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Final Table Takedown With Jim Hess

Jim Hess Makes a Great Call and a Stupid Call

by Craig Tapscott |  Published: Sep 21, 2011


Jim Hess first became intrigued about poker after reading Positively Fifth Street by Jim McManus. He works as a talent agent in Los Angeles, and in 2004, a business relationship with the head of Poker Royalty, Brian Balsbaugh, got him more deeply involved in the game. Hess worked hard to improve by attending the WSOP Academy and reading all of Daniel Negreanu’s books, and he has three cashes at the WSOP to date. After winning the WSOP seniors event, he made the final table of the $10,000 Bellagio Cup main event and took home $48,314 for an eighth-place finish.

Event WSOP Seniors Event
Entrants 3,752
Buy-In $1,000
First Place $557,435
Finish First

Hand No. 1

Key Concepts: Hand reading, pot control

Craig Tapscott: I want to let our readers in on a little background regarding this hand-breakdown with Jim. Many of us play in home games with a regular group of friends, and most of us dream of winning a WSOP bracelet one day. Jim is a colorful character at the home game I play in often in Los Angeles. I taught him everything he knows. Right, Jim?

Jim Hess: In order to soothe your ego, I will say “Yes,” but I’m not quite sure the others may agree, right Craig? In all seriousness, you did help my play, as you and I had many discussions about various situations and hand selection.

CT: Jim was a wild man in our game, and he earned the nickname “El Boro Loco.” However, he was very dedicated and was always studying and practicing, both live and online. He always would ask questions, and at the same time, he learned to control his hyper-aggressive play. He then started to win quite frequently in our game, much to my chagrin. Jim, when did the pieces of your crazy style really start to come together for you? What were you learning that changed things?

JH: Well, I’m a competitive person by nature. When I started playing poker, I really wanted to win every pot I was involved in, whether I was a big underdog or not. However, I needed to learn how to be patient.

CT: You also played a lot online. Did that help?

JH: Online poker was a big help, since it gave me quite a bit of experience seeing how others play and examining why I would both win and lose in certain situations. Since there were no real physical tells available online, I tried to focus on discerning betting patterns instead. Also, I must give credit to my close friend Eric Hershler (the 2007 World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic main-event winner) who was constantly berating me for playing marginal hands and helped me tighten up the many leaks in my game at that time.

CT: Set this final table up for us. What was your image like up to this point? Crazy, I’m sure.

JH: Nope. I think I had a pretty solid image. I wasn’t doing anything irrational, and I was really focused on the players. I was quite excited to be able to play the seniors event for the first time, and I wanted to give it my very best shot. I should add that I was extremely fortunate to survive the very first level when I had flopped trip kings holding K-J, but was beat by another player with K-Q. I actually lost 70 percent of my stack in the first 10 minutes of play.

CT: OK, let’s talk about this first hand.

Craig Koch raises to 125,000 from the button. Hess calls with AClub Suit 10Spade Suit from the small blind.

JH: Koch had been raising my blinds quite often, and I decided to take a bit of a stand.

CT: Well, A-10 is a pretty strong hand to defend against a button-raiser. What was your read on Koch?

JH: He was at my table with three tables to go, and I noticed he mainly played very strong hands. When he raised, I had put him on either a pair or big cards.

Flop: JClub Suit 9Diamond Suit 5Diamond Suit (pot: 320,000)

Hess checks. Koch checks.

CT: Any guess as to the range of hands Koch has after his check?

JH: I still thought my original read was right, and when he checked, it didn’t really change my mind, as he could have been hoping I would bet the turn so he could check-raise me.

Turn: 3Club Suit (pot: 320,000)

Hess checks. Koch checks.

CT: If Koch had fired the turn, were you prepared to call?

JH: Truthfully, I’m not sure, but once he checked, I was 100 percent sure he was weak.

River: JSpade Suit

Hess checks. Koch bets 100,000.

CT: What did you think about Koch’s bet-sizing here on the river? Did it scare you at all that it was a small value-bet or a total bluff?

JH: Once the JSpade Suit hit, I actually thought about betting out. However, I wanted to keep the pot as small as possible, as I was out of position. So when he bet, I was pretty confident I had him. I could have raised there, but I decided to call so that he would be forced to show his hand, both so I could gain information for the future and to send him a message that he won’t be able to run me over.

Hess calls. Koch reveals 7Diamond Suit 6Spade Suit. Hess wins the pot of 520,000.

CT: Nice call.

Hand No. 2

Key Concepts: Applying pressure, paying attention to the payouts and stack sizes

CT: This is your self-proclaimed “stupid call” hand. Set it up for us.

JH: Well, I had just knocked out both the fifth- and fourth-place finishers and had a commanding chip lead. At the same time, the other players kept asking what the money payouts for second and third place were, so I just decided to be ultra-aggressive and try to run over the table to complete the tournament. At this point in time, Craig Koch had less than four big blinds left, so I decided to put a lot of pressure on Dick Harwood. We went two orbits with me winning the blinds and antes until this hand, which gave me about a 5-1 chip lead over him. At the beginning of this hand, I decided to increase my opening raise, which equaled about 25 percent of his stack.
Hess raises to 500,000 from the button.

CT: Why the choice of five times the big blind? Obviously you’re putting the pressure on the small stack and forcing him all in. Can you go more in depth about your thinking here?

JH: You’re exactly right. I wanted to put as much pressure on Richard as possible. After all, I was raising him 20 percent to 25 percent of his stack consistently, so for him, he would either lay down quickly or be forced into a very difficult calling situation. I knew I was grinding both of my competitors down, and sooner or later they would have to take a stand.

Harwood tanks and then raises all in from the big blind.

CT: What went through your mind when he shipped it in?

JH: Well, I was absolutely sure I was behind, but at the same time, he took a very long time to decide whether or not to ship it in. I was actually hoping to see A-K or A-Q when I called. Unfortunately, he had J-J. and I had to hope for a straight or possible flush. I knew it was a bad call, but also knew I would still have a big chip lead, even if I lost the hand.

Hess calls and reveals 10Spade Suit 8Spade Suit. Harwood reveals JSpade Suit JClub Suit.

Flop: QHeart Suit 5Diamond Suit 7Club Suit (pot: 4,560,000)
Turn: 7Heart Suit (pot: 4,560,000)
River: 9Diamond Suit (pot: 4,560,000)

Harwood wins the pot of 4,560,000

JH: Subsequently, I continued my pressure and eventually knocked out Craig Koch, which had me back to a 3-1 chip lead going into heads-up play.

CT: You’ve played in the main event about five times now. What have you learned the most from your live-tournament experiences?

JH: The main event is a different beast, entirely. There are so many incredibly talented players in the field in addition to many players who have entered just for the experience. The biggest thing I have learned is to play patiently. As you know personally, I do like to mix it up a bit. However, in the big tournaments, it’s a much better strategy to let the play come to you. I really made it a point over the past couple of years to watch and study how many of the top players were consistently getting deep in tournaments. In my opinion, it was more about putting myself in positions that would force my opponents to make mistakes, and limiting my own. Fortunately, the past couple of years, this has been working out well for me.