Arts & Entertainment

Phil Hellmuth on Poker: My Big Blunder at the WPT

The six-week-long World Series of Poker ended for me on July 11. Only two days later, the first World Poker Tour event of the season began with a $15,000 buy-in affair. That would be an opportunity for redemption as I could erase the memory of a disappointing WSOP in one fell swoop.

A win in this WPT event would pay at least $1 million yet I had mixed feelings about playing. I was burned out after six grueling weeks of poker and was more than ready to go home to my wife and kids. Still, I decided to play.

I arrived more than three hours late on Day 1 and played decently. After a day off, I came back and played well on Day 2. I was in good shape and had a lot of gas left in the tank.

I came out smoking on Day 3! I won a $300,000 pot when my A-A crushed my opponent’s A-10 with the board reading Q-10-4-Q-Q. Then it happened; the wheels completely fell off my game.

First, I lost a coin flip for roughly $150,000. My pocket sixes lost to A-K when an ace came on the river. I opened for $7,000 and called a $65,000 reraise. Even though I was a small favorite at the time, I normally would have folded that hand.

Then I truly gave my chips away.

With the blinds at $1,000/$2,000, the player under the gun opened for $7,000 and I made it $23,000 to go with pocket fours. He called and the flop came Q-9-2.

My opponent checked, I bet $40,000 and he called. The turn was a nine and he bet out $53,000.

I looked him up-and-down and decided to make it $110,000. He moved me all-in for my last $35,000 and I called. He showed me his quad nines! Ouch.

I folded my hand face down, walked out of The Bellagio, checked out of Caesar’s Palace, and was on an airplane home by 6 p.m.

Did losing the coin flip cause me to lose my mind? I mean, I did lose two coin flips at the WSOP – both times when my pocket sixes lost to aces on the river – and now it had happened again. If so, that’s still a lousy reason to blow a mountain of chips only a couple of hands later.

Let’s take a closer look at that hand.

I don’t mind my pre-flop reraise with 4-4 but ideally I would have been able to sense my opponent’s strength and just called.

Neither do I mind my bet on the flop. But again, if my radar had been working properly, I’d have sensed serious strength in someone that had just flopped the second best possible hand.

On the turn, my opponent’s $53,000 bet worked like a charm; I did exactly what he wanted me to do. Still, I don’t like his bet. I would have preferred to see a check here. Why bet $53,000 and give your opponent a chance to get away from his hand?

I hate my raise on the turn. My radar had completely shut down by this point. There’s no other explanation for not noticing that my opponent was emanating massive strength by betting $53,000 with the best possible hand!

Bottom line: I was out of rhythm and still steaming over losing the 6-6 hand to another ace on the river a few hands earlier.

My opponent’s $35,000 reraise to put me all-in was solid. After all, with so much money invested in the pot, I had to call $35,000 more, right? Not really. My call was horrible; it should have been obvious by then that my pocket fours would be crushed.


Learn more about Phil Hellmuth and Poker Brat poker merchandise at www.philhellmuth.com.

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