Arts & Entertainment

Phill Hellmuth On Poker: Playing the Hands That Are Dealt

I’ve been playing too many hands for awhile now. Though this strategy has yielded a few chip leads, unfortunately, it’s resulted in zero wins.

Consistently playing suited connectors like 8c-7c for raises and reraises will cause big chip swings. If that’s what you want, well, strap on your seatbelt, because you’ve got a turbulent ride ahead of you!

The real problem with this style of play is the frequency with which you’ll end up going all-in, even on Day One of a major poker tournament. Yes, 8c-7c is terrific when the flop comes 8-7-3, but what happens when the flop comes J-8-3 and your lone opponent catches pocket kings?  You risk losing a lot of chips early.

Also, because you’re playing a lot of pots, you’ll establish a loose table image. When you do move all-in with A-K, J-J, or K-K, you’ll get called by A-Q. Okay, you might have A-K vs. A-Q but you’ll still be risking a lot of your chips very early in the tournament.

So now that I’ve been on this playing-too-many-hands kick for over a year, I consciously decided to over-adjust and start playing super-tight poker utilizing a make-one-move-per hour strategy.

I used this approach at the UltimateBet tournament in Aruba and repeatedly folded suited connectors for a raise or a reraise, and I rarely bluffed. I’d occasionally reraise with K-Q suited but only when I thought I had the best hand.

This style kept me out of trouble on Day One. I ran up my starting stack from $15,000 to $50,000 completely risk-free. I more than doubled up when I limped with As-Js under the gun and flopped a flush against two players who were drawing dead.

I ran horribly on Day Two but not in any given pot. I had one pair of pocket kings but no straights, sets, flushes, or any other big pairs. Still, I managed to break even for the day. I never moved all-in and ended up with around $50,000 in chips.

I finally played a coin flip on Day Three with pocket jacks against an opponent’s K-Q suited. Incidentally, it was a horrible play by my opponent. He should never have been in that pot in the first place.

Then I picked up A-A against K-K and Ac-Kc. I moved all-in with my hand only to lose some (but not all) of my chips when the case king hit on the river. Finally, with 54 players remaining, and 45 of them getting paid, I moved all-in with Ah-Kh and lost to pocket aces.

See you later, Phil!

Still, I was encouraged. It felt like the old days when I was getting all of my money in pre-flop with A-A, K-K, A-K, and occasionally Q-Q.

Fast forward to the $15,000 buy-in Festa al Lago World Poker Tour tournament at the Bellagio. My strategy was to attempt approximately one over the top move per hour because that play works around 75% of the time for average players but almost 90% of the time for me due to my reading ability.

With a starting stack of $60,000, I found myself effortlessly folding hand after hand in the middle of Day Two. Later in the day, with the blinds at $800/$1,600, I put $45,000 of my $60,000 starting stack in the middle with A-K against Q-Q and lost.

An hour later, I was all-in for my last $20,000 with A-K against J-J and lost again.

Bottom line: Since switching back to super-tight poker, I’ve moved all-in for my last four big pots with A-K, A-A, A-K, and A-K — and lost them all. So what? I’m back to playing Phil Hellmuth poker!



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