• Norrie and His Chums Jet West

    Date: 2006.01.16 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    Welcome to our New Year’s no-limit Hold ’em poker tournament on my friends Carl and Jimmy Lou Westcott’s Challenger 604 jet. The buy-in is as high as the 45,000-foot altitude we hit as we head from Vail to Los Angeles for the Rose Bowl. (Nah, it was $20.) Although the buy-in is modest, the company is another matter. Jimmy Lou, Chart and Court Westcott, Pam and David Norrie, and I begin our no-limit Hold ’em tournament with $500 apiece in chips.

    Former UCLA quarterback and current ESPN college football announcer David Norrie takes an early chip lead in the six-player affair. David knows a little something about Texas Hold ’em, having played a lot of poker at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles in the 1990s. Of course, David knows a little something about Rose Bowls as well, because he played under center in the 1983, 1984 and 1986 Rose Bowls.

    In fact, David led the Pac 10 Conference in passing in 1985, leading his team to the 1986 Rose Bowl. Sadly, he tore his right quadricep just days before the game, and missed the start against the Chuck Long-led Iowa Hawkeyes. But when he entered the game in the fourth quarter of a UCLA blowout victory, David received a standing ovation in recognition of his fine season.

    With the blinds at $5-$10, Chart Westcott (he and his brother Court coined the word “redonkulous,” which substitutes nicely for “ridiculous”) bets $30 into the $30 pot from the big blind, with the board showing Jd-10d-4s. Norrie folds on the button, and I check-raise Chart to $150 to go with J-10 from the small blind. Chart moves all-in with Jh-7d, and I quickly call. (It’s over for Chart, don’t you suppose? I’m more than a 90 percent favorite to win this pot.) Chart needs runner-runner (two perfect cards) or any diamond-diamond, seven-seven, or nine-eight to beat me. The Qd on the turn gives him some outs (nine diamonds win for him), and the redonkulous Qh on the river gives him one-half of the pot (we both now have queens and jacks with a 10 kicker), sigh. By the way, it’s much better to have a bad beat in a $20 buy-in freeze-out than to suffer one in a $10,000 buy-in tournament.

    When we hit three-handed — Jimmy Lou, David, and me — with the blinds at $25-$50, I make a mini-raise of $50, making it $100 to go with J-8 off suit. I’m just trying to steal Jimmy Lou and David’s blinds, having noticed that they’re both folding every time I raise it up. As expected, Jimmy Lou folds in the small blind, but now David says, “Make it $200,” and throws out $250 in chips. I tell him the official rule in poker, “Verbal declarations stand, the bet is $200,” and I call. David pauses a second, as he clearly intended to make it $250 to go, but his verbal declaration was clear.

    The flop was 10d-9s-7d, and I flopped a straight! David then moved all-in for his last $750, and I quickly called. As I flipped up my J-8, David showed his pocket aces with a look of disgust on his face! I don’t blame him; getting A-A beat by J-8 is pretty ugly. What a swing in the match this “verbal declaration” turned out to be! I don’t believe I would have called the $250 bet ($150 more), because David seemed strong to me, and I had told myself in advance that I wasn’t calling a reraise. But for $100 more, I’m priced in: I’m getting laid more than three-to-one on my call, since $325 was in the pot, and it was just $100 more to call. Basically, David’s verbal declaration had cost him the pot–and all of his chips.

    David asked, “How would you have handled getting your aces beat by J-8 when you had reraised the pot before the flop?” We all know the answer to that one — I’m the Poker Brat! Instead of admitting that I may have lost it, I mentioned something about David not raising enough; and how could he blame me for calling only $100 more? I couldn’t resist needling him, too, saying, “Son, you’d better stick to football announcing.”

    After a brief battle with Jimmy Lou, I won my first poker tournament of the year, but it was $1 million less than I was hoping to win when I won a tournament (first was $120). Still, maybe it’s a good omen for 2006.

    An important rule in poker is:
    A) only one player per hand
    B) verbal declarations stand
    C) once you move chips into the pot, you cannot change the amount
    D) all of the above

    Answer: B