• Westcott’s Crazy Like a Fox

    Date: 2008.01.14 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    While shooting the finale for a new reality program, the “Best Damn Poker Show,” featuring Annie Duke and me, my friend Carl Westcott went crazy. First of all, a word about the new show. It will be airing on FSN (Fox Sports Net) in January, and will feature 36 players, six of whom are sent home on the first show. A draft of nine players for “Team Hellmuth” and nine players for “Team Duke” will follow, then a series of “three vs. three” playoffs and a “three vs. three” finale. Seven episodes in all. Annie and I see all of the hole cards, and we coach before, during and after each match, and she and I have some pretty juicy fights along the way.

    Without revealing the final result, I’ll dissect Westcott’s crazy play. There are several types of crazy. We have a bad crazy, a good crazy and a brilliant crazy. And Westcott’s play falls into the brilliant category. Carl noticed that no one in the finale was making a stand, and decided to play super-aggressive poker. He raised it up with weak hands (like 6-5 and J-8) all day long and won pot after pot with nothing. These free chips — blinds and antes — quickly added up. In fact, Westcott picked up so much driftwood (free money in antes, blinds, calls and raises) that he built a mansion.

    After a “Hollywood Dave” Stann raise to $40,000 with 4-4, Westcott sensed weakness and moved all-in for $150,000 with 8-3 off suit. He won that pot, too, when Stann folded before the flop (add $65,000 in driftwood). When Westcott opened for $30,000 with 9-7 off suit and both blinds folded, he added $27,000 more in driftwood. Later, after Tracy Scala moved all-in for $50,000 on the button with K-6, Westcott moved all-in with Ad-8d from the small blind, and Stann called all-in himself with Q-10 unsuited. (No comment on whether Westcott won that pot or not.)  The super-aggressive theory of poker has been rekindled on the Internet and is used by many of the young Internet stars these days. They are onto something. In fact, in the old days (the 1990s), I used to deploy those tactics myself.

    When everyone else played snugly, folding hand after hand, I came out firing. I was trying to pick up all of the antes, blinds, calls and other bets that lay in the pot, uncontested. And it worked for a while. I picked up so much driftwood that I built a row of mansions. I mean, if you could pick up tons of chips risk-free, you could afford to be unlucky more often than anyone else, and still have chips left over. To my mind, winning risk-free is the best way to play hold ’em. Of course, what many of the young Internet stars of today fail to realize is this: When the other players at your table latch onto what you’re doing, then you can lose a lot of money quickly. Sure, an aggressive style of poker can work well against the worldwide public, but bring it to the World Series of Poker and you’ll get eaten alive.

    Westcott understood that everyone else was laying down to him, so he kept grabbing all of that driftwood. And somehow, he had a way of doing it that worked perfectly, because the other players kept thinking he was playing strong hands. He had pulled the wool over their eyes. This billionaire from Texas just seemed as if he was always in deep timber when he was really on a Christmas-tree farm. I’d hate to have been on the other side of the table from him with the uber buyout firm KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) when they bought Westcott Communications for $500 million. Carl sold because he feared that the Internet would hurt his business, and he was soon proved right, in spades. When I pulled Westcott out of the match to substitute another celebrity player, my advice to him was, “When I put you back in there, keep playing super-aggressive poker. You have them folding like lambs. Don’t let up.”

    What can aggressive play lead to?
    A) Win a lot of money quickly
    B) Lose a lot of money quickly
    C) Picking up driftwood
    D) All of the above

    Answer: D