• Sully’s Bad Beat – And His Cool Tattoo

    Date: 2008.04.14 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    (Hellmuth here: About 18 months ago, Sully Erna, the charismatic lead singer of Godsmack, took a bad beat so upsetting that he went out and got a huge tattoo on his back. Erna’s poker story — in his own words — follows.)

    I had been at the Bellagio playing in a tournament with David Plastik and Gavin Smith, but I was knocked out by midday so I decided to go play in a cash game. I sat in on a $5 to $10 no-limit hold ’em table to kill time. I sat in seat one and bought in for $500. Four hours later, I was sitting on about $3,000. In the big blind, I peered down at pocket aces and watched two people ahead of me limp into the pot for $10. Seat 10 raised it up to $90 to go, I smooth called, and both limpers went away. The flop came down As-Qs-Ah. I checked … seat 10 bet $220, and I smooth called again. The turn card was the 10s, I checked, praying that he had spades, and he bet $500. I raised it up to $1,100 to go, and he pushed all-in! He had me covered, so I called for all of my remaining chips. I proudly flipped over my four aces, and he showed me pocket kings with the king of spades. “Yummy!” I thought.

    Then the river card was peeled off, and the Js hit the felt as if it were in slow motion — like in a movie. Boom! Royal flush for seat 10, and a big pile of chips gets pushed his way. I stood up from the table and said, “There’s no justice in poker.” I then called my friend Nina, who hooked me up with her tattoo artist. I headed down to his shop, where he tattooed four aces going up in flames on my entire back with a banner below it, which read: “No Justice.”

    Why do I still love this game? Why wouldn’t I? I have a great life that allows me to stay home and watch my 6-year-old daughter grow up. I can create my own schedule with my music, which leaves me plenty of room to join the boys at the poker table. And the more I play, the more I learn. I am grateful to Annie Duke, David Plastik, Phil Laak, Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Hellmuth for believing in me enough to pass along “their wisdom and point of views.”

    The bottom line is that the people who play this game enough all understand how brutal and unforgiving it can be. But we also know that great rush you feel when you’re running hot! And that’s why we keep coming back.

    To me, no-limit hold ’em is more like a sport than gambling. I’ve never been the type of gambler who will toss quarters for $100 a flip. Or dump thousands on rolling dice. Poker is a mind game. And there is a lot of strategy to it. Granted, the cards will fall where they may, and at the end of the day, you have to be lucky to win a poker tournament. But getting to a final table and giving yourself the opportunity to capture a title — or even just cashing and making the money consistently — is where practiced strategy and study come into play. There’s a reason that you see the same faces over and over again making final tables. Luck? Maybe; but I think not. To get there, you have to know the game of no-limit hold ’em, and study your opponents’ play. And that just simply takes hours and hours of practice.

    For all of you grumpy, complaining poker players who are always whining and saying, “This game sucks. Why do I even play?” I say swallow your ego a little bit, do your homework and look at your game with a more critical eye. Maybe you’ll find things that you can tweak, just like the rest of us. For me, whenever I sit at a table, I think, “What a cool life I have. I have a beautiful daughter who loves me; I sing for one of the biggest rock bands in America; and I play cards in my free time and actually get paid for it!” Life doesn’t suck; this is a great game.

    As for now, I am working on my solo album, which I hope to release by February 2009. Godsmack is currently on break, but we will try and write sometime in 2009 … maybe! In the meantime, I am doing solo appearances in casinos around the country — just me, an acoustic guitar and a piano — singing my songs and talking to people about my life and theirs: the good times, the bad times and why music is so powerful. We’re calling these up-close and intimate shows “An Evening with Sully.” For more info, visit www.myspace.com/acessuck. And by the way, I still love this game!

    (Hellmuth again: Erna finished second in a $5,000 buy-in tournament at the Bellagio in December and won $307,000.)