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Final Table Takedown -- Carter Phillips

Carter Phillips Dominates the Final Table With a Keen Sense of Always Knowing Where He is in a Hand

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Aug 20, 2010

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Carter “bdybldngpkrplyr” Phillips is a 21-year-old professional poker player from Charlotte, North Carolina. He got his start playing online tournaments, and then started traveling the European Poker Tour circuit. Before turning 21, he took down the 2009 EPT Barcelona championship for $1.2 million, and has more than $2.4 million in career tournament cashes. He recently moved to Las Vegas to play poker.

Event: 2010 World Series of Poker event No. 16, six-handed no-limit hold’em
Players in the Event: 1,663
Buy-in: $1,500
First Prize: $482,774
Finish: First

Hand No. 1
Stacks: Carter Phillips – 2,800,000 Mikhail Lakhitov – 700,000
Blinds: 10,000-20,000
Antes: 3,000
Players at the Table: 4
Players Remaining in the Event: 8

Carter PhillipsHand No. 1
Key Concept: Understanding what your opponent is representing by his flop action, according to what his preflop calling range is.

Carter Phillips raises to 40,000 from under the gun with the 5Heart Suit 3Heart Suit. Mikhail Lakhitov calls from the big blind.

Craig Tapscott: What are your first thoughts when discerning your opponent’s preflop range?

Carter Phillips: The most important considerations when determining opponents’ preflop calling ranges are stack sizes, position, opponents’ tendencies, and what you think they perceive your opening range to be. For example, in this instance, his stack size in the big blind is big enough for him to probably play suited connectors and some other hands with speculative value. Because he’s in the big blind and I minimum-raised preflop, he also could be calling with a wider range, getting the better odds in the big blind. We also can assume that he is going to be calling me wider because he knows that I am the most aggressive player at the table. He doesn’t want to let me get away with stealing his big blind. One thing I could rule out is big hands — probably 8-8+ and A-Q+ — because he probably would three-bet me preflop, trying to get it all in.

Flop: 7Spade Suit 3Spade Suit 2Heart Suit (pot: 102,000)
Lakhitov checks. Phillips bets 50,000. Lakhitov raises to 150,000.

CT: What now? Can your hand still be good?

CP: I feel like my hand is good here almost every time. He was not the type of player to flat-call with a big hand, and the only hands that he would check-raise the flop for value with are sets. I have a blocker to threes, so he has to have deuces, sevens, complete air, or a flush draw to be check-raising me.

Phillips calls.
Turn: 6♦ (pot: 402,000)
Lakhitov checks.

CP: After he checks, I still feel like my hand is good, and I bet, so as not to give him a free card.

CT: What bet-sizing will be appropriate in this situation?

CP: I decide to bet a quarter of the pot, because it sets up a pretty good sizing for his shove if he decides to check-raise.

Phillips bets 100,000. Lakhitov moves all in for 507,000. Phillips calls. Lakhitov reveals the JSpade Suit 10Spade Suit.

CT: Explain how you use bet-sizing to induce a player to make a move.

CP: I used my quarter-of-the-pot bet-sizing on this hand to induce, because to most, I think this bet looks like a weak blocker bet. I wanted to give him the appearance that I was just trying to get to a cheap showdown.

CT: Did you have a feel for his game?

CP: I did have some history with him prior to this hand. There was one situation in which I incorrectly called a three-bet with A-10 against his pocket jacks. He knew that I was an aggressive player with a very wide opening range preflop. So, I knew that he was going to try playing back at me eventually, since I was running over the table.

River: 9Club Suit (pot: 1,416,000)
Phillips wins the pot of 1,416,000.

CT: When you play such a hyperaggressive style, what do you have to be on the lookout for from your opponents?

CP: Aggression should be used based on your stack size, your opponents’ stack sizes, and how your opponents are playing you. If you are playing this style, you have to be aware of how your opponents are adjusting to you. If you are opening a lot and playing very aggressively, you have to be able to four-bet with a high frequency if your opponents start three-betting or finding other ways to play back at you. If several of the players at the table are starting to play back at you and adjust, sometimes you just have to slow down and stop opening so much and playing so many pots.

CT: So, their perception of you is key.

CP: Yes. How you play at the table is 100 percent dependent on how the other players at the table are playing against you. At the final table, you don’t need to adjust too much; for the most part, I think you can give opponents a tighter range in most spots. Most players are going to be nervous when going to a big final table, and they are going to try to make sure that they get it in good. This means that you can be more aggressive, but when other players play back at you, you can give them more credit than you normally would.

Hand No. 2
Stacks: Carter Phillips – 3,400,000 Samuel Gerber – 2,200,000
Blinds: 12,000-24,000
Antes: 3,000
Players at the Table: 4

Hand No. 2
Key Concepts: Realizing when your opponent thinks it’s a good time to bluff preflop, and playing back accordingly; using the fact that there are short stacks at the table to bully the other big stacks

Carter Phillips raises to 65,000 from the button with the KSpade Suit 6Heart Suit. Samuel Gerber reraises to 160,000 from the small blind. Phillips reraises to 270,000.

CT: Did the two of you have any other wars going on prior to this hand?

CP: Samuel and I had not played much together. But in the short time that we played at the final two tables, we had created some history of aggressive preflop play between us. On the very first hand of this final table, I four-bet him with Q-5 offsuit, and he folded.

Gerber reraises to 650,000.

CP: I felt that if he was three-betting light, there would be a good chance of him five-betting light, since he knew that I have a high four-bet frequency. One more factor in the hand was that Hugo Perez had less than 20 big blinds, and it would probably be tough for Gerber to call my shove with the short-stacked Perez still at the table.

Phillips moves all in. Gerber folds. Phillips rakes in the pot of 956,000 and flips over the KSpade Suit 6Heart Suit.

CT: At such a high-pressure World Series of Poker final table, what kind of situations are you looking to take advantage of to pad your stack?

CP: Going to this final table, I wasn’t feeling the pressure much, because of my experience at an EPT final table last year. I could remember, though, how nervous I was at my first big final table, so I knew that some of these guys would be feeling the pressure. I planned on using this against them by putting them in high-pressure situations with tough decisions to make for their stacks.

CT: How, exactly, could you implement this strategy?

CP: Well, my strategy was helped by the fact that there was always a stack of 20 big blinds or less at the table. With that stack around and nearly busted out, it’s advantageous for the other players to wait for him to bust out before trying to get into big pots with me.

CT: So, the short stack definitely influenced your bluff-shove in this spot?
CP: Yes. Obviously, he has to fold all of his air, because of the short-stack considerations I just talked about. I thought I could also try to move him off something as big as pocket jacks. He has to be thinking about the pay jump between third and fourth. And I don’t think he can assume that I am going to be six-bet jamming with air that often, since it is hardly ever seen. Spade Suit