I left you with a question last column as to how to play the 77 in the specific situation against Phil Ivey that I outlined. The most amazing thing to me was how the answers were split for the first 120 or so players that I asked, almost evenly amongst the three possible actions. Later a clearer answer emerged. Demographically Europeans leaned numerically to folding, east coast US players leaned to call, and west coast US players leaned to all-in! Furthermore beginners and mathematicians leaned to the all-in. Conservative players leaned to the fold. In other words any answer cannot be far wrong, but I will share my thoughts on the hand.
Firstly what happened was that after a long think of twenty or so seconds I elected to call, Phil looked down at his hand briefly, put it down and said, "All-in." I was certain he had aces or kings and laid my hand down after about three seconds. He held KK and the button had A-5 off-suit and it came J82-10-9 so my personal second guessing began. Had I simply moved all-in I would have backdoored the straight and become a massive chip leader in the event. On the other hand I played the hand in such a way that I could get away from it and not rely on "sucking out". So what is right?
I would never think of folding and was shocked that so many chose this option. Perhaps their background is more in money games? I am not sure. Calling was okay but does not seem like the best play to me now. I would recommend moving all-in if you do not know your opponents or are in doubt as to what to do. If you know that the big blind is conservative or, at least not wildly aggressive, an alternative is to raise the minimum, making it 10,200 to go. Over this re-raise the big blind will likely only move all-in with AA, KK, or QQ as all other holdings by him will seem somewhat vulnerable. If he is an internet player, or real aggressive, he might move all-in with a large range of hands including AK, which is why if you think he has this profile I suggest moving all-in first and removing any doubt he might have about your commitment to the hand. The all-in option may take out some borderline hands that he might play for 10.2K but not for your whole stack like 77, 88, 99, 10-10, AQ, AJ suited, or A-10 suited.
This hand brings to mind another hand that was played on day three of the WSOP, ten thousand dollar buy-in event in 2003. We were on the bubble and someone moved all-in from the cutoff and I held QQ in the big blind with about 35,000 more in chips than they had. I called and the player held 10-10 and things looked rosy as it came A-J-4-2, but hold that celebration folks, a 10 on the river! This was heartbreaking and discouraging for sure and I consoled myself with the thought that at least I had enough chips to make the money. One round later we were still hand-for-hand and Dan Harrington limped on the button for 2000 from his stack of 185,000 and I looked down at Kd10d and called the 1000 more from my little stack of 31,000, Phil Ivey was in the big blind with 245,000 and he checked. The flop brought 10-4-3 and I realized that I did not know what to do. Being between two large stacks I checked and they checked. The turn was a 7 and with a rainbow board I felt foolish checking again and yet.... So I bet a modest amount, 6,000 and Phil re-raised it to 32,000, Dan dumped and it was back to me. What to do now? I have 24,000 and will be on the button if I fold, but is that the right thing to be thinking about? I believe that I am holding the best hand but have to risk my tournament life and getting into the money to find out if I am right. As I thought about it the chair hugged my rear end rather tightly. I have heard Barry Greenstein say that you would never hear him say that he was throwing away what he thought was the best hand but here I was doing exactly that, and cursing myself for playing it in the first place without the courage to go to the flag with it! There are lions and there are lambs at the bubble but my thought is that most players are neither, they are just extensions of their bankroll. If my bankroll had been ten million dollars at that moment I would have gone all-in. If that 15,000 dollar win was significant to my bankroll then I was going to foldit was and I did.
Some hands later we were in the money and I began to rebuild my stack the good old fashioned wayI got lucky! I remember holding KcQc and raising for my last 18,000 from the button over a big blind of 2400, only to have Howard Lederer call me from the little blind with a big stack and a hand of QQ, it came AJ4 and a K on the turn and by day's end I was up to 140,000 again. Now 140K was a lot less than the 210,000 I had started the day with, but it gave me a fighting chance and as I had had one foot in the grave it seemed like a lot.
That last hand of the day was another one that I remember very well. Marcel Luske made it 6,000 to go up front and another European fellow called him from the button. At this point they announced that it was the last hand of the day and additionally I knew that when and if one more player was to go broke that I would move up another 5,000 dollars in guaranteed return. So considering these tangibles I let loose of the 3-3 I held in big blind when calling was clearly correct for the 3600 more that it would cost me. It came A93! and Marcel led into the pot for 9,000 with the European guy going all-in for 95,000 and Marcel quickly folding. For the second time in one day I was second guessing my own play. I had made a mistake and this one was hard to eat. Barring an unusual layout I had just mucked a big win and knew it.
On day four I played for six hours and never started with a big hand, never was involved in a key hand, and at last with my stack at 135,000 and the blinds at 4,000 and 8,000 with antes of 1,000 decided that I had to be willing to play AJ or 66 when Bruno Fituossi limped two to my right from second position with a stack of 800,000. Now I froze up and made yet another bad play (seems to be a theme here! It is really hard to play no-limit well), I called with AJ of clubs. It may not have mattered as Bruno has held over me a number of times, but I suspect he might have laid this one down. He held A2 off-suit and it came A62 with me having the nut flush draw as well. We put it all in the middle and I was gone.
When you play into the fourth day of these events something else begins to happen, most players arrive at a level of exhaustion that is unimaginable to the average person. This not only happened to me but has to numerous other final table participants that I have talked to about it, including three of those that played at the final table of the WSOP 2005. Of course I had been in Las Vegas for six weeks already and after the final event I went to the Village Green in Carmel, California and checked in and slept 17 hours a day for three days. Before I went I tried to coach my friend Amir Vahedi at the final table and felt like a 95 pound woman at the world's strongest man competition. I was screaming at him at every break and all he wanted to do was go to sleep. Another million? Forget it. He just wanted some sleep!
So until next time play good...and get lucky!
Ed Note: Check out our newest room - Poker Host. Sign up today, and play in three $5,000 Freerolls with top pros like Amir Vahedi, and Hoyt Corkins