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A Few Key Hands

World Series of Poker

by Todd Brunson |  Published: Oct 01, 2009


In any tournament, certain key hands will arise from midway, when the limits become significant, right through to the end. No matter how well you play, if you don’t win your share of these hands, you cannot win a tournament, period. Here are a few of my hands during the 2009 World Series of Poker.

At the beginning of the WSOP, I decided to keep track of big pots or big hands in which I got lucky. I started a topic in the notes section of my iPhone. By the end of the tournament, guess how many I had entered. One (lol). But it was a good one, and I took advantage of it, as I was getting down close to the final table of the $10,000 limit hold’em world championship event before going completely card-dead.

I finished 14th when Maria Ho knocked me out by three-betting a multiway pot with the 8Heart Suit 4Heart Suit when I held the JHeart Suit 9Heart Suit. Two hearts came on the flop, and Maria won a massive pot with a pair of eights (and somehow didn’t make the final table with all of those chips). Anyway, here’s the hand that got me that far:

I was in the big blind with 6-5 offsuit. The player under the gun raised, and all but one or two players called. I called, naturally, and the flop came K-8-4 with two clubs, giving me a gutshot-straight draw. Both blinds checked, as did the original raiser. The next player to act bet, and the whole field, including me, called. The original raiser then popped it, and everyone again called.

The turn brought an offsuit 7, giving me the nuts. Knowing the raiser to my left had a big hand, I was confident that I could get a check-raise in and trap some stragglers. Well, my trap worked; in fact, I couldn’t believe how well it worked. You see, when I check-raised, he reraised. When I hit it again, he capped it.

This guy was definitely a nonbeliever, and I had caught a few more in my trap. One guy had a flush draw and the nonbeliever had a set of eights, so I had to dodge not only a club, but the board pairing, as well.

Well, I had to avoid about 40 percent of the deck, which sounds bad, but 60 percent of the cards to come were on my side. When you consider that I was a 10-1 dog on the flop, the river looked like a cakewalk. I dodged disaster on the end and won this massive pot, which got me into the money.

Had I made a pair or completed my flush against Maria, I would have made the final table (which would have been my second in a little over a week).

Another hand like this occurred in the $1,500 Omaha eight-or-better tournament. We were down to about 80 players and already in the money, when this hand came up:

Again, there were like 15 players in this pot, which was unusual, as only 10 players were actually at the table. (I don’t think I have to point out that this is a joke, but …) I held A-3-5-K with the AClub Suit and another club. I believe it was three-bet preflop, so it was already pretty juicy.

The flop came 9-7-2 with two clubs! I had flopped the nut-flush draw and the nut-low draw with a backup (the 5 is a backup, just in case an ace or a 3 comes). Well, we went to town capping this pot five ways. What the heck these other geniuses had is beyond me!

The turn brought an offsuit jack, and now I became a caller, with two guys capping it with me in the middle. One player went all in halfway through the action on the turn, leaving the rest of us to fight it out on the river. And here’s where I think I made a mistake.

The river brought the 3Heart Suit, counterfeiting my nut low but still giving me the second-nut low. The two guys who capped the turn now checked, and it was up to me, and since one player was all in, there was only one other active player behind me. I chose to check, and the last guy bet.

Both of the other guys called, and so did I. The bettor showed the nut low, A-4, with two other irrelevant cards (nice hand, sir). He had taken all of that heat while drawing to only two remaining threes. The all-in guy had A-3, along with me. The first player had flopped three nines (top set), and the other guy had turned three jacks. I got nothing with my busted flush and second-nut low.

Now, my mistake: When both of the first two players who capped the turn checked the river when the low came, it was obvious that they both had high hands. The player behind me should not have the nut low unless he had the previous nut-low draw to go along with it (very unlikely). So, my second-nut low should have been good for half of the pot here. If he did in fact hold the nut low (which he did), he wouldn’t raise, but just call. So, I’m missing a bet here.

I can’t pass and have to call. He won’t bet unless he has me beat, but will not raise. It turns out that it didn’t matter, but saving and picking up little extra bets like that is what separates the great players from the good players.

Important notice: The location of my next Montana poker tournament, Oct. 7-11, has been changed to the Marina Kay Lodge in Bigfork, Montana. For information, call John Boyle: (406) 250-1306. Spade Suit