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Phil Hellmuth On My Best Play of 2007
Back in 2007, I was invited to play no-limit Hold 'em on GSN's High Stakes Poker in a game featuring big name pros Sammy Farha, Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, and Eli Elezra among others. The minimum buy-in was $100,000, with $50,000 rebuys, although most players bought in for $300,000 or more. Antes were $100 with $300/$600 blinds and a $1,200 live blind posted on almost every hand.
If you don't know, the live blind is voluntarily posted by the player to the left of the big blind who then has the option of raising it up when the action gets back to him. The live blind equals twice the big blind and essentially doubles the size of the game.
On the second hand dealt, I called the $1,200 live blind with pocket fours. Sammy Farha called, and a player known as Silent Mark raised it up to $7,200 to go. Sammy and I both called.
The flop came 10h-5h-4d. I slow-played my set and checked; so did Sammy. Mark bet out $30,000. I hesitated and then made it $60,000 to go. Sammy folded but Mark moved all-in. I called instantly!
Mark had an open-ended straight draw with 3c-2c. Fortunately for me, he missed on the turn and river. The game was on!
But my real hand of the year hit a few hours later.
Daniel Negreanu raised it up to $4,000 to go. I called with 9-9, Jennifer Harman called, and Sammy Farha bumped it up another $20,000. Daniel quickly folded. Sensing that Sammy had A-K, I called.
The flop came 6c-3c-2d. I checked, Sammy bet $40,000, and I called.
The turn was the 4d. I checked again and this time Sammy fired out $70,000. I went into the tank to ponder the situation. I just couldn't get over the feeling that I had Sammy beat. Still, with the straight draw on the board, all I could reasonably beat was a pure bluff.
On the surface, it was an easy fold. You just don't play big pots with pocket nines on a textured board like the one I faced -- too many hands I couldn't beat.
Yet my instincts screamed I had him beat. My only hope was to move all-in; I couldn't just call and give Sammy the chance to hit a free card to beat me. He had $110,000 in front of him so my all-in move would cost me $180,000.
Gambling $180,000 with 9-9 on a 6-5-3-2 board? I'd look like a stone-cold idiot on national television if I was wrong!
The players at the table called the clock on me. With time ticking away, though, I felt even more certain that I had to go with my instincts and bet the $180,000.
I slowly began to push my chips to the middle when Sammy feigned that he planned to insta-call my bet.
Sammy's ploy surprised me and caused me to freeze for a few more seconds. There was still time to reconsider. No, I had to make my move. I shoved the whole $180,000 into the pot.
Sammy started talking but he didn't push in his chips! And he sounded weak, too!
In fact, he looked like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He wasn't looking at me at all. Could he really have me beat with pocket queens, jacks or tens?
I sweated it out until Sammy finally mucked his hand, which he later admitted to me was, indeed, A-K.
All in all, it was a great session for me on High Stakes Poker as I took home more than $400,000 in winnings.
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