• Please Hold’em!

    Date: 2004.03.01 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    In the $3,000 buy-in no limit Hold’em tournament at the World Series of Poker recently, I managed to win my ninth bracelet, which tied me with Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan for the all-time lead. $410,000, a WSOP Championship, and the all-time lead, oh happy day! I am still feeling really blessed and happy.

    It was almost as smooth a sailing as it has ever been with me, except for when Erik Seidel started running me over like I was a Hyundai, and he a Mack truck. I would open for $8,000 – $15,000, and he would reraise me $30,000 to $50,000 more. Time and time again this happened, so that finally I decided to make a stand with A-J for his $50,000 raise.

    But then, as I was about to move all-in, I thought better of it. I thought, “I know he has it this time, and if I move all-in he’s going to show me Q-Q. Patience Phil, patience; I know were down to $120,000 from over $400,000, but the blinds are only $2500-$5,000.” I kept thinking, Erik has nearly $800,000, but show them a hand, don’t panic, and you’ll still have a chance to win.

    Then, Nolan Dalla asked the crowd who they were rooting for. In all of my life, the crowd has never been behind me before, so I automatically thought, “At least my wife, Mom, and Sister will clap for me!” Amazingly, the crowd cheered for me the loudest, and I thought, “I can win this thing.” It was a powerful thought to have, and it felt so right.

    When we were 7-handed Erik had limped in with J-J, prompting me to limp in with 8-5 off suit behind him to disastrous consequences for me! With a flop of Q-J-8, everyone checked and I bet out $8,000, and Erik just called me-which was a beautiful “just call.” Now an 8 came off, and Erik bet out $15,000. I studied him and decided that I couldn’t raise it with my three eights, so I just called. On the end, Erik sensed that I was powerful, and bet out a whopping $60,000. What a great bet he made here! I called and lost; and then I thought to myself, Erik sure played that hand great, but I did it to myself coming after him with 8-5 off suit.

    Now Erik limped in with K-10 on the button, and I called $2500 more to complete the blinds with Q-6. The flop came down K-Q-6. I checked, and Erik bet out $12,000. I announced, “All-in,” and counted out a $99,000 raise. This was the first time I was all-in since 3:00 PM on day 1-it was now 11:00 PM on day two. Now Erik studied a long time, and I had a bad feeling that if he called, I was going to lose. I felt like he would outdraw me, but there I sat telling myself, “Look you don’t have to get unlucky here, just let things play out, maybe you’ll win the pot (all the time thinking, “Please Hold’em!”).”

    Erik reluctantly called-I believe he knew that I had him beat-and the next card was a 9 (close! K-Q-6-9) which gave him a straight draw as well. A final card 3 gave me the pot, and a good shot. At this point in the tournament we were still 3-handed, me, Erik, and Daniel Negreanu. I had been waiting for a long time to win a pot and now I could see Daniel’s and Erik’s demeanor change a bit. I won the next pot, and Erik said, “I’ve created a monster.” Hearing that from Erik gave me nothing but more confidence.

    Erik still had almost $700,000 in chips, but I began to feel that this tournament could be mine. Erik kept running me over, but I knew that he would run me over when I had the nuts soon enough. I just kept patient, and never raised a pot before the flop, so that he couldn’t win much when he raised me. I would just call on the button, and take a flop with K-Q suited or whatever, unless Erik raised it, in which case I would just fold again, or call if my hand was strong enough.

    Meanwhile Daniel Negreanu was doing the same thing with his strong hands. We would just call before the flop and take a flop or perhaps call Erik’s smaller raise before the flop. If Erik was going to run us over, he wasn’t going to win too much doing it.

    Finally, I picked up Q-Q on the button, and for some reason, I actually raised it before the flop. Erik just called my raise, and the flop was 9-10-Q. Erik checked, and now I bet out about $20,000 or so. Erik called me, and the turn was the fourth queen, for a board of 9c-10d-Qs-Qc. Erik checked, and now I bet out $30,000 with my four queens, looking for a raise from Seidel.

