Some of the hands I played or witnessed at the 2006 WSOP at the Rio will follow. It takes some good reads and some good fortune to get through these enormous minefields once you get out of the gate—it is very easy to blow yourself up.
In one event in the second hour I had 3475 in chips and was the second biggest stack at my table, three to the right of the button with AhJd and I raised it to 175 over a big blind of 50 in a hand of no-limit hold'em. Only the little blind called and he was playing 90% of the hands to this point and was the only opponent at this table that had more chips than I did. Although he held a lot chips and played a lot of hands and I already ascertained that he was unbluffable (by firing a bullet on every street at him in the 15,000 buy-in event at the Bellagio in December when he held a weak holding and yet called me down) he was no dummy, he was just super aggressive and I thought I could surmise his likely hands. The flop came J73 rainbow and I bet 400, he check-raised it to 1000 and now I am looking at a pot of 1800 and can call only 600 if I am uncertain about where I am in this hand but this will leave me with only 2300 and the pot will have 2400 in it before his likely bet. The conclusion of this line of thinking is that I should either give up the hand to a very aggressive player or move all-in. That does not seem like a choice at all but helps one decide on the appropriate action. Further I think that if he holds a set he is likely to call and try to trap me with a large check-raise on the next street and therefore that all-in is the correct play while I still have some fold equity. All of this analysis is nice but in addition I am certain that he holds KJ, QJ, JT, or J9suited and that it is surely the correct play as if he now folds I will add an important amount to my stack. I move all-in and he calls quickly with his set and turns over 33. It comes Ace, then 8 and I get up trying to find another way to play the hand. Where did I go wrong? Bad read, that is for sure.
Bad reads are unpleasant but bad plays are harder to eat and bad situations are just "coolers". How about this one, which happened in a six handed no-limit hold'em event with a 2500 dollar buy-in. Is there some way to win this hand? Is it better to just muck it? Both are hard to imagine, as I thought what happened gave me the best chance to win the hand. First I will tell you about the hand that happened just before this one. A kid raises to 150 up front and I muck the 97off-suit I am dealt in the little blind without a lot of thought. Barry Shulman calls from the big blind and the flop comes 865 rainbow and Barry bets out like 250 with the pre-flop raiser making it 600 and Barry calling. It comes 9 and now Barry moves all-in for 1750 and the kid goes into a huddle for several minutes and calls. Barry has A7 off-suit and the kid has QQ.
On the next hand the kid is first in and makes it 150 to go off a stack of 675, another unknown player calls off a stack of 2425, and now Jason Lester makes it 700 to go (well I have known Jason since he was a teenager that arrived in New York City from Montreal in about 1976 and he is very thoughtful and a touch conservative and I have a great deal of respect for his raises and re-raises). I am on the button behind a stack that is second only to Barry's of 2950 and look down at 10-10 and what would have been a re-raise to 900 is now a question mark. Move all-in? Call? Muck? All of these plays have been suggested by professional poker players that I have presented this situation with so there is no consensus but it is likely that one of the plays is correct. Which one? So far a short stack in first position raised, someone called, Jason re-raised, I have to find an action that suits my holding of 10-10, and Barry has yet to act behind me with his big stack—although it seems unlikely that a fifth player could enter the fray over all this potential power. I do what one does when you are undecided and call. Barry Shulman now moves all-in from the little blind with his mega stack of over 5000. Wow! The under-the-gun player with only 675 total shows his 99 to the big blind to certify it and mucks—with only 525 more I think this is a mistake once the big stack has moved in to supply you with protection. To be even more succinct I think you have to call all-in in all circumstances because of the math—you are getting a lot of pot odds to call, a big multiple of your investment (2900 in the pot for a risk of 525). The next player mucked what he claimed was AQ and that seems quite likely to me. Jason now goes into the tank in front of me with his holding of 66. If he folds I have to call because I know Barry is capable of doing this with AK, and in fact he has AcKc. Jason will win a pot of 5950 for his investment of his last 1750 and decides the math is right even though I have yet to act behind him. With Jason calling I have to muck my hand as 10-10 does not look like a good holding in a three handed pot when I have to risk my entire stack. The flop comes 965 and the meaningless 4 and 2 complete the layout and both smaller pairs in the hand flop sets. This was the key hand for me in the tournament but even knowing the hands and then the flop I am not sure of what the right action was. I do know that there was a lack of decisive action on my part and that aggressive players and maniacs would go all-in and conservative players would often muck their hands.
Onward to a 2000 no-limit hold'em event as we went under 300 players from a start of 2100 with 198 players getting paid. The blinds are 200-400 with a 50 dollar ante and one needs 11,000 to be reasonably comfortable at this level and have a range of possible actions—but par is now over 14,000 and the next level will be 300-600 with a 75 dollar ante and will require over 16,000 in chips to be okay with your status. In reality many players have large stacks of 35 to 55,000 and many others are very short stacked and will have to risk their tournament lives within the hour so the situation is set up for action with stack-bullies at every table wanting to apply pressure. A very conservative player had been on my right and anted himself to death while whining about his cards (in the meanwhile I was looking at T3 and J4 for hours on end, could he have been getting the same cards?) He was replaced by a chip bully, or a would-be chip bully—a guy who was determined to get broke but got to the money in spite of himself. He was raising 60% of the hands and playing 90% of the hands and although he was all-in a number of times with weak hands he kept surviving. Being behind him I saw my stack go from 11,000 down to 6,000 without being able to contest a single pot. The best hand I held was an A6 behind one of his raises to 2000 in midfield. My only amusement was waiting to see what he would turn over next. Bill Gazes raised one hand from the button and he moved all-in with J9 off-suit and Bill called him with AQ off-suit and the guy stayed alive when it came K93 brick, brick. Another hand he moved all-in with a stack of 6100 from mid-field with 33 and the big blind called off a big stack with A9. Bully doubled up again and was back in action. Even though it is easy to see what and how the bully was playing it is hard to play back at him without a mid-sized hand like AT suited or 77. It is very hard to like K9 off-suit against just him and in most cases there are x other player yet to act. He will certainly be calling your all-in so you do have to beat him! During the bubble round a tight player raised off a big stack and bully re-raised from the button. After some thought Mr. Tight mucked QQ face up. A terrible play in my opinion and even the bully was stunned speechless.
Until next time play good…and get lucky!
Ed Note: Paradise Poker have rebuy tournies about every hour that get crazy action.