• Rock Stars Can Play, Baby!

    Date: 2007.12.17 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    On Sunday, Dec. 9, Godsmack’s lead singer, Sully Erna, entered a $500 buy-in satellite tournament at the Bellagio for the $5,000 buy-in event on Monday. Erna was looking for action, and the board (waiting list) for the no-limit side games was just too long, so he hopped into the satellite, and won it, which gained him entry into the big tournament the next day. If you’re not sure who Erna is, Godsmack’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” is all over the radio, and may be No. 1 by the time you read this article. At the end of day one, with 15 remaining players, Erna had the chip lead. By the time I received a text from him on day two, he was the chip leader at the final table, and first place was more than $500,000.

    I had worked with Erna for three days the week before — Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday — on my new reality program called the “Best Damn Poker Show,” as I drafted him for “Team Hellmuth.” Although Erna is a skilled poker player, he never had any formal training or lessons. Somehow, he never had read a book or watched a DVD on how to play no-limit hold ’em. During “Best Damn Poker Show,” I had the chance to watch Erna’s hole cards from the booth over the course of several hours.

    In one hand, with the blinds at $1,000 to $2,000, Dr. Allan Mishra opened for $7,000 with 8-8, and Erna defended with 6s-5s in the big blind. The flop came down 10s-7h-3s. Erna checked, Mishra bet $12,000, and Erna called. The turn card was the 6d. Erna checked, Mishra bet $25,000, and Erna called. The river was the 8c. Mishra checked, Erna bet $45,000, and Mishra called. This was an interesting hand to say the least.

    I broke it down for Erna like this: First, throw the 6s-5s away for a raise pre-flop. Second, calling on the flop was fine, but raising it up was also fine, and in this case, it would have worked because Mishra would have been forced to fold his 8-8. Calling on the turn was the right move. Bluffing on the river was weak for two reasons: a) It is tough to bluff anyone on the river these days; and b) You have a pair anyway, so why bluff? Bottom line to Erna: Stop defending with suited connectors like 6s-5s — they can get you into a lot of trouble. As to the way Mishra played the hand, I loved his betting pattern.

    Later, I watched Erna play a hand in the finals of our reality show. The producers don’t want me to give away the results, but one hand won’t hurt. With the blinds at $2,000 to $4,000, Tracy Scala opened for $11,000 with As-9c, and Erna raised it up $14,000 more with 10-10. We knew who was in the finals for both teams, so I taught Erna to trap Scala by making a smaller reraise because I thought that Scala might bluff off his chips to Erna. Scala called the $14,000 reraise, the flop was Kh-9h-7s, and both players checked. The turn card was the 5h, and now Erna bet out $30,000. Scala called, and from the booth I said out loud, “We got him. Please don’t turn an ace, a nine or a heart!” The river was the Jh. Erna checked, and Scala moved all-in. Erna now folded his hand to the four hearts on the board. In the booth, no one could blame him.

    Let’s take a closer look at this hand. I loved the pre-flop reraise of only $14,000, especially against Scala (keep him in the pot!). I don’t mind the check on the flop. I loved the $30,000 bet on the turn, and Scala’s call was OK. I liked Erna’s check on the river, although a semi-bluff small bet of, say, $10,000 might have frozen Scala from making a bold bluff. Scala’s bluff on the river was a strong play, and I have to give him credit for it. Although he didn’t have the best hand, his bluff guaranteed he was going to win that pot. Of course, no one in the booth could criticize Erna’s fold on the river. A call there would have been world-class.

    “Phil’s Team” scored pretty well when Erna took second place to J.C. Tran and won more than $300,000. Think Erna’s running good? A second-place finish in a tournament he wasn’t planning to play — and a top-10 single!

    Calling raises with suited connectors can lead to:
    A) Trouble!
    B) Winning a big pot.
    C) More bad things than good things.
    D) All of the above.

    Answer: A.