• The Tour Championship

    Date: 2006.04.24 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    I tried something new the day of the $25,000 buy-in World Poker Tour Championship (WPT) event. Rather than sleep in on Day 1, I went to the MGM Grand at 11 a.m. to film the finale for Bravo’s “Top Chef” (I was a judge). Afterwards, I went to the gym, and made my customarily late entrance to a Championship poker event — a near-record three hours late.

    In this tournament, we started with $50,000 in chips and the blinds were raised very slowly, so that I had over $47,000 in chips when I sat down. The trade-off for the $3,000 chip sacrifice was that I was feeling refreshed, and, of course, I had eaten some very delicious food. Being distracted in this way seemed to suit me well, and I started off on a winning note. Before long, I had accumulated $30,000 in chips, and I was off to a nice start.

    I would like to tell you that it was smooth sailing for the rest of the day (we played until 9 p.m.), but the following two hands tell a different story. At around 7:30 p.m., I picked up pocket aces, and decided to play a big pot. Too often lately, I have been playing small pots with pocket aces or pocket kings, and this has been hurting my chances of winning. It’s important to play some big pots, at least a few of them per day. With the blinds at $300-$600, and a $75 a player ante, Player A made it $2,100 to go. I decided to make my move, and I reraised it to $7,000 to go, throwing my chips into the pot with the same mannerisms, and same “splash” of the chips that I had used the last time I was caught bluffing. I was sending Player A a false tell of weakness, even though I had the strongest possible hand.

    Player A called the $7,000 bet, the flop came down J-10-3, Player A checked, and I bet out $10,000. This was my biggest bet of the day. After a full minute, Player A raised $10,000, and I, knowing full well that Player A had about $45,000 left, moved all-in. Player A called instantly, which is always a bad sign, and showed me pocket 10s. Player A had flopped three 10s! I had finally decided to play a huge pot, with pocket aces no less, and Played A showed me trips, ouch. The next card was a king, and the last card was a nine, so that if I had played my hand slow, and just called his raise before the flop, I would have saved a lot of money (because the final board was four cards to a straight J-10-3-K-9). Do I regret my play here’ No, I was trying to play a big pot with pocket aces and it was tough luck that I ran into three 10s.

    Pot No. 2 came up about 10 minutes later. A player opened for $2,000 with A-10, I called with 10-10, and Roy Thung called from the small blind. The flop was 6-3-2, Thung checked, the original raiser checked, and now I bet out $4,000 with my pocket 10s. Thung raised it up, making it $6,000 more to call, and the original raiser folded his hand. What to do! Should I fold, should I call $6,000 more, or should I move all-in for $25,000 total?

    I began to study Thung, and it occurred to me that I didn’t think that he had pocket jacks or pocket queens, and I felt like he would have reraised with pocket kings or pocket aces before the flop. Thus, he had either flopped trips, or he had a pocket pair I could beat. Also, the thought that he may have been bluffing, or that he may have had A-6 in his hand, crossed my mind.

    Finally, I moved all-in and Thung called me instantly. Another instant call, another ‘uh oh’ moment, and Thung did indeed have me beat — he showed me his pocket deuces, which made three of a kind. I had made a bad read; thinking that Thung was weak when he was actually super strong. And now I was in a world of hurt. I couldn’t hit two flush cards or two straight cards to win this pot. No, I needed a 10, and unknown to me, the original raiser had folded a 10. Luckily for me, the turn card was the last miracle 10! I figure that I was over a 20-to-1 shot to hit a 10 (44-to-1 plus 43-to-1). Fortunately for me, I won the hand, and ended day one with $82,000 in chips.

    If you’re curious as to where I stand in this WPT Championship tournament at the moment you’re reading this, check out CardPlayer.com for live updates. By the way, the tournament ends on Monday, April 24.

    Play some big pots in a no-limit Hold ’em tournament:
    A) once a day
    B) 20 times a day
    C) never
    D) at least a few times a day
    Answer: D