still didn’t look convinced, but finally, after an agonizingly long time (when you’re bluffing a minute seems like an hour), he folded. I flipped up the A-2, and everyone in the room was shocked. Mike Sexton said, “What a move!” The last hand of the night came down when a player moved all-in for $800,000, and I called him with A-Q. The player showed K-Q, and fortunately my hand held up.

    Wish me luck tomorrow. Oh, that’s right. By the time you read this, the tournament will be over. You can catch it on the Travel Channel’s “World Poker Tour.” Good night all.