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Dodging a Bullet

A great fold

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Oct 01, 2009


For those of you who haven’t heard, there is a new generation of professional poker players out there who have cut their teeth on playing online poker. These young guns have talent, heart, and great analytical skills. Plus, they have played tons of hands by the time they are 23 years old. You see, one hour of online poker (at four tables) is equivalent to several hours of brick-and-mortar casino play. There are some great Internet wizards, but some of these players are known to be way too aggressive in no-limit hold’em tournaments, and that can make it challenging for the rest of us. That ultra-aggressiveness may make an otherwise sound player commit a huge amount of chips to a pot with a weak hand — like A-Q, for example.

In a $5,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em event at the 2009 World Series of Poker, I found myself at a table full of Internet poker players. With the blinds at 100-200, I opened for 700 with the ASpade Suit QSpade Suit, and the player behind me made it 1,700 to go. I folded the hand faceup, and my opponent proceeded to show me A-J offsuit. OK, no problem, I don’t mind losing 700, and I don’t mind being bluffed. A few minutes later, this same player came over the top of me again, I folded again, and he showed me another bluff. Now, I knew there was an excellent chance that I would have to make a stand against this player sometime soon.

Phils AK Hand

Two hours later, with the blinds at 200-400, Ivan Demidov opened for 1,300 and I called from the button with the AClub Suit KClub Suit. The reason that I just called here, instead of making a standard reraise, was that I was looking to trap my boy, Mr. Aggressive, behind me in the small blind. Sure enough, Mr. Aggressive reraised it to 5,500 to go. The trap had sprung. Demidov folded, and I glanced at Mr. Aggressive’s chip stack. I had 22,000 in chips to his 15,000. Perfect! I had him covered, so I couldn’t go broke on this hand. My move in this movie was scripted, and now I would play my role: I would move all in and simply win the pot uncontested, or maybe Mr. Aggressive would call me with a pair, or even with A-Q (yum-yum!).

But before I acted, I felt that it was prudent to study Mr. Aggressive for a moment, just in case he had a hand like A-A or K-K. I mean, why not spend an extra 30 seconds before I played my part in this movie? If he did have A-A or K-K, presumably I would smell it and somehow fold my hand; yeah, right! After 10 seconds of studying, I became worried. My sense of smell told me that Mr. Aggressive had A-A or K-K, but could I trust my instincts? I mean, this hand was, after all, scripted, and everyone had played his role up to this point. And I was keenly aware that my role was to move all in. After all, this was a very aggressive player who had bluffed me twice, and I had set a beautiful trap for him; I was certainly supposed to move all in, right? Wrong; my instincts have won me 11 WSOP titles, and right or wrong, I was going to trust them. So, I studied for another 30 seconds, looking for an excuse, any excuse at all, to move all in.

Finally, I decided that I would fold my hand, so I said out loud, “Boys, I know that you would move all in with this hand right now, but I am crazy. I think I may fold it; what do you think?” The guy to the left of Mr. Aggressive said, “Fold.” I then folded the AClub Suit KClub Suit faceup, and Mr. Aggressive started shouting at the guy who told me to fold. He said, “Don’t tell Phil to fold!” Immediately, I knew that Mr. Aggressive had A-A or K-K. I mean, he had shown his two bluffs, and this time he was screaming at the guy on his left for opening his mouth, and he folded his hand facedown. I felt like I had dodged a bullet, but, alas, I did not go on to win, or even make the money; but at least I did make a great fold. Spade Suit

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