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Phil Hellmuth : Slot Machine Hand at the Aria

Earlier this month I hit the luxurious high-limit Phil Ivey Room at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas to play in a $150-$300 mixed game.

I'd just won a nice-sized limit Hold'em hand but felt like the pot was a little bit lighter in weight than it could have been. No, I wasn't being cheated. It just seemed like the other guys at the table had backed off their betting a bit. In the previous hand, for example, I was in the big blind with pocket eights and faced an under the gun raise from Swedish pro Christer Johansson and then a reraise from the player on the button. I made it four bets and Johansson capped it with a fifth bet.

Man, you just don't see many capped pots in limit Hold'em before the flop!

Well, on the very next hand I found 7-7 in the small blind. The under the gun player opened for two bets, I made it three bets, Johansson called from the big blind, and the player on the button called.

The flop came 7-7-5. Yes! The Slot Machine Hand -- four sevens! I casually tossed out a bet and the two other players called.

The turn card was an eight. I bet, Johansson raised, and the third player folded. Then I made it three bets and Johansson called.

The river was a four. I bet, Johansson raised, and I reraised.

Johansson hovered indecisively with six black $100 chips in his hand. It was obvious that he was considering another raise. Ultimately, though, he decided to just call.

I showed pocket sevens for quads and he flipped over pocket fives for a flopped full house! What a cooler!

Let's take a closer look at this hand.

My pre-flop three bet with a medium pocket pair was standard. My bet was designed to get rid of the big blind though I certainly didn't mind more money getting tossed into the pot.

My bet on the flop was also standard. I would have made a similar bet with A-K, A-Q, or any other hand that I would have three bet with pre-flop, so why check when I flop the nuts? Also, I knew that it was likely that my two opponents would call any reasonable bet on the flop with a wide range of hands including two overcards, any pairs, and even backdoor flush draws.

Now, Johansson's smooth call with a made full house is a play worthy of discussion.

The argument in favor of this play is that there was a decent chance that neither I nor the other player were drawing live, so why jam us out of the pot? By letting both of us stay in the hand, Johansson was hoping to drag some extra chips, for example, if a diamond were to come on fourth street to give one of us a flush draw.

The argument against smooth-calling in this situation is that Johansson would probably lose some bets from me if, in fact, I did have an overpair.

There could have been one great scenario for Johansson. Say I did have an overpair instead of quads. He would have raised on the flop, I would have three bet, and he would have smooth-called. Then he would have raised again on the turn. That way, he would have picked up about $1,350 more.

And if our other opponent had a drawing hand or an overpair, Johansson would have won even more by raising on the flop - that is if I hadn't flopped quads!

Johansson had some interesting options after flopping a full house, but after considering the alternatives, I think the smooth-call was the best play.


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