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Phil hellmuth hand of the week

I was playing a $200 buy-in UltimateBet Online Poker Championship event on Sunday and was cruising against some tough competition. With 300 players remaining out of a starting field of 1,600, this interesting hand came up.

The blinds were $250-$500 with a $25 ante and I was sitting on $5,900 in chips. My table image was tight as I was playing very patiently. The player in first position was the chip leader with $42,000. He opened for $1,100. Three players folded and the action circled around to me holding Ac-9c.

Normally, this would be an easy fold for me. But the player that opened was playing a ton of hands -- about fifty percent of the hands that were dealt in the previous twenty minutes. After some deliberation, I concluded that I probably had the best hand and that my best play was to move all-in.

Everyone else folded to the player in the small blind who surprisingly reraised all-in for $21,200 -- not good for me. The player that opened the pot folded.

My opponent turned over A-Q. His hand held up and I was busted.

Let's take a closer look.

Why was the chip leader opening half the hands that were dealt to him at a full nine-handed table? That's just bad poker. He should have been protecting his lead, not trying to gamble it away!

How about the smallish $1,100 pre-flop bet? An opening bet for something like three times the big blind, about $1,500, would have been a better play.

Now here's the big question: What in the world was I thinking when I moved all-in for $5,900 with A-9 suited?

Well, I thought I had the best hand at the time. Also, I only had twelve big blinds remaining. Then again, even if I did have the best hand, there were still four players left to act behind me.

In retrospect, I should have folded instead of moving all-in. The chip leader was almost certain to call my bet. He was playing as loose as a goose. Throwing in another $4,900 would have made sense for him.

But suppose he had Q-10 offsuit? I would have been a 57% favorite to win the pot. Or he could have had K-9 suited and I would have been ahead by nearly two-to-one.

"Classic Phil" would have quickly folded his Ac-9c thinking that he should only play a big pot as the overwhelming favorite. But like everyone else, I occasionally make mistakes in the moment, especially in online games where hands are folded automatically after only a minute.

I don't like the $21,200 all-in move from the player in the small blind but I guess it wasn't a terrible play. He might have assumed that I was frustrated and anxious given the few number of hands that I had played, and as a result, that I might move all-in with a relatively weak hand. If that indeed was his logic, then he made the correct play.

Still, I do have the reputation of being a tight player. I mean, geez, I only played one hand in twenty minutes! I deserved a little more credit for having a big hand, right?

I called my friend, six-time WSOP bracelet winner Layne "Back to Back" Flack, and asked him what he thought about this hand.

According to Layne, if you're going to play A-Q in this spot, an all-in reraise is much better than a call because the big bet looks so powerful that it can force the under-the-gun raiser to fold pocket jacks or maybe even A-K. Good point, Layne.


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