• Winning from the Hole

    Date: 2006.11.13 | Category: Hand Of The Week | By: Phil Hellmuth   

    The 2007 TOC (Tournament of Champions) will undoubtedly be repeated quite a bit on the ESPN family of networks over the next few months. After all, Mike “The mouth” Matusow, Daniel “Kid poker” Negreanu, and WPT (World Poker Tour) announcer and professional player Mike Sexton were the final players left standing — and all are big names in the poker world. Of course, Matusow and Negreanu are always extremely entertaining to watch with their banter, barbs and trash talking. Most importantly, let’s not forget that all three were playing some top-notch no-limit Hold ’em.

    A lot was made of the fact that Sexton has improved his game by watching the hole cards from every WPT event over the last four years, and I do believe that that was a big factor in his win. I know that it always helps my game when I observe the hole cards in the poker tournaments where I commentate, including “Celebrity Poker Showdown” (Bravo). The celebrity players may not have been the best, but it was still educational for me. (I noticed that the celebrities bet way too much when they had a strong hand.) In fact, even as I watched the TOC on television this week, I was picking up things.

    An interesting hand came up as I was watching, and although I have never written about a hand simply by watching it on TV before, I thought this one would have some strong educational value for my readers. With the blinds at $5,000-$10,000, Matusow limped in on the button with Kh-2h, Negreanu called with 8-7, and Sexton opted not to raise it up with his 7-3. The flop was Qh-9s-3h, and all three players checked. I do not mind Matusow’s check here on the flop, even though he had a flush draw. Of course, a bet here would have been a good move as well. On the turn the Ac came off, Negreanu and Sexton checked, Matusow bet $20,000, Negreanu folded and Sexton called.

    Sexton made a good call here with bottom pair. Matusow has been known to bluff quite a bit in the past. The last card came off as the Jd, Sexton checked, and Matusow bet out $60,000. Kudos to Matusow for reading Sexton as being super weak, and making a big bet (a strong bluff) with great timing. This bet of Matusow’s would have won this pot from the majority of players, but Sexton dug down deep and made the call. And what a spectacular call it was!

    First Sexton reasoned that Matusow was bluffing on the turn (when Sexton called the $20,000 bet). Given that Sexton had the best hand on the turn, the key to this call was the large size ($60,000) of the bet on the end. If Sexton had Matusow beat on the turn, then how could Matusow bet so much on the end with just a pair of jacks? So Sexton could eliminate a pair of jacks because of the size of the bet. Sexton reasoned that Matusow either had a super-strong hand, like a straight (K-10 or 10-8), or two pair — or, nothing at all. The rest was guesswork, guts and a great read.

    Congratulations to Sexton for winning the 2007 TOC, a tournament that he himself invented (with a little different format) in 1998!