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The Bellagio Five-Diamond World Poker Classic - Part II

by Daniel Negreanu |  Published: Mar 22, 2005


Going into day two of the Bellagio Five-Diamond World Poker Classic, it was looking real good for me. Of 231 remaining players, I sat in second place with $217,175 in chips. I needed a ninth-place finish or better to pass David Pham and win the Card Player Player of the Year award, provided he or John Juanda didn't make the final table with me. They were both still in contention in decent chip position, so I didn't rule out that possibility.

Day two was going great. I was at a relatively easy table and coasted from about $220,000 to about $340,000 with very little risk at all. With a couple of levels to go before the end of the night, Johnny Chan was moved to my table and was seated two to my left. Needless to say, Chan is arguably the best no-limit hold'em player in the world. I've learned a great deal from watching him play over the years, and have the utmost respect for his poker skills.

I made a mental note of that and decided there was no reason for me to tangle with Johnny in a big pot. He is a major presence at the table who's hard to ignore, but I needed to stick to my game plan and avoid big pots with him. So, what did I do? You guessed it, I played the biggest pot of the tournament with him!

I lost more than $250,000 on the hand, which was more chips than most people in the tournament had. I was disappointed in the way I played the hand, but my hat's off to Chan. I thought I had him beat for sure, but he played the hand so well that when he turned it over, I felt like I had been hit by a Mack truck.

So, what were the hands? I don't remember. OK, I do remember, but I don't want to share this one. I believe I share a lot about my approach to the game and am comfortable with the information I give out. However, in this case, since my opponent was Johnny Chan and it was such a crucial hand, I don't want to "show it."

The blow left me with less than $80,000 in chips, which was a decent amount, but it required a vastly different approach. I regrouped, swallowed my pride, and went back to work. That hand was over and I needed to move on in a hurry.

I was able to make a solid recovery during the last level and a half or so, and ended day two with a respectable $162,800. It was not a major player yet, but was still 22nd out of the remaining 82 players.

On day three, I got off to a decent start. I was able to avoid going all in during any race situations, and had my chip count up to $270,000 and was already in the money with about 27 players left. The blinds were $4,000-$8,000 with a $1,000 ante, though, so any hand I played could easily be my last.

$270,000 wasn't enough to play a very loose-aggressive style, but I still wanted to see some flops if I could. Vinnie Landrum, a professional player out of California, raised the pot from middle position to $30,000 and I decided to take a flop with the Qdiamonds Jdiamonds from late position.

It was just the two of us, and the flop looked really pretty from where I was sitting, Kdiamonds 9diamonds 2clubs, giving me a straight-flush draw. Vinnie studied for a moment and then fired out a $50,000 bet. Now, it was decision time: Should I call and try to hit my hand cheaply, or should I raise Vinnie right here and try to get him to lay his hand down?

When Vinnie bet the flop, my instincts were screaming at me that he didn't have A-K or better. How I figured that out, I have no idea; I'll leave that to my trusty old subconscious. In fact, I didn't think Vinnie had a pair of kings at all, and if he did, it certainly was a scared king. Again, how I knew that, I simply can't explain.

So, with that, I believed I could represent a made hand here and go for it. I raised Vinnie $70,000 more, committing me to the pot while sending Vinnie the message that I was ready to get all the pretty money in.

Well, Vinnie wasted little time. "I'm all in," he said, and I was forced to gamble. Once I'd put that raise in on the flop, I understood the risk. I understood that by playing it that way, it could be my last hand. It was show time, and Vinnie turned over the Kspades 10spades

That was one of the last hands I wanted to see, as the 10spades was one of my straight cards. So, instead of having 12 outs, I had 11 outs with two cards to come, making Vinnie a 57 percent favorite.

"10 or a diamond, baby, 10 or a diamond," I said as both Vinnie and I stood up from our chairs.

"No diamond, don't do it, dealer. If you put a 10 out there, make it two," replied Vinnie.

The dealer did put out a 10 on the turn … the 10diamonds! Vinnie made top two pair on the turn but was now drawing dead against my king-high straight flush. Wow, what a card that was.

As it turned out, my read of the situation was a little off. I had Vinnie on the right range of hands, but I was wrong to think I could move him off of it. Usually when you make a mistake like that, it's your tournament, but luck was on my side for this coin flip, and I was now a contender.

We played down to the final 18 players to end the day, and by that time I'd become the chip leader with $1,676,000. Before I went to bed, I picked up a sheet to check out my table draw for the next day. Well, it was pretty clear that I had gotten the raw end of the deal when I saw that Johnny Chan, Ted Forrest, Howard Lederer, James Van Alstyne, Hasan Habib, and Humberto Brenes were all at my table. It's a good thing I love a challenge! spades

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