Arts & Entertainment

Phil Hellmuth on Poker: 2009 WSOP Champions Invitational

We’re off and running at the 2009 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas!

The third event was the Champions Invitational. It featured an exclusive group of past Main Event winners, including Chris Moneymaker, Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson, “Amarillo Slim” Preston, Greg “Fossilman” Raymer, Carlos Mortensen, Johnny Chan, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, Huck Seed, Jamie Gold, and Peter Eastgate.

First place prize was a luxury car, not the $1 million and $2 million prizes that were awarded to the winner in the last couple of years. Still, it was a special tournament. These former champions really came to play! That shouldn’t be much of a surprise, though, as determination is a trait that is inherent to a bunch of super-competitive guys like us.

This unusual hand came up at the final table with only six players remaining and the blinds at $100-$200.

I was dealt Q-Q and decided to call the big blind. Jim Bechtel called from the button, Ferguson called the extra $100 from the small blind, and Eastgate checked from the big blind.

The flop came A-Q-10. Both blinds checked and I tossed a $300 bet into the $800 pot. Bechtel called and the blinds folded.

The turn card was another ace. Bingo! I bet $600 with my seemingly unbeatable full house and got a call from Bechtel.

A six came on the river so the board read A-Q-10-A-6. I checked with the intent of raising it up if Bechtel made a move – and he did. He bet $2,600 and I asked how much money he had left.

Bechtel had $3,400 remaining. My only play was to raise it up $3,400 more with my huge full house, right? I counted out enough chips to move Bechtel all-in when it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I actually had the worst hand!

Could he really have A-10 in his hand to give him the bigger full house?

I studied the situation for about a minute then announced, “Boys, I’m glad the cameras aren’t rolling. I think I’m just going to call Jim’s bet with a powerhouse of a hand.” And that’s just what I did.

I told Bechtel that I was sure I had him beat. Nope, I was wrong.

Bechtel flipped up pocket aces and said, “I have four aces, what in the world do you have?” Not enough to beat quad aces. Wow, I had just made a super-genius play that would have looked so impressive on television!

Quite honestly, I’m not certain that a call in that situation was the right move but it’s hard to argue with the result. Instead of playing by the book, I chose to play by my instincts which were telling me to play with caution.

Bechtel’s pot-size bet was one clue that he was playing a strong hand. I also sensed that he might have A-10 which would have had me beat. There was no way I put him on quad aces.

I lost about the absolute minimum in this hand. Had Bechtel raised on the flop, I would have reraised him all-in. I also would have raised him all-in had he bet on the turn. Or, had he made a much smaller bet on the river, I would have raised it up there, too. Fortunately, my instincts intervened and saved the day.

Well, I only lasted one hand at the final table but at least I made it that far!

It’s only the beginning of the World Series. If I can trust my instincts the rest of the way, perhaps I can do something great and add to my record eleven WSOP championship bracelets.

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