Arts & Entertainment

Phil Hellmuth on Poker: Venture Capitalist Bad Beat

Joe Lakob, a friend of mine from the San Francisco Bay Area, is one of the most successful and powerful venture capitalists in the world. Joe’s firm is like the U2 of VCs; they’ve enjoyed one smash investment hit after another for decades.

Joe and his lovely girlfriend Nicole recently played in the Festa al Lago tournament, a $15,000 buy-in World Poker Tour event, at the Bellagio in Vegas. Since we’re friends, they naturally asked me for some advice. I laid out a strategy that was designed both to keep them in the tournament as long as possible and to actually give them a chance to win.

I advised them to play the classic Phil Hellmuth-style poker. Play super-tight before the flop, throwing away hands like 8c-7c, 10d-9d, and Ah-4h for any raise. Never call a bet or a raise pre-flop unless they had a pocket pair. Come over the top with a weak holding about once per hour when they sensed weakness in their opponents. And finally, to slow-play any sets that they flopped.

Joe took my advice to heart. Although it was sometimes boring and frustrating for him to play that style of poker, he made it through Day Two. On top of that, his timing was near perfect on all the moves he attempted. Every time he came over the top, his opponents laid down their hands.

Going into Day Three, I suggested that Joe modify this strategy and come over the top more often, whenever he sensed any weakness at all. His reading skills were obviously finely tuned. That’s exactly the right time to take the over the top move to the next level.

So, three hours into play, with the blinds at $1,500/$3,000 and a $300 ante, everyone folded to the small blind where Joe was sitting with the Ah-8h and $51,000 in chips.

Joe opened for $9,000 and the player in the big blind called. The flop was Ad-10h-2h and Joe decided to move all-in for his remaining $42,000.

It was a great flop for Joe — a pair of aces and the nut flush draw. After deliberating for a full minute, his opponent finally called for most of his chips. Joe was shocked to see that his opponent held Q-J and was drawing to an inside straight belly buster!

How could someone call $42,000 with that type of hand? Joe was counting the chips in the pot when an offsuit king hit on the river. Talk about a bad beat!

Let’s review the hand.

I like Joe’s pre-flop raise out of the small blind with Ah-8h; it’s the standard play. I also like his opponent’s $6,000 call from the big blind with Q-J.

Joe’s $42,000 all-in bet into a $20,000 pot was a mistake. His hand was too powerful to play that fast. He should have made a smaller bet, or even checked his hand, in order to induce a bluff.

It was a reasonable situation for Joe to give his opponent a free card, hoping that his opponent would move all-in, or at least make a bluff at the pot. Alternatively, Joe could have made a smaller bet of $5,000 to $9,000 in an attempt to milk some extra chips out of his opponent.

I absolutely hate the $42,000 call with Q-J. There’s just no good reason to call off almost all your chips on a belly buster draw. Play with patience and wait for a better spot.

All in all, Joe Lakob played excellent poker. As for me, I went out on Day Two after losing two coin flips when my A-K lost to Q-Q for a $90,000 pot and my A-K lost to J-J for a $40,000 pot.

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