• The Hellmuth Train Wreck

    Date: 2007.05.07 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    In the $25,000 buy-in Tour Championship event that I played in last week, I feel like near perfect play would carry a player for three days, regardless of the hands you pick up. The structure was that slow and good.

    Of course, picking up A-A and getting most of your money in pre-flop against someone who then outdraws you would be a tough way to avoid going broke. But other than a really unlucky situation, I believe that I should last at least three days, at least when I’m on top of my game. After playing perfect poker for three days, I woke up on Day 4 feeling miserably tired. So what? I woke up super tired Day 2 as well and pushed through that all the way to the chip lead. I should have been able to push through this too, but for some reason I struggled.

    I had a bad feeling when I got up (probably because I was so tired), even though I was chip leader with $1,827,000 in chips. About two hours into Day 4, after cresting at $2 million, I raised on the button with Kc-Qc, and David Levi made it $160,000 more to go from the small blind. I knew that Levi sometimes overplays medium pairs, but still, why get involved with this hand? Why not lay it down? I mean, Levi was playing really tight, and even if he did have a medium pair, he had my hand beat. I called, the flop came down K-6-5, Levi moved all-in for $400,000, and I called. He showed me A-K, and I had to ask myself, “Why did you get involved with K-Q? You were at a super safe $2 million in chips, winning all kinds of small pots, and now you get involved here?” The worst move that I made in this hand was calling the $160,000 before the flop. So take away $600,000 from my stack!

    Twenty minutes later I raised it up, after only seeing only one of my hole cards; the ace of spades. One top young Internet player called me from the small blind, the flop came down Ac-9s-4d, and the Internet guy bet $60,000. I looked down at my other card, found a six and called. The next card was the Ad, and now the Internet player bet out $180,000. Right here, right now, I should have laid the hand down, even though I had three aces. Under normal circumstances, it wasn’t even a hard lay down for me to make. I mean, what hand could he have that I could beat? He played this hand way too aggressively (he is young), and gave me an easy fold. I mean, our young Internet player should have tried to win about $100,000 on the turn and another $150,000 on the river (which I would have had to have called). Although his aggressive play of the hand gave me the opportunity to fold after the ace hit, I didn’t take it.
    A jack hit on the river, and now he moved all-in for $300,000 or so. Again, I should have folded, although now folding was not an easy option. I called, he showed me pocket nines, for a full house, and I was now down to less than $1 million in chips. Bad play on my part, pure and simple. Was I super unlucky that I had three aces this hand? Yes, but so what. This is where the great players make the big bucks, by laying down strong hands at the right time. From there, I stayed pretty aggressive, and was a bit unlucky to lose about $250,000 more.

    I gave away more than $1 million on those two bad plays. That’s not my style. I usually avoid playing big pots, especially with hands that aren’t super strong. I won my chips, and had the chip lead after Day 2 and Day 3, by playing controlled poker. I just sat back and waited for the other players to make mistakes that I could take advantage of. Whilst I controlled the size of the pots I played, making sure that I lost the minimum if I did happen to get unlucky and lose a pot with a super strong hand. Sometimes, I played super patiently, and at other times, when they let me, I raised it up eight out of 10 pots.

    So sometimes I played super patiently, and at other times I overpowered the table. At all times however, I avoided putting in too many chips with weak hands. I went on record saying that this one WPT event was worth more than a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet to me (the “NBC Heads Up Championships” is pretty special as well). Of course, the main event of the WSOP trumps them all! The WPT Championships slow structure allowed for a ton of skill. Winning this event would make for a special feather in my cap. So that blowing off $1 million in chips made for a long, tough, frustrating night for me.

    Still I made it to the end of the day, and after four long days of poker, we were down to the final 27 players; with first place being $4 million. Now I had some time to regroup, get a nap, and map out my strategy for Day 5. I could still come back and win this thing, right?

    One hallmark of a great poker player is:
    A) The ability to fold strong hands at the right time
    B) The ability to blow off chips!
    C) The ability to act like a “Poker Brat!”
    D) The ability to blame others when you play bad!

    Answer: A