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Online Poker Q-7 Meltdowns!

History repeats itself

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Apr 06, 2009


Phil Hellmuth HandOK, I recently was playing in a $1,000 buy-in - $100,000-guaranteed prize pool - online poker tournament at The tournament had 170 entrants and we started with 5,000 in chips. Simultaneously, I was playing in a $300 buy-in UBOC event (UltimateBet Online Championships). The UBOC event had 490 entrants and we started with 3,000 in chips. FYI, playing in two tournaments at once is no big deal, as most of the top online poker players in the world play in more than four games at the same time. Keep this in mind, though: The online games deal at least three times as many hands per hour as the live games do. So, online, they play more than 100 hands per hour, and in live games, it is about 32 hands per hour. Bartender, I'm playing online poker right now, so please send a triple shot of espresso my way!

Sadly for me, a $1,000 buy-in tournament doesn't seem to get my full attention. Because the stakes are relatively small for me, I do not seem to be able to play my best poker. This inability to play one's best poker when the stakes are relatively small is a common characteristic shared by most of the top professional poker players. It makes sense, because poker is a job to us pros, and when a win or loss doesn't make a bit of difference to you or your lifestyle, playing poker seems like work. In any case, as you can see, I'm making an excuse in advance for my own bad play, which I'll now discuss.

In the $1,000 buy-in tournament, I was trying to stay focused, but I wound up trying to bluff too often (bad!), trying to play too many hands (really bad!), and trying to get lucky with a weak starting hand (bad, but it can happen). About an hour into the tournament, with 3,800 left in front of me, I called a raise of 240 with the Q 7, and when the big blind reraised and the original raiser folded, I moved all in! The big blind snap-called me with A-A, and the board came down A-10-5-5-3. Bye-bye, Phil! First of all, what am I doing calling a raise with the Q 7? Secondly, what am I doing moving all in with the Q 7? I guess that I was trying to get lucky, but why bother playing in the tournament if I'm going to play that poorly?

In the UBOC event, things were different. It wasn't the money, but the principle of the thing that motivated me to play my best poker. First of all, the week before, Annie Duke and I had teamed up and joined the two-players-per-team (the "UBOC League"), and we threatened in our blogs to kick everyone's butt! The buy-in for the UBOC League was $1,000, and Duke put up 50 percent of it. Then, she complained in her blog that I wasn't playing in more than a couple of the 13 events. So, I wanted to try my hardest, so that I didn't dog it for Duke.

Also, this was an official UBOC event, and I think that made me play harder. In any case, we were down to the final 45 players or so. Up to this point, I had played a very conservative and very controlled no-limit hold'em game. I was sitting with 50,000 in chips, and all I had to do was maintain my patience and hang in there as the other players played too aggressively or busted themselves needlessly. The plan was simple, but the execution of that plan proved to be too difficult for me to handle!

I called a raise with K-8 suited in the small blind, and then I bluffed off some chips when I missed my hand. One round later, I called a raise in the small blind with K-6 suited, and I bluffed off some more chips when I missed it! These were two hands that I simply did not need to play. Folding and maintaining my 50,000 stack would probably get me to the final 18 players, and if I was lucky enough to win a big pot or two with a premium hand along the way (like Q-Q, A-K, or 10-10), I would have a good chance of making the final table.

Now, with 36 players remaining, I had 34,000 left when someone raised my big blind to 6,000 to go, and I looked down to see the Q 7! I noticed that this player had 22,000 left, and I considered my options. Lightning couldn't strike twice, could it? Or, would history repeat itself? Really, folding was an easy choice, but no, I decided to move all in, which would presumably force my opponent to fold his hand. But my presumption was wrong! This particular opponent decided to call with his A-J, and I lost most of my chips when the board came down J-6-3-8-J. Sigh …

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