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Phil Hellmuth On Great Entrance/Bad Exit at the WSOPE

I arrived at last week's $16,000 buy-in World Series of Poker Europe Main Event wearing my best "Poker Face" by riding into London's Leicester Square in a red double-decker bus accompanied by a sixteen-piece band and eleven Lady Gaga impersonators singing the hit song "Poker Face."

It was my best entrance ever!

Seriously, though, I was determined to make a good showing in this tournament. With 30,000 in starting chips and a good blind structure, I liked my chances of making a deep run. My plan was to play super-tight poker while giving myself permission to reraise when a seemingly weak opponent raised it up.

I stuck with my plan until Level 5, with blinds at 200/ 400 plus a 50 chip ante, when the following hand came up.

Everyone folded to the player in the small blind. He raised it up to 1,200. I looked down at Jd-10d suited connectors in the big blind and made the call.

The flop was 9c-8d-6s. The small blind bet 2,000 and I called with an open-ended straight draw and two overcards.

The turn was the Jh. This time, he bet 4,000 and I called with top pair.

The river was the 2c and he fired out a 10,000 bet. With only 16,000 chips left, I faced a critical decision. I hesitated before finally making the call. Then I saw the bad news as he showed down 8-8 for a set of eights to collect the pot.

Let's review this hand.

My opponent made a good opening raise to 1,200 from the small blind. My pre-flop call was standard.

On the flop, he made another nice play by betting 2,000. At this point, I could have easily raised it up since I had the nut straight draw and two overcards to the board. So, the big question is, should I have raised the flop or not?

Well, it was a read-dependent move.

If I truly sensed my opponent was weak, a raise would have been the best play as it most likely would have induced him to fold and allowed me to win the pot right there.

Or, if I thought he had a medium strength hand, a big raise would also have been a reasonable play because I just couldn't see him risking most of his chips by calling with that type of hand.

And I figured that the worst case scenario was that he would merely call my raise on the flop and check on the turn, allowing me to check behind him and take a free card on the river.

Now, if I had sensed he was strong, a call would have been my best play. And indeed, that was my thinking so I like my play.

On the turn, I like both my opponent's 4,000 bet and my call. His bet into the jack on the board looked relatively strong so there was no good reason for me to get too aggressive with a raise.

His 10,000 bet on the river into a 14,500 pot was a great play. However, he unintentionally revealed a classic tell by tossing in two 5,000 chips as opposed to an assortment of smaller chips. That action really signaled his strength and I should have been more aware. Players who bet with their big chips often have the goods!

I also should have realized that when my opponent bet out on all four streets, he had me beat. Players rarely four-barrel bluff these days. He just had to be super-strong.

Even though there were obvious signals throughout the hand that he was strong, I managed to make a boneheaded call. What a terrible way to exit the tourney, Phil Hellmuth, but what a truly great way to make an entrance!


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