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Phil Hellmuth On Going For 1 Million in Monte Carlo

I played in the $25,000 buy-in Monte Carlo Millions tournament a few years ago where $1 million went to the winner. Sixty players made it to Day Two, including me. I was feeling good about my chances to win.

Right off the bat, with blinds at $500/$1,000, the defending champion, let's call him Mr. X, made it $4,000 to go from first position. With 2-2 in the big blind, I pondered my decision.

Normally, I'd just call with this hand, trying to get lucky and flop trips, but my poker radar was really humming. I sensed weakness so I raised it up $12,000 more. Mr. X called.

The flop came 8-8-5. I bet $16,000 and Mr. X folded.

Things got crazy on the very next hand.

The button raised to $3,500 and I looked down at pocket jacks. I could smooth call, trying to trap the big blind as well as the original raiser, or I could reraise. I called.

Mr. X, who was in the big blind, announced a raise, making it $15,000 more to go.

I'd been watching Mr. X closely as he deliberated before finally announcing his action. The whole time, I asked myself if he really had my pocket jacks beat. It didn't seem like he raised with much conviction.

After the player on the button folded, and now feeling fairly certain that I was out in front, I reraised all-in, pushing my imposing stack of more than $105,000 into the pot.

Mr. X made the call. I flipped up my jacks and he flipped over A-K.

I was shocked! Call with A-K for $105,000? What kind of hand did he think I had?

No way would I risk my whole tournament with A-Q or worse on the fifth hand of Day Two with the blinds so small. Mr. X had called off all of his money in a situation where I could easily have had A-A or K-K.

Okay, I was still a 13-to-10 favorite to win. The flop came 9c-8c-6s and I was looking good with an overpair and a backdoor club flush draw.

The Kc fell on the turn giving Mr. X the best hand but now I had the flush draw. I needed a jack or a club on the river to win.

Nope, the 5h hit. I lost the pot and my self-control.

The Poker Brat in me started to rant and rave. I told Mr. X that only a fool would call off all of his money with A-K! I screamed that he had made a horrible play by calling the third raise, for more than $90,000, with blinds only at $500/$1,000!

Look, even though everything I said was true, in retrospect, I wish I had handled myself with more class. I should have smiled and said, "Nice hand." That's what the new Phil Hellmuth would have done.

Two hands later, I picked up A-A and managed to lose a small pot when I just called a pre-flop $1,000 bet, checked on a flop of 9-8-6, and then watched in horror as the big blind check-raised all-in. I was forced to fold.

Then, I picked up Q-Q and moved all-in for $16,000 against my opponent's Kh-6h.

The way the day was going, I actually expected to lose. I stood up and watched as the inevitable Ks hit on the river to beat me.

Pocket jacks, aces, and queens -- and all losers. That's poker, my friends.

By the way, Phil Ivey went on to win the $1 million first place prize and then added another $600,000 by winning a seven-player sit-and-go the next night.


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