Arts & Entertainment

Phil Hellmuth on Poker: Folding a Confusing Hand with Pocket Tens

I had a ton of chips late on Day Two of the $5,000 buy-in no limit Hold’em six-handed event at this year’s WSOP.  We were down to the final 40 players and I had $500,000 in chips.  I was in the hunt and was fired up!

Soon after, though, I lost a huge $460,000 pot when my pocket aces got cracked by K-Q.  It was back to playing on a short stack once again.

There are two ways to run your chips up in this situation.  The standard practice is to play patiently and wait for good situations to develop.  Alternatively, you can try to push the envelope and play marginal hands.

The ideal situation is to first double up by playing a bit recklessly with a marginal hand and then get lucky and pick up an automatic double up.  Of course, auto-double up hands just don’t come around that often and playing marginal hands have an annoying habit of making you go broke quickly!

Anyway, back to the tournament.

Pete Feldman was playing to my left and causing problems.  He wouldn’t let me win a single pot.  If I bet, he raised.  If I raised, he reraised.

That kind of action is fine with me because I’ll eventually nail any player who never folds or surrenders a single pot.  But, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to beat him in the four hours we played together, including my final hand when I moved all-in with pocket sevens on the button and he called with A-K in the small blind.

I decided to counter Feldman’s aggressive style by slow-playing the hands I played against him.  I wanted to give him the opportunity to bluff off his money to me; there was no good reason for me to reraise and force him to fold when I had a strong hand.

Like poker pro Layne Flack likes to say, “Why do the pushing when the donkey is doing the pulling?”

Then this hand came up.

With blinds at $5,000/$10,000, Feldman raised to $35,000 under the gun and I looked down at 10-10 in the big blind.  Having $180,000 in chips at the time, my standard play would be to reraise all-in, or at least raise it up to $110,000 to go.  But playing against the aggressive Feldman, I wanted to slow it down and give him the chance to bluff off his money to me.  I just called.


The flop came K-7-2.  I checked, Feldman bet $40,000 and I called.

The turn was a six and we both checked.

The river was a four.  I made a defensive $20,000 bet and Feldman immediately moved me all-in for my last $85,000.  Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!

If Feldman had a king in his hand, I would have expected him to make a bet on the turn.  Unless he had K-4 suited, he had to be bluffing.  But then again, why would he raise my last $85,000 on a bluff?

Feldman had to know that I was strong because I had called both a big pre-flop raise and a decent-sized bet on the flop.  Also, I only had $85,000 in chips remaining.  How could he reasonably try to bluff someone with most of his chips already in the pot?

Still, I sensed he had me beat.  The fact that he moved me all-in so quickly on the river told me he was strong.  And it’s rare to see a player make a big bluff against an opponent playing on a short stack.

Well, I finally folded this confusing hand, and I never even asked Feldman whether he had me beat or not.

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