• Layne Flack’s Close Call

    Date: 2007.12.03 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    On Nov. 27, at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Layne Flack entered the opening event — a $1,500 buy-in, no-limit, hold-’em tournament with 472 players — of the Bellagio’s Five Diamond Poker Tournament.

    Throughout the day, Flack text-messaged me that he had the chip lead. By 9 p.m. (the tournament started at noon), he text-messaged: “I still have the chip lead. Wire to wire, baby.” At 10 p.m., with the average chip stack at $27,000, Flack still had the lead with $160,000 in chips. That’s when Flack finally surrendered the chip lead over the course of two big pots.

    With the blinds at $500 to $1,000, and a $200 ante, Nick Binger made it $3,600 to go with A-J. Flack, sitting in the big blind with Qs-8s, called $2,600 more. The flop was Q-8-2, and both players checked. On the turn, the 10d came off, and Flack led out for $9,000. Binger studied for a long time, then moved all-in for around $30,000 total. Flack called him quickly, and Binger needed a nine or a king on the last card to complete a straight — and the river didn’t disappoint him as a king came off.

    Let’s take a closer look at this hand. Binger’s opening raise of $3,600 with A-J is standard. Flack’s call with Qs-8s was a bit loose for my taste, but a player like Flack has enough talent to overcome a few loose calls.

    Still, playing a hand like that can bring trouble. For example, it may come down J-8-2, and then what do you do with Q-8? On the flop, I like both players’ checks. On the turn, Flack had to ponder poker’s eternal question: Do I bet or check my super-strong hand? Oftentimes, betting it causes everyone else to fold so that you don’t get full value out of the hand. Still, checking it causes you to lose the pot when someone outdraws you for free.

    I like Flack’s bet — the $9,000 was an “over bet” (a bet bigger than the size of the pot), since there was only $8,000 in the pot. So a $9,000 bet really protects his hand against a drawing hand. However, if Flack checks, then he may induce Binger to make a bet. As far as Binger’s all-in for $30,000, I do not like the move. But this is one of those “judgment calls,” where if you strongly believe that your opponent cannot call the $21,000 raise, then move all-in.
    Otherwise, Binger should fold his hand because he wasn’t getting the right odds to call (owing to Flack’s over bet). It was a subjective play, one that I don’t often recommend. Why risk $30,000 in chips — an above-average stack — on a bluff against a great player like Flack?

    Two hands later, Binger opened for $3,500 with 7h-6h, Flack called with A-10 and James Van Alstyne called with 10-10 in the big blind. The flop came down 9h-7s-3h, Flack and Van Alstyne checked, and Binger bet $9,000. Flack folded, and Van Alstyne studied for a long time before moving all-in for $59,000. Binger called needing a seven, a six or a heart, and the turn card was a nine; but the river was the 5h, making Binger a flush. Now, for the first time in nine hours, someone other than Layne Flack was leading the poker tournament.

    Let’s take a closer look at this hand. Binger’s pre-flop raise with 7h-6h was fine. Hold ’em is like the martial arts — you want to do the pushing, not be pushed around. To raise it up with 7h-6h occasionally is fine, but to call a raise with 7h-6h is suspect.

    Notice that in the last sentence I used the word “occasionally” in regards to a raise with 7h-6h. Flack’s call with A-10 is fine. Van Alstyne’s call with 10-10 is fine with me, although it is more within Van Alstyne’s character to reraise with 10-10. Of course, the reraise would have would have worked perfectly. On the flop, I like Flack’s and Van Alstyne’s checks. I also like Binger’s $9,000 bet, although a more conservative play would have been to check the flop. On the one hand, a check may let someone else outdraw you (like when a K-Q hits a queen); on the other hand, the check gives you a free shot to hit your hand, and it saves you from having to put all of your money into the pot on a draw in case someone does reraise you. After all, 7h-6h is about even money to win against most hands, like an over pair or a pair of nines, so that you cannot fold it after betting $9,000.

    Van Alstyne’s $49,000 raise was a good one. He reasoned that Binger didn’t have an over pair, or trips, and he was right. Of course, if Binger did have A-A, K-K or Q-Q, then I would say that Van Alstyne’s raise was a bad one. Do I sound results-oriented? I’m actually “read”-oriented! In my book, a strong read can justify a lot of marginal plays.

    Calling a raise with a marginal hand:
    A) Can get you into trouble
    B) Is for players gifted with a strong reading ability
    C) Is like skating on thin ice
    D) All of the above

    Answer: B