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Shooting Star 2011 — Part II

It’s tough to be a bounty

by Todd Brunson |  Published: May 06, 2011


Todd BrunsonIn my last column, we left off with me on life support with 6,000 in chips and being moved to a new table in the main room. I quickly got all in with pocket queens against A-K, and doubled up. I then got all in with a big pair against a small one, and again doubled up. After stealing a few blinds, I had more than my starting stack and felt like I was on a roll.

My first misstep occurred when I didn’t listen to my instincts. A player raised from two off the button, and I looked down at A-Q suited. Now, this would normally be an easy three-bet situation, but my gut said no. First off, he had raised a few hundred more than what had become the standard raise to 2,100 at our table. That in itself wasn’t that big a deal, but something about his stance just said strength to me.

I went ahead and reraised anyway, to a total of 6,200. He smooth-called, and the flop came down jack high with two rags, none of which were of my suit. He quickly checked, and I again went against my instincts and made a continuation-bet of 8,500. He stacked off against me, forcing me to fold. He later told me that he had flopped top set, which felt right to me.

This hand kind of took the wind out of my sails, and I ducked into my shell a bit. I knew that now that I was short again, players would be looking to get me all in, hoping to collect my bounty, so I waited for a hand.

About an hour before we were done for the day, I found one — A-K under the gun. I made a standard raise to 2,400, and everyone folded to the big blind. Now, this guy had raised the last five or six pots in a row, so I kind of thought that he might give me action. I didn’t expect him to shove for my last 22,000 or so, though.

Now, I really had a dilemma. I felt that he probably had a pair, but I couldn’t discount A-Q or a total bluff. He might have figured that he’d either bluff me out or gamble with me, and hope to win my $5,000 bounty. Either way, he had three times as much in chips as I had, so it wasn’t going to cripple him to gamble, and that had to be entered into the equation.

I called, and he showed me pocket sevens. That was a pretty skinny hand to shove with, but bounties make people do crazy things. Matt Savage showed up to announce the hand and root against me. A 7 on the turn ended any hope that I had, and I was off to the bar with the rest of the unfortunates to share our bad-beat stories.

I felt good about my call. Scotty Nguyen was knocked out right after me in a very similar situation, but he had A-Q and his opponent had 10-9 offsuit. This reaffirmed my believe that I made a good call, regardless of the outcome.

However, later, over a game of spoof that I played with Gavin Smith and a few others, Gavin said that he thought I was selling myself short by calling a raise there when I likely had the worst hand. He thought that I should have either waited for a big pair or tried to just play better poker than my opponents.

I feel that he had a point, but it’s kind of hard to play good poker when players just keep moving in on you like this player (Jordan Young) did to me. These guys know that when I get short, they can either bluff me out or gamble for my bounty, so I stand by my call. I don’t blame Jordan for his play, and he didn’t get lucky, as he had the best hand at all times. When I went to sign his shirt, I asked him if he wanted it to be nice or mean, and he asked for mean, so I obliged him. I can’t repeat what I wrote, but I’m sure that you can find it online or on my Twitter account.
Viva Bay 101, and bad beats! ♠

Todd Brunson has been a professional poker player for more than 20 years. While primarily a cash-game player, he still has managed to win 18 major tournaments, for more than $3.5 million. He has won one bracelet and cashed 25 times at the World Series of Poker. You can play with Todd online at or live at his tournament, The Todd Brunson Montana Poker Challenge, in Bigfork, Montana. Check his website,, for details.