The popular NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship began its 2009 season broadcast on Sunday, April 12. I drew World Poker Tour host Mike Sexton in the first round.
Most of you know Sexton as an announcer but I know him as a grizzled veteran of the professional poker tour.
I knew a couple of facts about Sexton. I knew that he’d never give away a nickel in our match and would never give up even if he were short on chips. He’d never let his guard down if I was short on chips and he’d fight hard from start to finish.
The tournament buy-in was $20,000 and we started with 20,000 chips each. After some initial sparring, I felt I had a good read on Mike. I raised it up when I sensed weakness and folded when he looked strong, and took an early lead when I hit 25,000 chips to his 15,000.
Sexton had staged a comeback to around 18,000 when the producer of the show, Morey Eskandani, a well-liked former professional poker player, came to center stage as the cards were being dealt and told me that I couldn’t wear my UltimateBet logo hat.
Mike warned Eskandani not to get me upset or I’d raise it up! And that’s when I looked down at a pretty nice hand, Ah-Js.
With blinds at $300/$600, and with Sexton expecting me to raise with anything, that’s just what I did. I opened for $2,100 and Sexton pushed it to $5,500.
I was confused. I half-expected him to reraise; I thought that he thought I would raise with any two cards because I was steaming about having to change my hat.
Did Sexton have a real hand?
I decided to pull out one my biggest poker weapons. I’d try to get Sexton to talk and see if he’d reveal information about the strength of his hand. I asked him, “What will you do if I move all-in?” No answer.
I was thinking he had a queen in his hand or maybe pocket nines or tens. I repeated the same question. This time he replied, “You have to do what you have to do.”
I read that to mean that he was extremely strong! Could he possibly have pocket queens?
Two or three minutes passed before I realized I was over-thinking the situation. I read Sexton for strength but what were the chances that he’d have a hand that was so strong that he’d call an $18,000 all-in move?
I decided to shove all-in.
Mike checked his hole cards once again and made the call. I asked if he had the queens and got the bad news. Even though I strongly suspected that Sexton had pocket queens, I still moved all-in! What was I thinking?
That’s when I felt myself start to turn into the familiar Poker Brat because I was disappointed with the way I played the hand. My emotions were rising up but Sexton remained the classy guy he is. Now was the time for me to be the “new Phil” and stop whining and show some serious class, too.
The flop came Jc-9h-8h. I asked for a heart on the turn so I’d have some outs but out came the 4c. I was in trouble. I needed one of three aces or one of two jacks to hit on the river.
I was stunned when the river card was the ace of spades!
On air, I gave Sexton credit for having the best hand. Then, I started to prepare for my second round opponent, an internet qualifier named Jeffrey Ishbia.
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