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Professional Poker Tour Hands-Part III - An untimely play

by Mark Gregorich |  Published: Aug 09, 2005


In my previous two columns, I wrote about a couple of hands I played against Marcel Luske in the recent Professional Poker Tour (PPT) event at The Mirage. In this column, I'm going to discuss the hand that sent me to valet parking.At this point in the event, slightly more than half the field had been eliminated. We were playing with $300-$600 blinds and a $75 ante, which meant that it cost me $1,575 in blinds and antes each time the button made a complete revolution around the table. I had a fairly short stack of about $12,000. Directly to my right was former World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour Champion Carlos Mortensen, who had a good chip count somewhere north of $30,000.

I was on the button. The first player to act folded, and the next player moved all in for $3,300. This player, who is young, aggressive, and very tough, had just lost a major confrontation that cost him nearly all of his chips. It appeared to me that this all-in move was not necessarily indicative of a strong hand. I suspected that this was how the rest of the table perceived the raise, as well.

Everyone folded around to Carlos, who called rather quickly. Now, those of you who have played with Carlos know that he has won many awards in the creativity category of hand selection. However, this situation was a bit different. He wouldn't be calling with small suited cards or the like in this spot, as he was calling an all-in bet. Implied odds were not a part of the equation, so Carlos had to think he had the best hand. I figured he probably didn't read the all-in play for much strength, though, so his definition of the best hand in this situation was probably broader than normal. Given his comfortable chip count, I thought he might be calling with an ace in the range of A-K down to A-8 (although the smaller aces would likely be suited), K-Q, or any pair. I thought he would reraise with pairs such as 10-10, J-J, or Q-Q, and probably just call with A-A or K-K, hoping for action behind him.

I looked down to find A-Q offsuit. Although this hand is usually an easy muck for me when two players have entered a raised pot in a no-limit hold'em tournament, I believed this situation was a bit different. First, I thought I had the initial raiser beat, and was quite likely to be in the desirable situation of having big ace against smaller ace. Second, I felt I was likely to either have a bigger ace than Carlos or be up against a medium pair, in which case I would be a small underdog. Of course, Carlos could have me slaughtered with A-A, K-K, or A-K, as well.

I weighed my options for a while. I could fold, but decided it was just too likely that I held the best hand, and with my fairly short stack, I didn't think this was the right play. Calling was also an option. I had two things going for me if I called. First, I was on the button, so I would act last throughout the hand. The second advantage was that even if I missed the flop, I would be unlikely to be bluffed out by a worse hand. Since there was no side pot, Carlos would have little reason to bet unless he thought he had the best hand. So, the hand might get checked down, giving me five chances to hit something (the flip side here was that I would be giving him five chances to hit if my ace high was in fact the best hand, so I might choose to bet my A-Q on the flop if it was checked to me, hoping that my ace high was better than the all-in player's hand).

My other option was reraising all in. With my amount of chips, I possessed enough leverage to drive Carlos out of the pot unless he thought he had me beat. Calling another $9,000 would put a serious dent in his stack if he lost. I believed he would fold his small to medium pairs if I moved all in, potentially setting up the desirable situation of taking the best hand against the all-in player, with some additional dead money in the pot. Ultimately, I decided to make this play, based on my read of the situation and my chip count.

Carlos was visibly displeased with this turn of events, but stated that he felt he had to call, as he pushed his chips in. To me, this was bad news. Even before he turned his hand up, I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to see. The three of us turned up our cards: my A-Q, the first all-in player's K-J suited (certainly a correct all-in move given his position), and Carlos' dominating A-K. The best hand held up (sort of), and I was eliminated. The main pot was won by the K-J, which flopped two pair.

I don't really find much fault with my play here, despite the fact that I got all of my money in with A-Q against A-K. Carlos happened to pick up a strong hand, but I thought there were several worse hands he could be playing, as well. To his credit, Carlos earned my chips by just calling the all-in player's raise. I think that many, if not most, players would have reraised before the flop with Carlos' hand. Had he done this, I would've folded and lived to see another flop. His play here shows the confidence he has in his game, in that he is willing to allow other players in to gamble with him, rather than trying to shut out the field.

I hope you enjoyed this series of hands that I (mis?)played. As always, I appreciate feedback on my columns, and will try to do a better job of answering my e-mails.

Parts I and II of this series can be found at