• The Mandalay Bay Play

    Date: 2007.06.04 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    The Mandalay Bay recently hosted a $10,000 buy-in World Poker Tour tournament. Because this event ran right before the start of the World Series of Poker, many of the top players in the world turned out to play. I was thinking, “Why not win a WSOP bracelet, and a WPT title, in the same month?”

    Although the tournament began at noon, I showed up close to 4 p.m., which is well beyond my customary late appearance. But I knew that the structure was a slow one, and that it wouldn’t hurt me too much to show up late. One more time, I chose extra sleep over showing up on time.

    About an hour after I arrived, with the blinds at $100-$200 and a $25 a man ante, I raised it up to $700 to go with As-6s. I was called by a player right behind me, and then Player A (a loose, aggressive player) in the big blind called as well. The flop came down 6h-4c-3c, Player A checked, I bet out $1,400, and the other player folded. Player A called and the turn card was the Ad. Now I had top two pair. Player A checked, I bet out $2,500, and Player A called. The last card was the 8c, and Player A checked. I reasoned that Player A had a draw, but if it was a flush draw, then why did he check when he hit his flush?

    As I debated my options — checking or betting were both valid options — I decided that Player A did not have a flush. Thus I bet out $3,000, whereupon Player A announced, “I raise,” and then put in $5,000 more. I decided to call (I went with my original read), and Player A showed me the Kc-Qc, which meant that he had a very powerful flush. Now I felt like a fool, although it didn’t escape me that Player A only had seven winning cards in the deck, as the Ac or 6c would have busted him.

    Why did I pay off $5,000 more on the end? Why didn’t I smell the flush in the first place and check behind Player A, and save myself the whole $8,000? I was disappointed in the way that I played this hand on the last round of betting. I need to able to determine whether someone is weak or strong, otherwise why bother playing in any of the 55 WSOP events in 2007?

    Seven weeks of poker, and many traps need to be dodged. So I hate the fact that I put $8,000 into the pot after Player A hit his hand. Did Player A do anything wrong in this hand? His pre-flop call from the big blind was OK. His $1,400 call on the flop was natural and perfectly fine. The other weaker option on the flop was to raise it up. On the turn, his $2,500 call was a bit weak. After all, he was calling $2,500 to win $8,000. The chances of him making a flush is roughly 4-to-1 against (35 bad cards and nine good cards), and the pot was only laying him a little more than 3-to-1 ($8,000 to $2,500). Still, it was not a bad call, just a little weak. His check raise on the river worked perfectly against me, so I must give him credit for making good play. Normally I would not advise someone to check a strong hand to a top player like me, who is capable of checking behind you.

    In any case, I left myself with $5,000 (we started with $20,000), but I looked at it as a test. I would grind as hard as I could, just like I want to do every day at the WSOP. A few minutes later, I picked up 9-9, and opened for $700. A player right behind me made it $1,800 more to go, and I called. My plan was to check the flop, and then determine whether my hand was the best hand, or not. The flop came down Kc-Jc-2c, and I checked. My opponent bet out $2,000, and I pondered for a moment. I couldn’t beat A-K anymore, nor could I beat a pocket pair higher than nines. Also, there were three clubs on board, and I didn’t have a club in my hand. Still, there was something about this $2,000 bet that smelled of weakness.

    Finally I said, “OK, I’ll let you bluff me out, you probably have pocket eights or something similar.” My opponent than showed me his 3h-3d, and I was immediately steamed up. Why didn’t I go with my instincts? Why didn’t I move all-in before the flop, especially as I only had $5,000 in total? Another bad read — sigh. I fought for a while longer, and eventually I was eliminated after I moved all-in with pocket fours, and was called by pocket kings.

    If I want to claim bracelet No. 11 this year, then I better snap into form ASAP! I need to read my opponents well, and then act accordingly. I need patience, discipline, and some good luck along the way.

    (As you read this, WSOP is in full swing. You can follow my progress at my Weblog at PhilHellmuth.com or you simply want to see how your favorite player is holding up, then follow along at Cardplayer.com.)

    Calling a bet on a draw requires:
    A) The right “Pot odds”
    B) The right draw
    C) A little courage
    D) All of the above.

    Answer: C