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Day Two at the Doyle Brunson Classic

A good day

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Mar 02, 2009


On Dec. 15, I was playing day two of the $15,000 buy-in WPT (World Poker Tour) Doyle Brunson Classic at Bellagio. After day 1A, I was the chip leader, and I was full of confidence. You see, all of my bluffs worked flawlessly, and I felt like I was reading my opponents perfectly. I had a feeling that day two would be a big day for me.

Right off the bat, a huge, out-of-control pot came up. It was the first hand after a 15-minute break, and the big blind wasn't in his seat, so his hand was mucked. I knew that this would encourage a loose raise from someone, and I thought that I probably should get aggressive and reraise whoever raised.

With the blinds at 400-800, a player opened for 2,400, and another player called. I was in the small blind with the 8 6, and decided to call. It is not like me to call with 8-6 offsuit! The flop came down Q 8 7, and I decided to bet out 6,000. The initial raiser folded, but the other guy made it 12,000 more to go. I sensed weakness, and called immediately. The turn was the 8, I checked, and my lone opponent made it 20,000 to go. If he was bluffing, there was no need to raise with my three eights, was there? Plus, if he had a flush, he would move me all in if I raised. Of course, if he had a flush draw, a raise was a good move, unless I expected him to bluff the river if he missed. In any case, I opted to call the 20,000 bet fairly quickly, and the river was the 2. I checked with the intent of calling, until my opponent announced, "I'm all in!" I asked for a count, and he had 140,400 in chips. I had about 160,000, so it would be a huge call if I made it. If I called and was wrong, I would blow off a huge amount - and with 8-6 offsuit, at that! In fact, 160,000 in chips was enough for me to win the tournament with, so I could really hurt myself if I called and lost, but if I called and won, I would have a massive chip lead with about 400,000 early on day two.

I asked my opponent, "Do you have it?"

He said, "I have the nuts."

I said, "Can you beat a full house?"

He said, "No."

I counted the chips out and stacked them in front of me, but I kept thinking that I could not call, because if I was wrong, I'd be sick about it for a week. Basically, I could fold and still have a relatively huge stack of chips. Finally, I folded, and my opponent flipped up the A J! He had successfully pulled off a massive bluff!

Hellmuth hand

I said, "Well done. I give you maximum credit for that bluff." Normally, I would whine about crazy players and how bad they play, that I'd break them eventually, and this and that. But I knew I was sitting pretty, and I knew that I would have the chance to play this opponent all day long, and now I had a good read on him. So, instead of whining, I asked my opponent what he was thinking. He said, "Well, I could see that you were going to call, and I was in way over my head, so I figured that I had to bet it all. I normally never bluff." This proved to be true, as he didn't try another single bluff for the next six hours of play. And, I was able to beat him up pretty good the rest of the day.

As time passed, my chip stack grew and grew, and some fun hands came up along the way. I kept the pedal to the metal. In one pot with the blinds at 500-1,000 and a 200 ante, Marco Traniello opened for 3,000 and I made it 10,000 to go with the J 7. Traniello called, the flop was J-9-2, Traniello checked, and I bet 9,000. Traniello called, and I put him on 8-8 in my mind. I was fairly certain that I had him beat, and I was planning on betting every street.

The turn card was a deuce, he checked, and I bet 10,000, saying, "I think you have pocket eights." Traniello called, and the river was an 8. Now, he bet out 19,000, and I snap-called. He flipped up the K 10, and I took down a huge pot with a hand (J-7) that I would throw away 99 percent of the time. Why play J-7? I sensed weakness in Traniello preflop, so I tried to take the pot away from him by making a reraise. If he folded preflop, I would win his 3,000 bet, plus the 1,800 in antes and the 1,500 in blinds, all risk-free. I give him credit for calling me, as he obviously sensed weakness in me, as well. I mean, K-10 is not a hand that you would normally call a reraise with. Once we took a flop and he check-called, I knew that I had him beat. In fact, I felt like the range of hands with which he would call a reraise and then a 9,000 flop bet was small. Thus, I put him on a pocket pair, A-Q, A-K, or A-9. As long as no ace, king, or queen hit on the turn, I was betting; ditto for the river. The call on the end was easy to make, as what hand could now beat me, eights full? I ended the day with 412,000 in chips, and I was one of the top three chip leaders. In my next column, I'll discuss day three.

Learn more about Phil by going to his website,, and visit his webstore at