Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine

World Poker Tour — A-10 vs. 10-10

Hindsight is 20/20

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Apr 15, 2011


The poker tour swung into Commerce Casino in L.A. in late January for the L.A. Poker Classic, and on Feb. 25, a month of poker climaxed with the $10,000 buy-in World Poker Tour event. I have been working hard on my game, and going into the WPT event, I felt like I was locked into a great strategy. My tactics were simple: I would play really patient poker and wait for the cards (and the chips) to come my way. I wasn’t afraid to fold 9-8 suited, A-J offsuit, or A-2 suited. Playing only strong hands led to some great situations, and day one was smooth sailing, with nary a scary moment. Day two also was smooth, and almost risk-free. I knew then that my new tactics (“old-school Phil” tactics) would work well against almost any field.

On day three, I stuck to my tactics, but I was ready to make a few moves when the time was right. Interestingly, the only time that I got into trouble was when I tried to bluff. Fine, I could easily survive day three and make some moves on day four, when, hopefully, I was a bit sharper.

With the blinds at 1,000-2,000 and 120,000 in chips in my stack, an opponent open-shoved for 45,000, and I quickly decided to call from middle position with Q-Q. He rolled over K-Q, and the board came 10-9-3-K-4. I hated my opponent’s shove for more than 22 big blinds in this deep-stack tournament; however, I do not think it would be an awful move in an online tournament.

With the blinds at 1,200-2,400, I was sitting on 44,000 in chips when Player A opened for 6,500 and Player B made it 22,000 to go. I had 10-10 in the small blind; normally, I would have folded, but I decided to take a long look at this situation. First off, Player B was a very aggressive megalomaniac, and he had come over the top of Player A a number of times. Secondly, as I looked at Player A, he gave me a bewildered look, as if to be saying, “I cannot believe that he reraised me again.” I recognized immediately that this look meant that Player A was weak. One read down, one read to go. As I continued to study, it was obvious that I had a huge hand, and Played B knew it. At this point, Player B looked scared. He had been running me over, and I had warned him that I was going to have him crushed when I finally manned up and played a pot with him. Finally, I decided that he probably had, at best, 9-9, 8-8, or A-J. Thus, for the first time in three days, I decided to go with a hand; now what?

I could call, and then move all in on any flop, no matter what it was. I could move all in, knowing that Player B would call with any two cards, as he would be getting laid 3.5-1 (76,000-22,000). If Player B had 9-9, 8-8, a small pair, 9-8 suited, or something like that, why not get all of my chips into the pot before the flop? If he had A-J, why not look at a flop, and then move all in (unless I flopped a set)? I felt like it was a close decision, but the fact that this player was so aggressive and could have anything tilted my decision toward moving all in.

Finally, I settled on moving all in, and Player B called and showed A-10 offsuit. It just so happened that the WPT cameras were there, along with all of the media in the room, as Player B told me, “Bye, bye, Phil, an ace is coming.”

Whatever! The flop was safe, J-5-5, but then an ace came off on the turn!

Playing the results, I guess that I should have called preflop and moved all in on the flop … ♠

Learn more about Phil by going to his website,, and visit his webstore at