Arts & Entertainment

Phil Hellmuth on Poker: National Heads-Up Poker Championship — Round Four vs. Bertrand Grospelier

The National Heads-Up Poker Championship is now in the midst of its six-week run on NBC.

I got lucky and beat Mike Sexton when my A-J finished ahead of his pocket queens. Next, I beat amateur qualifier Jeffrey Ishbia. In the Sweet Sixteen, I beat internet sensation Tom “Durrr” Dwan with a huge bluff to advance to the Elite Eight.

Next up, I’d face up-and-coming poker star, Bertrand “Elky” Grospelier for the right to play in the Final Four.

Grospelier recently appeared on the cover of Card Player magazine with the headline, “Training to be the Greatest”. How true. He made the final table at this year’s WPT $25,000 buy-in World Championship event. Last year, he won two $10,000 buy-in online tournaments. Only 25 years old, Elky figures to be a threat for years to come.

Before the match, fellow poker pro Mike “The Mouth” Matusow called to tell me how much Elky liked to bluff. Now, I generally don’t like scouting reports on my opponents. I prefer to observe my opponents across the table and develop a counter-strategy for whatever they have planned.

On the very first hand played, with $160,000 in chips and blinds at $1,000/$2,000, I limped in on the button with 8-5. The flop came Q-8-7. Elky and I both checked.

The turn card was a king. Elky bet out $3,700.

There were two spades on the board along with some straight draws. My pair of eights figured to be the best hand so I raised, making it $10,000 to go. Elky fired back with a reraise to $24,000 and I called.

The river card was a seven; I couldn’t beat anything except a busted draw. If Elky had a king, a queen or a seven in his hand, he’d have me beat.

Elky tossed out a big $33,300 bet. I wondered why he had bet so much. I didn’t think he had trip sevens or even just a queen. Either he had a very strong hand or was on a busted draw.

But Matusow’s scouting report was in my head: Elky likes to bluff! I called and got the bad news when Elky revealed his K-Q. I simply made a bad mistake and lost too many chips.

Still, I’m a pro. I know that an early lead doesn’t mean that much. It was time to get back to work.

The next hand, Elky raised it up and I reraised with nothing, 5-2 offsuit. I won the pot and was down only $50,000.

In the eighth hand, I raised to $6,000 with pocket queens. Elky reraised to $17,000 and I moved all-in for about $110,000.

Elky called instantly (what I call an insta-call) and rolled over pocket aces! The board came down 10-3-2-10-8 and I was sent to the rail. Even if I hadn’t have moved all-in pre-flop, I was certainly destined to lose a lot more of my chips on a flop like that.

It’s a fact that I take great pride in my ability to make the toughest folds in poker. After all, one of my most famous lines is, “I can dodge bullets, baby!” Man, I had a great opportunity to fold my Q-Q before the flop and show the world my mettle.

Unfortunately, I blew it.

To stay at the top of the poker world, I need to make great folds when others cannot. That discipline simply gives me one or two extra lives in each poker tournament that I play. But let’s get real; it was virtually impossible to fold those pocket queens.

I should have folded them anyway because “I can dodge bullets, baby!”

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