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Wynn This!

Unlucky, but …

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: May 24, 2011


Phil HellmuthI spent the opening weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament in Las Vegas watching games, and on Monday, I began play in the four-day $5,000 buy-in main event at the Wynn Resort. The structure was great. We started with 30,000 in chips, and there was a ton of time to move your chips. On day three, the following hand came up.

With the blinds at 2,500-5,000, Dutch Boyd opened his third pot in a row from early position, making it 12,000 to go. In middle position, I looked down at K-K and had a bad feeling. I decided to smooth-call, and the player in the big blind also called. The flop was 5♦ 3♦ 2♠, both players checked to me, and I checked.

On the turn, the 7♠ came off, and the player in the big blind fired out 19,000. Dutch called, and I called.

The river was the J♣, and the player in the big blind bet out 33,000. Dutch and I both called, and the player in the big blind flipped up J-J to claim the pot with a set of jacks. Dutch flipped up Q-Q, and I was feeling a little sick to my stomach as I flipped up K-K. Was I unlucky in this hand? Yes, but …

Let’s take a closer look at this hand. Dutch’s raise was pretty standard. My call is OK. I mean, ideally, I would like to reraise with K-K about 70 percent of the time, especially if I am occasionally three-betting when weak (reraising with bluffing hands).

If I am never three-betting my opponents, a three-bet looks really strong, and I would argue that this is the 30 percent of the time that I should smooth-call with K-K. I mean, why announce the strength of my hand? The fact that Dutch opened his third pot in a row suggests some weakness, and it therefore could be argued that this was a good time to smooth-call with K-K. I like the third player’s smooth-call with J-J from the big blind. First, he was out of position. Second, if he read one or both of us as being really strong, a smooth-call was a terrific move. To be fair, if he read us as being weak, I would like to see him three-bet with J-J and try to win the pot right then and there.

I like the big blind’s check on the flop, and Dutch’s check was OK, as well, as he was attempting to trap us and keep the pot size small (in case one of us had something like the A♦ J♦); but it’s also a good spot to bet with Q-Q. I mean, these days, everyone expects a continuation-bet, so a bet in this spot would be standard and would not reveal the strength of his hand. Thus, why not make that continuation-bet with his strong pocket queens? I do not like my check on the flop, although it does keep the pot size down (and keeps me in the tournament) if one of my opponents has, say, the A♦ J♦, a set, or pocket aces. Yet, there is a time to play it safe and a time to go for it! And pocket kings on a 5♦ 3♦ 2♠ flop is go time. I should have bet something like 60 percent of the pot, or maybe even more.

On the turn, the big blind’s 19,000 bet was OK, and Dutch’s smooth-call seems OK, although I would like to see Dutch raise it to maybe 75,000. I hate my smooth-call. The reason I smooth-called was to keep myself alive in the tournament; I still had 120,000 left after the smooth-call. A better play would have been to raise it to 80,000 or so, or maybe just move all in.

On the river, I like the big blind’s 33,000 bet. His bet-sizing kept both Dutch and me in there to pay off his hand. Had he bet a lot more, maybe one or both of us would have folded.

Unlucky? Maybe, but this hand was set up for me to win it, had I simply played it the right way (more aggressively). A reraise preflop enables me to get rid of the player with J-J and win the pot, and maybe Dutch loses 150,000 to me. If I had bet big on the flop, I could have moved all in on the turn, and I am more than 80 percent sure that the big blind would have folded.

Instead, I finished 19th (22 players were paid), but I am ready to win a few big tournaments. I am on top of my game, as strong as I can be, and ready and willing to win big! ♠

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