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You be the judge

by Todd Brunson |  Published: May 21, 2008


In my last column, we left off in San Jose at the Leo Brian Charity Tournament. Now, let's move on to the real tournament, the Bay 101 Shooting Star, where you're probably going to hear a first from me, self-doubt. I'm usually very confident in my play, and even if I make what turns out to be the wrong decision, it usually never bothers me, as I figured it was the right decision at that moment, with the information available to me at the time.

In this tournament, I'm not so sure about not one or even two, but four hands I played! All four decisions turned out to be wrong. I've never been like Mike Matusow, who screams, "I knew he had tens!" when he calls with two jacks. But I am right much more often than I am wrong. So, was I wrong with these four decisions? You be the judge.

I am off to a great start, almost tripling up without any major confrontations. I get moved to a new table with a guy I can tell right away is on the goofy side. I raise his blind from the button with A-8 suited and we check it down when the board comes 10 high. He shows me 10-3! He shows us a few more strange plays, and then this hand comes down:

I raise from late position. He reraises me from the small blind. I'm holding pocket queens. Against anybody else at the table, I'd either muck or just call, but against this guy? He has about 40,000, enough to cripple my 50,000 stack. You decide.

I can't lay this down, and in case he has something like A-J, I'm not going to let him see a flop. I move my big chips into the center, which total about 38,000. He studies for almost a whole minute. My hand must be good. When he finally says he's all in, I'm thinking it's A-K or A-Q, or a smaller pair.

He turns over two aces! What was this goofball thinking about for a whole minute? Did he think I was going to pass for the additional 2,000 raise?

If you're wondering what would have happened if I had just called, the flop came 8-3-2 offsuit. I think it was pretty much inevitable that he was going to double through me on that hand. Or was he? Did I have to gamble there when I had so many chips? I still can't decide.

OK, on to hands two and three. Let me set them up for you. Before the dinner break, I was able to rally. When we came back from the break, I doubled up and was back around average without running a race. Now, our table just happens to break while I'm on this roll.

This first hand is very marginal on my part throughout. A guy in middle position raises and gets three callers. I'm sure that my call from the small blind will bring the big blind, so I gamble with 10-8 offsuit. This is OK, but borderline.

The flop comes 8-7-3 with two hearts. With five players behind me, I decide to check and see what the action is. I don't think I have enough information at this point to bet out. Everyone checks to the button, who bets the pot. It's decision time! This is where I think I screwed up. I smooth-called.

I thought the bet was big enough to push out any player with overcards, and if someone had a flush draw, he probably had two overcards to go with it, which is not a hand I want to gamble against on the flop. In case someone moved in here, I could easily pass. I don't want to be up against an overpair, either.

Everyone goes out, leaving just the bettor and me. Now, I really like my hand. He might be stone-cold bluffing and not even have a draw. He might have a flush draw, and I probably won't even have to pay him off if it comes. He could have a straight draw, and with a 10 in my hand, it takes away a lot of his outs. Or, he could have a smaller pair.

Fourth street brings an offsuit queen. Unless he has a flush draw with a queen in it, that shouldn't change anything. I decide to check, hoping that he might bluff again or just give up. He doesn't give up, and bets the pot again. Now, I am studying him. He seems calm, but I just got to this table.

I figure there are more hands I can beat than beat me under these circumstances, and he looks like a guy who might fire multiple barrels on a draw or bluff. I call again. The river brings a complete blank.

I definitely check here, as I'm going to get called only by a hand that beats me. He fires at the pot again, and lacking any new information, I call him down. He shows Q-7 offsuit! Hmm, OK; nice hand, sir. Talking with Ralph Perry later that night, we both agreed that I should have check-raised the flop to find out where I was. I think I'd have won it right there.

The next hand happens about 10 minutes later against the same guy. Everyone passes and he limps in from the button with K-4, which is a strange play. I call with K-7 and the flop comes K-6-4. I check, and the big blind and button also check. Fourth street brings a 5, giving me an up-and-down straight draw to go with my top pair.

I bet out the size of the pot, and the button raises me the size of the pot. Again, it's decision time. I study him, and he again seems calm. My gut tells me that he's got me, but I think I still felt a little hot from the earlier hand, and I could still draw out on a lot of legitimate hands that he might have.

I call, and the river brings an ace. I check, and Mr. Reliable bets again. Damn! Does he ever check? I missed my draw and don't even have top pair anymore. I think I had to call the turn, but should have folded on the river. Frustration got the best of me, however, and I payed him off again.

In the final hand, I had only about 10 times the big blind and moved in a few times on steals. Finally, a guy who was raising about a third of the pots does his thing again, and I look down at two nines.

He has made it a little less than three times the big blind. I have about 11.5 times the big blind in middle position. Once again, it's decision time! I can just call and see if I like the flop, but I don't like to stick about a quarter of my stack in there and then abandon it. Besides, I still have enough that he may fold a marginal hand, and he's definitely been raising with some, from the frequency of his raises.

Not this time, unfortunately. I move in and he instantly calls me with two aces and picks up the $5,000 bounty on my head. I think I would play this hand the same way again. I don't like going all in with a pair as small as nines when my tournament life is at stake, but sometimes "you gotta do what you gotta do."