• The Holiday Game

    Date: 2006.12.25 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    Recently, in Madison, Wis., we had our annual holiday poker game. It was pot limit Hold ’em with $5-$5 blinds, a $1,000 buy-in, with $500 rebuys. This was a hefty poker event for a game held in Madison! After years of winning during my Madison trips, in 2004 I set the record loss bar at $14,000. Word of my huge loss spread throughout the state, and my poker friends talked about it for a year. In fact, they couldn’t wait for me to come back to town in 2005.

    In 2005, I won $8,000 back, and so the stage was set for 2006. When we setup the game, it seemed like every poker player in the state of Wisconsin wanted a seat at that table. I asked for a 2 p.m. start time on Wednesday (Dec. 20), with a midnight break-up time (of course, we knew the game would go well past midnight). The game was held in Jon Green’s basement poker room, overlooking Lake Ripley, and featured Mark Kroon (online poker legend “P0ker H0”), Wayne “Tilly” Tyler, Tim Belstner, Larry Beilfus (“Concrete Larry”), amongst others.

    A few hours later, the following hand came up. Belstner called $5, Pizza Jimmy called $5, I called $5 with 10-9, P0ker H0 called $5, Brett Weum called $5, and Green made it $35 to go. Then Belstner called $35, Jimmy called $35, I called $35, H0 called $35, and Weum called the $35 and raised it up $245 more. Green called $245, Jimmy called $245, I called $245, and H0 called $245. The flop was Qd-Jh-4d, and everyone checked to Weum, who then moved all-in for his last $395. Green called, I called with my open ended straight draw, and H0 called. The turn card was the 10s, Green checked, I checked, and H0 bet $900. Green folded, and I had a big decision. I called, the last card was the 8c, I immediately moved all-in for my last $1,240, and H0 folded. I was awarded the nearly $5,000 pot with my king high straight. Weum showed down pocket kings, and H0 showed trip fours.

    Let’s talk about this hand for a moment. First off, we were playing a bit of deep stack poker here, which means that you can play a lot looser before the flop trying to get lucky and hit a straight or a flush and win a big pot. Thus I have no problem with everyone calling the $5 bets, and the $35 raises. I love the way Weum played his hand; he just called $5 hoping that Green would raise it up and allow Weum to trap everyone in the middle for $35 apiece. Then Weum “closed the trap” by making a pot-sized reraise. This $245 reraise would have allowed Weum — under most circumstances — to win the pot right then and there. How about the $245 calls? I do not know what Green had, but my call required a lot of thought, and a lot of gamble. My call was probably a bad one, and was definitely a bit weak. Before I called the $245 I noticed that Weum had another $395 left, and I felt like my exposure would be only another $395, as I felt like Weum would move all-in on most flops. All-in-all, I was just trying to get lucky and win a huge pot somehow with my 10-9. H0’s call with 4-4 was a good one.

    On the flop Weum’s all-in move was natural, my call was natural as I now had an open-ended straight draw (I needed a king or an eight), and H0’s call with trip fours was OK. I would have loved to see H0 make some sort of raise on the flop, of perhaps $500 to $800. Then H0 could further protect his hand by moving all-in after the 10s came off. Of course, H0 was waiting for one safe card to hit before he made his move, and I do not blame him too much for this line of thinking.

    On the turn I would love to see H0 bet a lot more. I mean why bet only $900 when there was already $3,000 in the pot? In fact, if he bet $2,000, then I would have folded for sure and H0 would have won the pot. As to my $900 call on the turn, I like it. In fact, I was on the verge of folding my hand, but it suddenly hit me that H0 didn’t have a straight. You see, I couldn’t put H0 on A-K (I know he would have reraised it himself before the flop with A-K), and it was hard to imagine that he had K-9. Thus, I called the bet feeling that H0 had two pair, perhaps queens and 10s or jacks and 10s, but not a straight. I felt that I needed an eight or a king to win the pot, and that there were eight of them left. If I had eight wins, then I was a roughly a 4-to-1 underdog. In fact I had six wins, and I was about a 6-to-1 underdog.

    On the end, I made a huge mistake by not only betting quickly (a sign of strength), but also by betting everything I had left (another sign of strength). I should have taken my time, and bet about $500 or so. I quit a little after midnight up $1,450 for the session, although I had been winning almost $8,000 a few hours earlier. I love the game, and I love the guys, and I’ll be back!