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Phil Hellmuth : Poker hand Of The Week 9/6/10

I choose the poker tournaments that I play with great care. I don't miss many WSOP events which means I'm booked in Vegas from the end of May until the middle of July each year. I also like to play the major WPT tournaments, so that's another twenty days per year that I'm away from home.

Add in all the made-for-television games like Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker and The Big Game, and man, that's a lot of poker!

There is one other event that I always try to play, the $10,000 buy-in heads-up tournament at the Los Angeles Poker Classic. What's fun about this tourney is that it features a unique double-elimination format -- lose two matches and you're toast.

In 2008, with 110 players signed up to play, I got lucky and randomly drew a first round bye. But in the second round, I had to face the always-tough and well-respected pro Erick "E-Dog" Lindgren, that year's WSOP Player of the Year and an all-around great guy, too.

In the second hand of our match, with the blinds at $100/$200, I limped in on the button with Q-3 offsuit. Erick raised $300 and I called.

The flop came K-7-5. Erick fired out $600. Attempting to bluff E-Dog out of the pot, I made it $2,600 to go. Didn't work, though, he called.

Another king fell on the turn. Erick checked this time, probably wary of my raise on the flop. Continuing my bluff, I bet $1,800 and Erick called again.

The river was a ten and Erick checked. I studied for a while then decided to check, too.

Wow, good thing I didn't try to bluff on the river as E-Dog rolled over K-10 for a big full house.

Let's take a closer look at this hand.

I don't mind my pre-flop call for $300. My $2,000 raise on the flop was a decent play although it certainly didn't work out as planned. I'm pretty sure that my bluff would have done the trick if E-Dog was weak, but that just wasn't the case.

On the turn, I like my $1,800 bluff bet. It was designed to deliver the deceptive message that I had a king and wanted a call. Also, it afforded me the opportunity to continue bluffing on the river.

I love my check on the river. I mean, c'mon, it was the only move that worked to my benefit in this hand!

E-Dog, you played the match like a true champion.

When I was down to my last $5,000, a less experienced player might have eased up, or conversely, might have played recklessly. But Erick never let me back into the match. He played fiercely until he had the victory in hand.

Of course, I didn't make it easy for him. It's important to play your best right up until the end because you just never know when a run of good cards will come your way.

One more tip: You've got to be willing to change your heads-up tactics depending on how your opponent plays his cards.

My preference is to play patiently and trap a super-aggressive opponent by letting them do the betting. And when I do catch a strong hand, I'll make a small bet to induce a call. But if my opponent plays tight, I'll try a few well-timed bluffs. In fact, I might bluff every single pot until he finally calls me down.

Heads-up poker requires flexibility, imagination, and well-timed aggression. Keep that in mind the next time you get to down to the final two.


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