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


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


West Coast Bust-Out

Really need to completely trust my instincts

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Jun 07, 2011


Phil Hellmuth

After making day three in the Wynn Poker Classic championship event, I wanted to play in more poker tournaments. I played three solid days of poker at the Wynn, only to finish in 19th place, when 22 were paid; I wasn’t happy with my finish, but at least I made the money. So, when the World Series of Poker and ESPN asked me to fly to Harrah’s-Rincon Casino in the San Diego area the next day to interview Dale Earnhardt Jr, I took a look at the WSOP Circuit schedule there and discovered that the main event began on Sunday. So, I hopped right on in it.

On day two, I found myself sitting to the left of Tim West, who is well-liked in the poker community. He had just won the Wynn Classic on the previous Thursday, and I respect the way that he plays in no-limit hold’em tournaments.

After about 20 minutes, West raised from early position, and I reraised with 8-3 offsuit. West was raising a lot of pots and I sensed that he was weak; I was right, and he folded.

About 30 minutes later, West again raised from early position, and I looked down at A-K. With the blinds at 300-600, and a 50 ante, West opened for 1,600. I didn’t have a read one way or the other, so I made it 4,500 to go. West then moved all in (he had 130,000) for my last 19,000. I looked at him and felt some serious strength emanating from him. Then, I asked myself, “Does Tim have pocket aces?” I felt like he didn’t, so now what? A-K is a tough hand to get away from for 36 big blinds, but I did sense strength. If he had K-K, I was in tough shape. But if he had Q-Q, J-J, or A-K, a call here was warranted. West and I had been talking on the phone quite a bit in the days leading up to the event, so I felt like he was playing his hand straight-up, which meant that he was super strong and I should fold. Back and forth I went between calling all in and folding before I thought, “I feel strongly that Tim doesn’t have pocket aces, so put your chips into the middle!” I called, and he flipped up pocket kings. Duh! The board came K-10-7-10-J; bye-bye, Phil!

West had this to say to me about the hand: “I felt like my best play was to move all in, or to smooth-call your 2,900 reraise. I really didn’t want to reraise any other amount, as I felt like you would fold your hand.”

The good news for me is that I thought there was a great chance that West had K-K. The next time that I fly somewhere to play in a poker tournament, I really need to completely trust my instincts.

Congrats to Tim West for finishing in second place in that event; a first at Wynn, a second in San Diego — what a week! ♠

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