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Hand Down Under

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Apr 09, 2004


In January, my wife and I jetted off to the land down under. Primarily, it was to be a vacation for us, but the timing of the trip was based on a major poker tournament being held in Melbourne by Crown Casinos. The Australasian Championship featured a AU $10,000 (about $7,200) buy-in no-limit hold'em final event.

Because Crown Casino is a true five-star hotel, we were in the middle of quite luxurious surroundings. My wife knew this would be a good base for several day trips. My favorite was to Phillip Island, where we watched penguins return to their burrows in the hills after scurrying across the beach in large groups at dusk. They had spent the entire day hunting and eating. Watching them scurry home across the beach and climb up the hills to their burrows was a treat. Did you know that penguins are indigenous to the Southern Hemisphere and polar bears are indigenous to the Northern Hemisphere? Thus, a polar bear has never met a penguin in the wild!

Anyway, let's get back to poker. A total of 130 players entered the main event, which was to last three days. After day one ended, I had about doubled up, and was in good stead. Andy Glazer had a ton of chips, and was feeling good after winning the stud and the pot-limit hold'em preliminary events, the latter of which he won after just arriving from his 14-hour flight from Los Angeles. Three of the Hendon Mob made the second day: Joe Beevers, Ross Boatman, and his brother, Barney. The other Hendon Mob member, Ram Vaswani, along with Layne Flack, were two of the surprise early exits.

Late in day two, I was in full control of my table and running incredibly smoothly when the following hand came up. With the blinds at $1,000-$2,000 and the antes at $300 a player, I opened for $6,500 with the Adiamonds 10diamonds. I was called by a local player, and immediately put him on a pair somewhere between tens and deuces. The reason I thought he had such a hand was that it seemed like no one wanted to play a hand against me, much less raise me, so I thought he had a hand with which he thought he had to take a flop.

The flop came down 8diamonds 7diamonds 2spades, and I immediately checked with the nut-flush draw and two overcards to the board. The local player bet out $10,000, and I went into the tank. I asked how much he had left, figuring we both had about $70,000 total. I was thinking, "OK, the fact that he bet means he has my hand beat, but if he has threes, fours, fives, sixes, nines, or tens, I will probably win the pot if I move all in. If he has a set, I'll be in trouble, but it is much more likely that he has a hand with which he cannot call my all-in move."

Traditionally, this is a situation in which players move all in with two "overs" and the nut-flush draw. However, I don't always buy into tradition. Thus, I studied for a good long while before I made my move. Eventually, I moved all in, and was called instantly! Yikes, now I knew my opponent was going to show me three sevens or three eights. In fact, he did show me the three eights. Now, I needed a diamond. The turn card was the 6clubs, and now I needed a diamond or a 9. But, alas, the last card was the Qspades, and now it was time to total up the damage.

He had $65,700, and I had $65,900, leaving me with $200 – which I promptly anted up and lost after winning the first pot to give me some hope. There I sat, on the rail, stunned, while watching the remaining 21 players champion on. They would play down to the final nine, and stop for the day.

What had I done? I had full control of the table. I had built up my chips virtually risk-free, with zero confrontations and zero all ins. And then I risked it all, without even studying my opponent properly – with a drawing hand, no less. What is my record on other continents? I won the Poker EM in Vienna and Late Night Poker III in Wales, and I thought winning here, in my first trip, would keep that trend going.

However, there was the World Poker Tour event in Tunica in 10 days, and then we had the big ones at Commerce Casino in February. Finally, it dawned on me: I guess I cannot win them all. But, I sure want to win them all! And I'll tell you this much: I sure will continue to try my absolute hardest to win them all!diamonds

Editor's note: Chat or play poker with Phil at To learn more about him, go to