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Queens in the Big Blind

World Series of Poker main event

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Aug 20, 2010


On day one of the 2010 World Series of Poker main event, on the ESPN televised table, the following hand came up.

With the blinds at 150-300, a loose-aggressive young player opened for 700, an older woman who was playing tight and pretty passively called, two other players called, and I looked down at pocket queens in the big blind and called quickly. Five of us took the flop, which came 10Club Suit 9Diamond Suit 8Spade Suit. I checked, and everyone else checked. The KDiamond Suit hit on the turn, and I bet out 1,500. The aggressive young kid called, and the passive older woman called. The last card was the 6Heart Suit. I checked, the kid checked, and the woman bet 1,000. I folded quickly, and the kid agonized for a minute (probably because the bet size was so small that he felt like he had to call) before calling. The woman showed down 8-8 and scooped the pot with her set of eights.

What happened here? I like the 700 call from the woman preflop, although if you know that you are a tight-passive player, it might be better to reraise with this hand, especially against the loose-aggressive kid (who probably has a weak holding). A tight-passive player might as well use her image to win a few pots here and there before the flop. As for my quick call preflop, it was a judgment call, and a decision that I made immediately. If I were to have studied awhile before I made that call, an opponent may have thought that I was strong preflop, and I was deep under cover in setting a trap. However, it could be argued (and the math kids on the Internet will argue this) that a reraise here with my queens would have been better. I mean, a reraise would have eliminated at least a few of my opponents, and therefore given me a better chance to win the pot. Maybe a 3,500 reraise would have won the pot preflop. Even I think that a preflop reraise was a better move 80 percent of the time. But this was the main event, and I was trying to play extreme small ball. There was no reason for a player of my caliber to play a big pot with pocket queens, right? Not when I believed that I could skate along and hit 100,000 in chips risk-free.

As for my check on the flop, it was probably better to bet, but the reason that I checked was that it gave me some flexibility. If one opponent bet and another made a big raise, I could always fold. If everyone checked, I could always bet the turn with what would now look like the best hand. If one opponent bet, I could always raise or smooth-call, depending on what my reading abilities were telling me at the time.

I hate the woman’s check on the flop with a set of eights! I mean, she just flopped a set and now is going to give four people a free card? If a jack came off, she would find herself putting in money with the worst hand. Yes, it was a semi-dangerous flop, but she should have bet, and not a small amount, at that. I would like to see her bet 70 percent of the pot.

On the turn, my 1,500 bet was OK. Some might argue that I should have bet more. On the river, my check was pretty standard. The woman’s 1,000 bet was actually OK. She did manage to milk the kid for 1,000, and any 7 beat her (a straight). Spade Suit

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