On day one of the Professional Poker Tour at the Bellagio on April 15th I held KhKd in the big blind with blinds of 25-50. The unknown player in first position made it 125, Ram Vaswani called right behind him, then another pro, then Ron Rose in the cutoff called. First question is how to play KK now?
I re-raised the pot of 650 one thousand more, expecting to get no more than one caller with such a large raise only one half hour into the tournament. To my surprise the first three players all called quickly, and after some thought only Ron mucked his hand. The flop came 10s 7c 4s. The pot now has 4,650 in it and I have 8100 in front of me. How should I play the hand now? We will discuss this in the next column.
Other questions that are important to think about are; does one throw KK away before the flop? Ever? What actions would cause this? Have you done this [thrown away KK]? I will talk about my perceptions of this and give my answers in the next column.
The Mirage PPT (day two) is going on now, as I write this on May 11th, 2005. Four interesting hands from the play there came up in day one. All of them happened after about one half of the first limit was over (25-50 blinds, starting with 10,000 in chips).
First Huck Seed raised it to 150 from an early position, LeVar Burton (StarTrek, Next Generation) called, Robert Turner called, and William McBeath (President of the Bellagio) re-raised to 450 from the button with everyone calling. The flop came Kd-10h-7h and was checked to McBeath who bet 900, with only Huck Seed calling, the turn brought the 8h (now there are 3 hearts on the board). Check, check. Now the river brings the 6c and there are also 4 cards (10-8-7-6) to a straight on the board. Huck now bet 1400 into the pot (he has to give McBeath, an aggressive amateur, a hand like QQ or JJ, or possibly AQ off-suit with one heart, or AK and afraid of being check-raised on the turn, or possibly AhKx with top pair and the nut flush draw. After all it is important to remember here that McBeath re-raised an upfront raiser and two callers of that raise before the flop, so even holding the button you would expect this hand to be fairly well definedeven the AQ off-suit mentioned above is a bit of a stretch. Huck later told me he held two pair and that is quite logical). McBeath now picked up the call of 1400 in one hand and five yellows (5,000) in the other and artistically released the chips from the calling hand, and one part of a dramatic pause later, the other 5,000 came over the button and into the pot. Clearly his intention had been to raise and in a home game no one would have looked a second time at his action. In this case the young on-top-of-it dealer grabbed the 5,000 as soon as it hit the table, threw it back to McBeath, and stated firmly "string raise!" and then, of course, the arguing began (without getting bitter or nasty as I have often seen it in the past). It is important to note several things here; one is that McBeath is this dealer's boss! Two the dealer must step in and run the game to some extent... but was that important and appropriate in this case? Three is that amongst better players, more experienced players, and professionals they would prefer that they be allowed to call a 'string raise', not the dealer. So, in this case, Huck could have politely asked the dealer, "Do you think that was a string raise, dealer?" Now, of course, Huck was fully aware of McBeath's political clout and was unlikely to say anything, even if he thought it was poorly done and that his hand was hard to call the big raise with. After all he might be giving up a lot of great golf outings at Shadow Creek! It is also important to note that in no way did McBeath use his position or political clout to influence the discussion, potential ruling, or outcome. After a minute or so of discussion, at which point I called for a floorperson, Huck argued that the raise should be allowed (he later told me that a big part of this was that he hates to have outsiders, even the dealer, be the person who calls the 'string raise'. Of course he also was inclined to think he held a winning hand, but I do not think that was as important to him as the ethical situation.), and as that was agreeable to both play continued with Huck now going into a long think. At last he called and McBeath turned over a surprising Ah9h for the stone cold nuts. His pre-flop re-raise had made him a large profit.
The very next hand Huck Seed raised it to 150 from 'under-the-gun' and McBeath called from the cutoff and I called from the little blind with Ad-10s (okay, okay...do as I say and not as I do, lol. Never call with this type of hand from this position!). The flop came AhJd8d and I bet 400 with Huck calling and McBeath mucking. The turn brought the 3 of hearts and as I had 9300 and Huck only 1800 I bet out the 1800. "Why so much?" he asked complainingly as mucked 10h-9h face up. He would have had to risk his whole tournament life with 10 high and was not willing to do so, even though he had an open ended straight draw and a flush draw (15 outs when I hold a higher pair) with one card to come. The point of this hand is that when you have a lot more chips than your opponent you must use them in order for them to mean something.
The very next hand four players limped in front of me, I called for the 50 with KdQd on the button, and Huck made it 500 to go out of the big blind. Two of the limpers called and it was back to me. As pretty as this hand is to look at it is a trouble hand in no-limit, but I have three important facts in my favor: One is that the raiser (Huck Seed) has only 1300 more in chips, two is that I have the button, and thirdly the two limpers that called the raise are amateurs that likely have weaker cards (such as KJ) and may give me a lot of chips after the flop. The flop comes Jh5c3h and Huck immediately goes all-in for his last 1300, the first amateur frets and rearranges his chips many times, and finally goes all-in. "Oh no!" says Huck and turns over 8h7h, but he is not in bad shape as the amateur (in this tournament on an exemption (a celebrity)the local venue gets 8 exemptions and the World Poker Tour gets 14 exemptions to use as they wish) now shows Ad-10h! Huck still has to get lucky and does so with a 7 on the turn to stay alive.
This was a hand that we later argued about as Huck and several other professional players said that it was a "great" play to move all-in with the A-10 and I said it was flat terrible in all cases because you had two players yet to act behind you. What do you, the readers, think?
The next time I had the big blind another interesting decision came up for me. Huck Seed (Still on a short stack, but now with 3500.) raised in early position to 150 and Yosh Nakano re-raised to 750 immediately behind him. LeVar called and it came to me in the big blind, where I held JsJh. First decision was not if to play, but how to play. I called and Huck mucked his hand. The flop came 2c2h3c and after a short think I bet 1500, Yosh now moved all-in for 8300 and LeVar mucked. If I call and lose I will have 500 left. What should I do? Yosh is aware that Huck is raising with a lot of hands but he still rates to have a good hand in re-raising three in front of the big blind. Some likely hands for him in this spot would be 9-9, 10-10, J-J, Q-Q, K-K and AcKc, I did not think he held AA (can the reader find the clues that make this unlikely?). I thought long and hard in this situation and have asked a number of professionals what they would do, with a small majority answering they would surrender the hand. I am not sure that is the correct action, but that is what I did as I still had 7300 and the cost of each round was only 75.
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