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‘The Grinder’ vs. Duhamel

Give both of ’em credit

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Jan 07, 2011


The World Series of Poker main-event title is far and away the most coveted prize in the poker world. With it comes the permanent title of “World Champion of Poker.” The $50,000 buy-in Players Championship at the WSOP is either the second-most or third-most coveted title, depending on where you place the World Poker Tour Championship event on your list. In 2010, Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi won the Players Championship, and then made the final table of the main event! No matter where The Grinder finished at the main-event final table, winning the Players Championship and making the final table of the main event — with its 7,319 players — was a legendary feat.

With five players remaining at the WSOP main-event final table, and the blinds at 500,000-1 million, the following hand came up. Everyone folded to Jonathan Duhamel (26.5 million) in the small blind, and he opened for 2.5 million with the A♠ 9♥. From the big blind, The Grinder (55 million) moved Duhamel all in with the 3♠ 3♥, and Duhamel called. With about 54 million in the pot, it was a coin flip. The board came K♥ 9♦ 5♦ 9♣ J♥, and Duhamel, who had just lost 17 million in the previous hand, took the chip lead.

Let’s take a closer look at this hand. Duhamel’s opening bet of two and a half times the big blind is pretty standard these days, although in the past, a heftier raise of, say, three times the big blind was the standard. One reason for the shift in standards is that players do not defend their blinds as often as they used to. So, why risk three big blinds when two and a half will win the pot before the flop just as often?

I hate The Grinder’s reraise to 27 million here. Why ship in that much with 3-3? First, let me lay out a theory: The new Internet thinking is that The Grinder’s move here is a good one if he picks up 15 percent of his stack size. However, I disagree with that theory for a live tournament, especially one in which the blinds move up very slowly. And, of course, The Grinder was the “chalk” (the best player at the table), he had the chip lead, and everyone at the table was afraid of him. In fact, during final-table play, I heard the other players refer to Mizrachi’s “Grinder-vision” with awe in their voices. When you are the best player at the table, and everyone is afraid of you, it is easy to win most of the small pots, and therefore build up your chip stack almost risk-free. The Grinder should have pounded the other players when they were weak. He could have saved his big bets for when he had a big hand. Sticking 27 million into a pot with 3-3 takes all of The Grinder’s skill away from him. Having said all of this, I still give The Grinder credit for knowing that Duhamel was relatively weak (after all, he had A-9 offsuit). In fact, The Grinder’s move should have worked; that is, Duhamel should have folded his A-9!

I do not like Duhamel’s all-in call. Why call off your tournament with A-9 offsuit? Was Duhamel really hoping that The Grinder had K-Q or A-8? I mean, what were the chances that A-9 was the best hand? Not good! Why not save those millions in chips for a better spot?

I may not like the reraise to 27 million with 3-3, or the all-in call with A-9, but let’s give both gentlemen and their reading abilities credit: At the end of the day, The Grinder was right that Duhamel was relatively weak, and Duhamel was right that The Grinder didn’t have him dominated. ♠
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