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2011 World Series of Poker

A Slow Start

by Todd Brunson |  Published: Jul 13, 2011


Todd Brunson

This was the first time in years that I was actually looking forward to the WSOP. It has always been a difficult and stressful six weeks, but I had been killing the live games at the Aria, so I hoped my luck would carry over into the WSOP. Besides the luck factor, I had been playing — basically training — almost every day for more than six months. I was ready!

I played four events in the first nine days, making day two in each one, but not cashing. I came really close in the $10,000 pot-limit hold’em event, but my pocket tens couldn’t stand up to J-9. My next event was the $1,500 no-limit hold’em shootout event. I came close last year, and even saved with the guy who won our table (Chris Moore, who still hasn’t paid me, by the way).

I was looking forward to the shootout, as this used to be my specialty, but that was a long time ago. Nowadays, I play predominantly mixed games, and when I do play no-limit hold’em, it’s pretty much always a full game. I know that tons of Internet kids play these single-table shootouts all day long, every day.

This knowledge, along with the knowledge there’s always another tournament if I get knocked out, led me to devise a strategy going in that I wasn’t going to lay down anything marginal. The first good draw or made hand I picked up I was going to go with and get chips, or go out and play the next event. Looking back, I don’t think this was a great strategy. In the very least, it wasn’t a good strategy early, as we started with plenty of chips.

I signed up the night before so I could show up a little late, as usual. When I arrived, the blinds were still pretty low, and a player already had been eliminated. I hadn’t played a hand for a while when a young player raised my blind from late position.

The blinds were 25-50, and he raised to 125. I looked at J♥ 8♥ and called. I got a pretty good flop: J-7-2 with two diamonds. I checked, and he bet 225. I check-raised to 525, and he called. The turn put out an offsuit king, and I bet about full pot, 1,200. My opponent studied for around a full minute before shipping his stack, which was bigger than mine; I had 2,400 behind.

Normally I think I would have a pretty easy fold here, but two things stopped me. The first was the strategy I had going in not to lay down anything marginal. The second was the read I had gotten on my opponent preflop, that he was weak.

I called, and he showed me K-7. He had flopped second pair and turned two pair. The river didn’t change anything, and I was out the door. I think I really, really played this hand badly. Can you count the mistakes I made in this one hand? Let’s start from the beginning.

The first thing I did was call preflop. As I said, I thought my opponent was weak. Now, I could have reraised right there and probably taken it down, but if he decided to call, I would have been out of position for the rest of the hand. I think calling was fine.

On the flop, a check-raise was definitely the right play. However, the amount I chose to raise was another story. By calling the 225 and only raising 300 more, I was begging for a call, and my hand just wasn’t that big. A larger raise would have put him to the test right then and there.

My raise wasn’t even really large enough to qualify his hand. He might have just been floating, looking for a spot to take it away later. When the king came, it easily could have hit just such a hand — K-Q or K-J would fall into this category — not to mention the fact he might have held a flush draw with a king in it.
Once I made such a small raise on the flop, I should have followed through with a small-ball tactic and bet about half the pot on the turn. That way, I would have had plenty of fold equity and I could have easily gotten away from the hand.
Those were my biggest mistakes, in my opinion. I either should have raised more on the flop or bet less on fourth street. You just can’t mix those two styles in one hand — it was just bad.

Calling off the rest of my chips with second pair and no kicker won’t win any awards, either. As I said earlier, this should have been an easy laydown. That king could have hit him in many ways, as I already said, and I may not have had the best hand to begin with. I still had more than half of my chips, and the blinds were still low. Even though I wanted to chip up or get out, this wasn’t a spot to gamble.
If I was beat, I was badly beat, with few outs to draw to. As it turned out, I was dead to a jack with one to come … nice.

My first reaction was to be mad that I had gotten top pair drawn out on by K-7 offsuit. After some more thought, I realized that although I had been unlucky, I had allowed my opponent the opportunity to get lucky against me — it was my own fault.
This goes to show that you always should be reviewing your plays. Anyone can make a bad play; the important thing is to recognize your mistakes and make sure not to repeat them. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Those who don’t learn from their bad plays are doomed to wind up on the rail. ♠

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.__