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Huck Seed Versus Brad Booth

Welcome back, Huckleberry!

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: May 21, 2008

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In early March, on the heels of the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, Calgary hosted the Canadian National Heads-Up Championship. Many of the top poker players were there, including world champions Huck Seed and Joe Hachem, Antonio "The Magician" Esfandiari, Phil Laak, Jennifer Tilly, Mel Judah, and Greg Mueller. When they reached the finals, it was Seed versus Brad Booth. Booth is someone I have referred to in the past as the "best unknown poker player in the world." Seed, an old friend of mine, has been making a nice comeback recently. Only a few days before Seed made the finals in Calgary, he made the semifinals in the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, and lost his match to Andy Bloch. Before his fall from the top of the poker world, Seed was oftentimes regarded as the favorite to win the World Series of Poker throughout the late '90s. In the player polls taken back then, he was always ranked in the top three in no-limit hold'em. Yet, most of the world doesn't know Huck Seed. His timing was bad, as he hit his funk when poker really hit television. He was one of the biggest stars in poker, and many of us have been waiting for him to make a huge comeback, and claim a spot at or near the top of the poker world. I watched from the stands when he played his final-four heads-up match against Bloch on the NBC National Heads-Up stage. I really thought that it was going to be his big moment, and that he would cap his comeback with a huge win.

When he lost, I told him, "I thought that this was going to be your day. I thought that you would show the world who you really are."

Seed said, "It's OK, Phil. I'm on my way back, that's for sure. It's all good."

Little did either of us know that Seed's comeback would be completed less than a week later!

In the finals, Seed faced Booth, and Booth can be a handful! He is capable of playing a super-fast and super-aggressive game, and that can be difficult to combat, especially if you're not making very many hands. Seed was expecting Booth to use this strategy, so he was determined to trap him. In the first match of the best-of-three format, with the blinds at 25-50 and 10,000 in starting chips, Seed called 25 more from the button with J-J. Booth raised it 150 more, and Seed called. The flop was 7-3-2, Booth bet 300, and Seed called. The turn card was a 6, Booth bet out 800, and Seed called. The river was a 5, Booth bet 2,000, and Seed called. Booth flipped up J-9, and Seed showed his J-J and collected a nice pot. About 30 minutes later, Seed called with Q-Q, and let Booth bluff all three streets one more time! One effect of trapping someone like Booth is that it causes him to bluff less often, and thus makes playing against him more manageable. Of course, the best thing about trapping someone is that you end up winning a bunch of chips that you wouldn't have ordinarily won. If Seed had reraised Booth with his J-J or Q-Q, Booth most likely would have shut it down and folded his hand, and Seed wouldn't have won anything. But by slow-playing his J-J and Q-Q, he used Booth's aggression against him, and therefore won the maximum amount of chips! The downside to slow-playing your hands and trapping your opponents is that occasionally you'll enable them to beat you for a big pot; for example, when they take the 5 4 against your pocket queens, and turn it into two pair or a straight. If slow-playing always worked, everyone would do it! Yet, slow-playing is a great tactic to use against super-aggressive players.

The last hand of the first match came down like this: With the blinds at 200-400, Booth had 2,300 in chips and called from the button with J-7. Seed checked with 8-3, and the flop was K-3-3. Seed checked, Booth bet 400, and Seed made it 800 to go. Booth moved all in for his last 1,100, and Seed called and won the first match.

Seed told me, "I had three threes, and I wanted it to look like I was bluffing, so I raised it a small amount. Booth fell for it that time." I like Seed's idea here. Calling 400 would look strong, and moving all in might induce a fold. But the minimum-raise -- 400 -- worked perfectly. Seed later said, "The match began with him bluffing off with jack high, and ended with Booth bluffing off with jack high!" Congrats to Brad Booth for his second-place finish in his native Canada. And congrats to Huck Seed for hanging in there the last five years and turning things around. Welcome back, Huckleberry!