• The Sky is Falling

    Date: 2004.04.01 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    While hanging around with some of the top pro poker players recently, the following statement came up regarding Alan Goehring, Robert Varkonyi and Jimmy White; who won, in order first to last mentioned, the World Championship (WSOP “Big one”), the $25,000 World Poker Tour (WPT) Championship event, and the Poker Million–the Masters: “The Sky is Falling!” I mean, Varkonyi is an amateur who competed against the best poker players in the world, and had to be at least a 5,000 to 1 underdog to win the five-day long WSOP: Goehring is another amateur who had to be at least a 1,000 to 1 underdog to win the five-day long WPT Championship: and White is a very inexperienced poker player who plays Snooker for a living, and claimed in the press later that it sure helped his “game” to play online poker.

    In all three cases, these players played hands that anybody who knows anything about poker wouldn’t have played. Maybe they’re onto something new regarding no limit Hold’em strategy. Seriously, it looked like the they played so badly, that perhaps we should disregard traditional poker philosophy and tactics. They either were incredibly lucky or they played so far above the rim that no one knows exactly how they each won.

    Jimmy White reportedly called $90,000 in the $10,000 big blind with 6-4 off suit–it turned out that the all-in player only had A-2, and Jimmy won it with a river 6. While at my table in the WPT Championship I saw Alan make it $5,000 to go, and then call my $15,000 bet–a $10,000 raise–with 4h-7h without so much as a blink of the eye. It turned out I was bluffing with 7d-8d, and that I had him buried–we split this one with a 7-7-6-6-3 final board.

    I watched with astonishment as Alan then limped in for $1,500 with 7d-3d in middle position, and then called a $10,000 raise as well. This time the flop was 7-6-5, and he called a $18,000 bet; then a 6 for 7-6-5-6, and he called $30,000; finally a river 7 for a board of 7-6-5-6-7, and now his opponent moved all-in over $100,000 on a bluff. Give Alan some credit here as his opponent was bluffing every street and he managed to make the tough calls.

    I looked over at Alan at that moment and noticed that he now had over $600,000 in chips, in a tournament where $200,000 was second place. But did Alan try to hold his position” Did he hold on to those precious chips till at least the end of the day” Did he tighten up and protect his chips” Nope, he gave Doyle $250,000 when he had 2-5 off suit, and Alan Cunningham $150,000 when he had 5-6 off suit. Later, I looked over and saw that Alan was down to less than $200,000 in chips that same day!

    At the final table Alan raised it to $15,000 and then called a $30,000 raise with Jh-3h from Bruno Fitoussi. It turned out that Bruno was bluffing with Qs-9s, and Bruno bet the 6-6-5 flop as well for $40,000, whereupon Alan called him with no pair and no draw. They both checked on fourth street, Alan then bluffed out $100,000 on the river, won the pot when Bruno folded, and then showed Bruno the bluff! Give Alan credit here as it was a pretty sporty play to make at this point in the tournament.

    Was Alan satisfied with an occasional risky play” Nope, he then called $80,000 with J-3 off suit, at a ten-handed final table, after Phil Ivey opened for $80,000, and Layne Flack called with K-J. (Read that last line again!) Of course the flop came down J-3-2, Phil checked his 10-10, and then Layne bet his last $460,000 or so, and Alan sent Layne packing with a very puzzled look on his face. (What must Layne have been thinking to get busted by this crazy play at the final table of the WPT Championship” Brutal!)

    On another occasion, Alan opened for $60,000 with the blinds $15,000-$30,000 with J-J; and Doyle Brunson, who had seen quite enough, moved all-in with Q-8 for about $450,000 or so. Ted Forrest, sensing weakness in Doyle, then called the bet with A-J for his last $450,000 or so. Nice read Teddy, but you forgot to study Alan this time. By the way, Teddy did end up beating Doyle’s Q-8…Give credit to Alan again for his call here, he didn’t have to call, as a matter of fact he didn’t have to win the pot either, but he did call, and he did have the best hand, and he did eliminate Doyle and Teddy on the same hand. Varkonyi made some unorthodox plays as well (but my friends say I wrote about this too much), and he caught a huge rush of cards at the final table to win the WSOP.

    Were these three players just incredibly lucky or are they super geniuses”(Clearly, they were lucky when 7-4, 7-3, Q-10, J-3, and another J-3 win big key pots for them.) My sense is that the more they learn about Hold’em the worse that their results will be. However, lets give them credit for winning, especially in a non-traditional way. If someone walking on water thinks that everyone else walks on water as well, then it is easier to believe that they can walk on water. If you believe that you can walk on water, then perhaps you can.

    Jimmy, Robert and especially Alan, it will be interesting to see whether, in the future, you learn from the great players or teach the great players a thing or two’Is the sky really falling or a new breed of player taking over’

    I hope that everyone enjoyed this weeks Hand of the Week’. Good luck playing your hands this week.