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Phil Hellmuth Says Q-Q Had to be Best Hand!

Here's a hand from a $3,000 buy-in tournament at this year's World Series of Poker. To set the scene, we were deep into the event with eighty-two players left and seventy-two of those getting paid.

With the blinds at $1,000/$2,000, poker pro Ted Lawson opened under the gun for $7,000 and another player called from the button. I looked down at Q-Q in the big blind.

Wanting to keep my powerful hand well disguised, I quickly called. There was no need to hem and haw, possibly revealing the power of the trap that I was about to set.

The flop came 8-8-8. I checked and Ted fired out $20,000. The other player folded and I called, though I did think about tossing in a raise. I just didn't want to scare Ted off a small pocket pair because in that case he'd be drawing dead.

A jack fell on the turn. I checked and Ted moved all-in right away. I counted my remaining chips -- about $74,000 -- and then went into the tank.

Why was Ted betting it all? Did he have A-A or K-K? Pocket jacks? A $74,000 bet into a $62,000 pot? Why did he bet so darn fast?

A minute passed before I started to talk to Lawson, telling him how powerful I was and that if he had a hand like pocket tens, he'd be dead as a doorknob. I needed to judge his reaction to my commentary. Did I read fear or calm?

Calm it was. So, I folded, and flipped my Q-Q face up.

A crowd of spectators had gathered to watch this hand unfold and they were stunned by my decision. Then, Ted Lawson revealed his pocket aces. Wow!

No more than five players in the world would have folded pocket queens in that spot. It turned out to be a genius play.

Okay, I'll stop bragging now and take a closer look at how this hand played out.

Ted's $7,000 opening bet was a little steep compared to today's standard of two-and-one-half times the big blind.

My call from the big blind was a very tricky move and was clearly not the appropriate play for most players. For them, the standard and preferred play would have been to reraise it up about $15,000 more.

I like my check on the flop because it allowed me to continue my trap.

Ted's $20,000 bet on the flop was solid. Betting out with a powerful hand -- the second best hand in this case -- sometimes pays off handsomely. But checking here might have worked, too.

Look, you probably have your opponent drawing dead already, unless he happens to have a pocket pair of nines or higher, which would be unlikely. It's possible that the third player in the hand has a small pair and would bet, or a jack and would have hit it on the turn. In either case, Lawson's aces would have gotten paid off.

I like my $20,000 call on the flop but, again, would advise most players to raise it up right here. The minute you call a big bet, your opponent knows that you're strong. Calling in this spot simply gives your opponent a free shot at hitting an ace or king.

My advice: Go ahead and move all-in here unless your poker ESP is screaming something to the contrary!

Ted's bet on the turn was okay but I would have considered a different approach. He could have bet a lot less, say $20,000, in which case I almost certainly would have called.

Also, Ted should have taken his time before firing out his final bet. Betting ultra-fast is a tricky play, but to me, it's a sure sign of strength.


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