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Fold for Your Country, Team USA!

World Team Poker Championships

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Aug 01, 2010


I was asked to captain Team USA in the recent World Team Poker Championships, but I declined because I knew there was a better man for the job. The legendary Doyle Brunson deserved the honor of leading the American squad.

Eight teams competed in the inaugural event, as many of the world’s top players were on hand to represent Vietnam, China, England, Greece, Israel, Australia, Brazil, and the USA.

Johnny Chan led Team China, along with David Chiu and Chau Giang. Team Israel was represented by captain Eli Elezra, David Benyamine, and the Mizrachi brothers, Michael and Robert. Men “The Master” Nguyen captained Team Vietnam, while Team England had Ben Roberts out in front, and Team Australia had Jeff Lisandro at the helm.

Team USA, however, was touted as the team to beat, as we were truly “The Dream Team of Poker.” With more than 40 World Series of Poker championships among us, our team included captain Doyle Brunson, Erik Seidel, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, Jennifer Harman, Mike Matusow, Howard Lederer, and me.

The event featured a three-game rotation of limit hold’em, pot-limit Omaha, and no-limit hold’em, and it was played across five tables with each team represented at every table.

An interesting twist was that captains were allowed to substitute any player at any time. That’s why I didn’t play a single hand of pot-limit Omaha; it’s simply not my best game.

Each five-handed table was contested down to two players. At that point, play was stopped, and chips were counted and moved to the final table.

Players from Team Israel and Team England were eliminated early, so neither team made it to the final table. Meanwhile, Team USA was struggling, and was down to only a single stack of chips.

With three players left at my table, I was in the saddle playing no-limit hold’em. If I lost our thin stack, Team USA would be gone.

I managed to win a few pots to build our stack up to around 38,000. Then, with the blinds at 400-800 with a 100 ante, I looked down to find K-Q in the big blind.

Team Greece opened from the button for 2,600. Team Vietnam folded, and I made the call.

Phil Helmuth - Hand of the Week

The flop came J-8-5. I checked, and Team Greece checked.

The turn card was a 4, and I bet out 1,600 on a semibluff. Team Greece called.

Bam! The river card was a king, which looked really good to me, so I fired out 3,500. Team Greece deliberated for about a minute, and then shoved all in for 7,200 more.

What the heck was going on?

I’d been at the table for the last dozen hands, and Team Greece had moved all in on four of them. Did they have the goods this time or were they just making a play? It didn’t feel like a bluff, but neither did it seem like they had slow-played a big hand like a flopped set.

It’s true, I couldn’t beat many hands, but I knew how aggressive my opponent was, so, finally, I made the call. Ouch! Team Greece showed down A-K.

Sitting on the sidelines, Mike Matusow clearly didn’t like my call. He said that Team Greece would never bluff off their remaining chips on the river, especially after I opened with a 3,500 bet.

That’s a good point, Mike. I should have folded for the last 7,200 bet, but I just couldn’t imagine what Team Greece had.

Incidentally, none of my teammates liked Team Greece’s 7,200 raise on the river. I mean, come on; I fired two bullets at the pot, so I had to have something, right? Spade Suit

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