    When I put my chips into the pot, I bet them with my favorite “bluffing tell.” I tried to make Erik think I was bluffing with my hand motions, facial expressions, the way I put in the chips, and the way I stacked the chips before I bet. Erik may have had a made straight (K-J), a pair of jacks, or most likely a draw of some sort. The Qc made a flush draw possible as well as a straight draw.

    In any case, Seidel announced, “I raise it,” and proceeded to call the $30,000 and raise $75,000. I immediately thought that my best move here would be to move all-in, but as I counted out $75,000, and my remaining $83,000 or so; I decided that Erik may have nothing. If he had a draw or a hand (like a straight or J-J), he certainly would call my last $83,000, but if he had a bluff, then he would fold for my last $83,000.

    Finally I decided that just calling the $75,000 raise was my best move, but I’m still not sure that this is the right play here. In any case, a 10 on the river (9-10-Q-Q-10) made Erik check, and now I decided to bet $40,000. After a long delay, Erik called me, and I had the pleasure of saying, “Four queens.” The whole room at the WSOP said, “Ohhh,” but I knew I had a lot of work left to do, and therefore I didn’t even smile.

    One round later Erik raised my big blind from the small blind, and I called with K-J. The flop came down, K-10-9, and Erik bet out $40,000. I called immediately, without even knowing how much he bet. On fourth street a 2 came off, and Erik bet a large pile of $5,000 chips ($95,000 it turned out), and again I said, “Call,” within one second of his bet. The last card was a 6, and now Erik checked. I felt almost certain that I had the best hand, but I checked behind him feeling that I had won enough with one pair of kings with a jack kicker!

    When Erik paused on the end, I said, “King jack,” and then he said, “I believe that’s good.” Now I had the chip lead again! Finally, I started to raise a few more hands, and soon Erik was down to $65,000, and Daniel remained at about $250,000, while I held about $900,000 or so. When Erik moved all-in for about $65,000 or so, on the button, I called him with A-6 from the $4,000 small blind. A lucky A-K-J flop gave me the pot, and now I was looking at a one on one match with Daniel Negreanu. The first hand of heads up, Daniel made it $25,000 and I looked down at A-K, and moved him all-in. He said, “So that’s the way it’s going to be, huh'” Then he folded, but I didn’t want him to see my A-K (now he knows though, after reading this article!), so I folded it face down. About three hands later, I limped with 3-4 off suit (or so I thought at the time), and the flop came down 2h-8h-Qs. Daniel checked, and now I looked more closely at my hand, which was the 3h-4h for a flush draw. In my mind I was thinking that this is same situation that Mark Seif had finished ninth with (a small heart draw against Daniels top pair). So I checked very quickly behind Daniel. The turn card brought down the 5h, for 2h-8h-Qs-5h, and Daniel checked again. Now I decided that a big bet relative to the size of the pot would be a good idea with my flush. I thought it might look like Q-Kh, or something similar, with a heart draw. So I bet out $30,000 into the $20,000 pot. Now Daniel started reaching deep (really deep) into his stack. Now Negreanu called the $30,000 and raised $100,000 more. Immediately I asked how much more he had, and he replied $117,000.

    I thought to myself that he had to have a big hand here, but what could I do” I counted out $217,000 and studied for a minute. I was thinking; if he has a flush, them I’m dead to the Ah or 6h here. Finally, I decided that I had to go with this hand, and I put $217,000 into the pot. Daniel then said, “I think I’m dead, but I’m calling you.” I said, “I don’t know about that, but I have a flush.” To my enormous relief he said, “That’s good so far,” and flipped Q-8, for top two pair.

    Please no queen or eight on the last card and it’s over! The river was a seven, which looked awfully close, but I had done it, I had won my ninth WSOP bracelet, and this one was going to go to my brother in Minneapolis! This one had tested my patience to the limit, or rather; Erik Seidel had tested my patience to the limit. I believe that; if the blinds had been raised faster, then Erik Seidel would have won it. I am very proud of myself for hanging in there and winning number nine.

    I hope that everyone enjoyed this week’s Hand of the Week’. Good luck playing your hands this week.