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Online Zone -- Phil 'USCphildo' Collins

Play a Hand With Phil 'USCphildo' Collins

by Shawn Patrick Green |  Published: Nov 30, 2008


This year, the online poker world is Phil "USCphildo" Collins' oyster, and he's snagged pearls to the tune of more than a half-million dollars in Online Player of the Year-qualified finishes since the beginning of 2008. His scores have put him in second place on the OPOY leader board, giving him a very good chance of being crowned the Card Player Online Player of the Year.

We got the 23-year-old Charleston, South Carolina, native to send us a key, interesting hand that he played during his recent runner-up finish in a PokerStars $250,000-guaranteed event. The hand involved a big bluff for a big pot. We got Collins' thought process street for street and bet for bet along the way.

The Bluff

Info PokerStars $500 buy-in, $250,000 guarantee Blinds: 300-600
Player golden_fiish USCphildo
Stack 27,825 25,099
Hand Unknown Q J


Golden_fiish raises preflop from the cutoff and USCphildo calls from the button. The player in the big blind, bdubs3737, also calls, and the flop comes A 10 2. Bdubs3737 checks, golden_fiish bets 2,400, and USCphildo calls. Bdubs3737 folds, and the turn brings the 2. Golden_fiish checks, USCphildo bets 3,600, and golden_fiish calls. The river is the 10, golden_fiish checks again, and USCphildo pushes all in for 17,700. Golden_fiish folds, and USCphildo takes down the pot.


Shawn Patrick Green: Golden_fiish raises preflop from the cutoff, and you call with Q-J suited from the button. That's got to be a pretty standard move with your kind of holding, right?

Phil "USCphildo" Collins: Yeah, with our stacks, it seemed very appropriate. I wouldn't three-bet with it; I'd rather just flat [flat-call], especially since I have position, and just play a flop.

SPG: So, this is less about raising to define your opponent's hand (and possibly enabling yourself more opportunity to bluff later) than it is about trying to outplay your opponent post-flop?

PC: Yeah, I'd much rather just outplay someone on the flop. With a hand like Q-J suited that flops so well, it's really easy to play a flop. But if I had something like 6-5 offsuit, that would be a hand that, if I thought he was opening light, I might want to three-bet. Seeing flops simply has that much more value with Q-J; I could outflop him and then punish him for opening from out of position against me.

SPG: As far as hitting a lot of flops is concerned, Q-J seems to me to be kind of a tricky hand to play on most flops that it connects with, isn't it?

It does require good flop play to be able to play marginal hands when I could easily be outkicked if I hit my pair. I usually just keep flatting, and I usually let my opponent define his range for me. I'll let him be the aggressor, and I'm pretty good at being able to recognize when his range is so pinpointed that he has to have me beat, and I can get away from the hand without just handing him my stack if I got outflopped. Not too many people three-barrel bluff, so if I call on the flop and the turn, and they still fire a barrel on the river, I can usually fold my hand.

SPG: So, since you're prone to flat-call most action that you're getting from them if you do happen to connect with the flop, you're pretty much committing yourself to at least losing chips on the flop and turn if you're outkicked.

PC: If I flop a queen or a jack, I'm not going to fold on the flop or the turn. And I'm not a big fan of raising to see where I'm at, especially against bluffy opponents, with whom you can get so much more value out of a top-pair, mediocre-kicker type of hand by letting them bluff into you, and just calling them the whole way.

SPG: When the flop comes, it brings A-10-2, giving you a gutshot-straight draw and a backdoor-flush draw. The big blind [the other caller in the hand] checks to the initial raiser, who bets about half of the pot. You call, and the big blind folds. What is your thinking behind that call?

PC: I thought my call would freeze him with a lot of hands that he may be continuing with. The main reason that I did it, though, was that his flop bet was significantly smaller than the one I expected him to make if he had actually flopped a big hand with something like A-K or A-Q. His weak lead on the flop actually looked truly weak to me, and I thought there was a good chance that if I flatted him, I'd be able to take the pot away on the turn or the river.

And I like to do it with hands like Q-J here, rather than something like 6-5, because with 6-5, I have no outs and I'm depending upon only taking the pot away. But Q-J could turn into some other good opportunities; if I did make my backdoor-heart draw, it would be very difficult for him to put me on that. Or, if I turn a king, he might have something like A-K, or maybe he was weak-leading the flop with kings and thought he turned his miracle card, and I could win a huge pot and double through. So, it's nice to do some floats and bluffs with a few outs, just in case he does have a hand.

SPG: You said that he made kind of a small bet on this flop, but is that really that outlandish a thing to do if you flop a big hand, like A-K or A-Q? It's not really that draw-heavy of a flop, and there's not too much risk of someone catching up, is there? If you were in his position and had a big hand, wouldn't you rather milk something out of your opponents?

PC: Right. That's more about playing the player than what I think actually should be done. I like to lead half of the pot here, because I think that keeps my bluffing hands cheaper when I want to bet the flop, and it keeps my marginal hands like A-K profitable because my opponents will still be comfortable calling with a 10 or a weaker ace. So, I agree, but certain players don't understand that, and they really do bet bigger with bigger hands and smaller with weaker hands. I thought his flop bet was smaller than what he would have made had he had something really strong like A-10 or A-K.

And then his check on the turn kind of told me that he really was weak, since it was such a blank for [the range of hands that I put him on]. It paired the board with deuces, so there was nothing, really, that he should have been afraid of, and he was checking, so I knew that he very likely didn't have A-K or A-Q. I bet small enough on the turn to leave myself a river shove, and when the board paired tens, I thought it was another really good card that I could bluff.

At the end, I don't think there is any hand in his entire range that he could call with on that river, with the exception of aces or tens. So, I put him all in, and he snap-folded. I think he may have had something like A-J, something that you just can't call a shove with there, because I could very easily have A-10, a deuce, pocket tens, pocket deuces, or even just a 10 with something like K-10 that I flatted with on the flop, thinking that I might be good, and then bet on the turn to protect my hand.
The last thing is that with my bet on the turn, I was conscious to make it small enough that the river shove wouldn't be too small. The river shove was huge; I shoved in for 17,000, and the turn bet was 3,600. That makes the river decision big enough that he's not willing to call, and I was pretty sure that I would have to get to the river to do it. My bluff was the biggest bet, and I just dragged him along and built myself a pot to bluff away later.

SPG: When you go from betting 3,600 on the turn to betting all in for 17,000 on the river, does that not seem like an overbet that screams of a last-ditch-effort bluff? Are you not afraid that he'll interpret that bet as a sign of weakness because it's so over the top?

PC: I will, actually, play it as I played it here when I have a hand if I think my opponent wants to call. As soon as I saw his flop bet, I had a strong feeling that I'd be able to take it away. I don't make those moves that often, but as long as I time them right and make them player-specific, a lot of times they'll work. If you're picking bad spots, you're going to run into players who are looking for a spot to make a hero call on you. You have to make sure that you're doing it against the right player.