• The Race to 10 Bracelets

    Date: 2005.07.11 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    I was hoping to be the first player to cross the historic threshold to World Series of Poker (WSOP) win No. 10. With three of us, Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson and I all knotted up at nine bracelets apiece coming into the 2005 WSOP, the race was on, and ESPN was hyping it all the way. It was about 12 days ago, then, while Brunson and I were both deep into the pot-limit Omaha tournament, that Chan won his No. 10, in the pot-limit Hold’em. Of course, ESPN interviewed the two of us to get our reaction. Brunson and I both said, “Chan is a great player and a great guy, so having him get there first is fine with us.” Brunson added, “I’ll just win this next one and tie him.”

    Brunson didn’t make it to the final table in that tournament, but I did. (With a crushing eighth-place finish, though, my dreams of garnering No. 10 there fell well short.) But in the very next tournament — the no-limit Hold’em — the 71-year-old Brunson did make the final table, and went on to win his 10th bracelet. I’m very happy for Brunson and Chan, and proud of them, but I’m not crazy about losing my record! (ESPN will show both of their wins, sometime in the next few months.)

    On Monday, in the $1,000-buy-in no-limit Hold’em tournament with rebuys (buying more chips before leaving the table), I was hoping to catch the boys with my own bracelet No. 10. And if all I could manage to do was be among the final 86 players I would be the first to reach 50 “cashes” (times in the money) in WSOP history. We were down to about 150 of the 1,000 players who started the tournament when the following hand came up.

    The blinds were $300-$600 with a $25 ante when I opened for $1,500 with A-Q in early position. The famous French singer Patrick Bruelle — who has one WSOP bracelet and does the commentary for the World Poker Tour in France — called my bet, and then a woman unknown to me moved all-in. Having made up my mind to go with this hand, I then raised it up, which is a bad way to play the game.

    My reasoning was that the other players at the table kept reraising me and I kept folding, and that I had to make a stand soon. Even so, I had made the right move by studying my opponent for a bit. But she was sitting perfectly still, her hair covering her face, and I didn’t have a good read on her. I probably should have known that she had me beat, but my early reasoning combined with my somewhat weak read had me calling off my last $8,175. And it’s not my style to call off my money with A-Q.

    First, I hate calling for all of my chips (you can go broke that way), and second, A-Q is rarely the best hand when someone moves all-in over top of it. In any case, my instincts had said “Call.” Turns out I was wrong, the unknown woman had A-K and wound up winning the $22,000 pot and busting me, but because I had gone with my instincts, I have a lot less problem with the call. After all, my instincts have been good to me for a long time in the poker world.
    The main event began July 7 — 6,600 players or more are expected — and if I won that one I will have broken every record in poker. But in order to do that, I will need to throw away A-Q at the critical moment!

    Trusting your instincts in no limit Hold’em is:
    a.) the best way to win
    b.) important in poker, and elsewhere as well
    c.) something every poker champion does
    d.) all of the above

    Answer: D