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The Doyle Brunson Classic

Chips saved are as important as chips won

by Todd Brunson |  Published: Mar 02, 2009


I haven't discussed much poker lately, so let's look at a few interesting hands I played at the 2008 Doyle Brunson Classic at Bellagio. I had high hopes for this tournament, as it was on my home court and I had finished 15th in the event last year.

The first hand comes with the blinds at 200-400. A player in middle position opens for 1,200, a standard raise of three times the big blind. The button reraises to 2,000. I am in the big blind with pocket jacks, so I call the 1,600 more, as does the original raiser. We all have about what we started with, 45,000.

The flop comes J-6-2 rainbow. I obviously love it, but know that I probably won't get action unless someone else has a big pair or decides to bluff at it. The other possibility is that a player holds two high cards, and if we see a free card, he might make a big pair.

I'm not too worried about giving a free card here, so I check. It gets checked around, and now the turn pairs the deuce and puts two clubs on the board. Now I'm not worried at all. Chances are that both of my opponents are drawing dead. The worst-case scenario (unless one of them holds pocket deuces) is that one of them has two outs with a pocket pair bigger than jacks, but if that's the case, that player will surely bet the turn if it's checked to him. Besides, in case someone picked up a flush draw, I don't want to run him off.

I knuckle again and the original raiser bets 4,200, about two-thirds of the pot. The reraiser folds, and now I'm faced with a decision. I can pop him here or wait till the river, and either bet out or check-raise. I go with the former and make it 9,600 to go.

Without much hesitation, he calls me, and the river brings a blank. I'm fairly sure now that he's holding a big pocket pair: nines, tens, queens, or possibly even kings. I'm pretty sure I'm going to get a call on the river, so I fire out 22,000 (just shy of the pot amount). I'm called instantly, and increase my stack by two-thirds.

Todd Brunson hand

The next few levels are pretty slow, until this hand comes up. A player raises from middle position and gets a call. I call from the cutoff with the 7 6 and we go into battle three-handed. The flop comes 8-5-2 with two spades and a diamond. The original raiser bets out about the size of the pot, and the other player folds.

When I'm a short stack in a situation like this, I like to move all in. When I'm medium to fairly large, I usually just call to take the all-in reraise play away from the raiser. When we're both big stacks, I'll play it either way depending on my mood, table image, and what I think my opponent holds.

Since I don't really know my opponent and I'm not sure how he plays, I decide to "put him to the test right here," as Mike Sexton is so fond of saying. I hope he folds, but a call is also OK. If he reraises, I can do any of three things: fold, call, or move in. He smooth-calls, which doesn't give me a lot of information.

What he does next, however, gives me plenty. The turn brings an offsuit trey, and he goes into the tank for about a minute before checking. He then stares at me real hard, which makes me think he doesn't want me to bet. Maybe he has A-K and is trying for a cheap showdown. Or, maybe he has a spade draw, or maybe a straight draw.

Whichever it is, I figure the right play must be to do what he doesn't want me to do, so I bet a little less than the pot, which is a little more than 25 percent of my stack. He looks a little disappointed, but doesn't take too long to call. He has to have a draw!
I make up my mind right then and there to move all in on the river, as long as a spade doesn't come. The river brings a 9, which would give me the nuts if it were not a spade. My opponent checks quickly and doesn't look in my direction. Is he scared, or did he just make the nuts?

Usually, people do the opposite of what they hold. He acted strong before, and now he's acting like he's scared. I don't want to miss a value-bet if he holds a big pair, but my instincts say that he was on the flush draw. I could try betting about one-third to half of my chips, then muck if he raises, but that would cripple me.

I take the safe road and check behind him. He sheepishly turns over the A 10, giving him the nuts. He mumbles, "I got lucky," and I nod and muck my cards, not wanting to give away any information unnecessarily.

I put on a sad face, but was actually smiling inside. You see, my stack was still around average, when I easily could have gone broke. In poker, it's not just the chips you win, but the ones you save.