I had a real good shot to win the World Poker Tour Championship last week in Las Vegas but you wouldn't have known that had you entered the room late on Day Two. With the blinds at $1,200/$2,400, I opened for $6,500 under the gun with pocket aces. Two players called, including the always tough professional player, Kathy Liebert.
The flop came 9c-7s-3d and I fired $12,000 into the pot. The poker player to my left folded and Kathy raised to $30,000. With about $84,000 chips in front of me, it was time to make a critical decision.
There was no flush draw possible and I didn't think Kathy was on a straight draw. I figured my aces either had her crushed or she had me crushed with a set of nines, sevens or threes. If I folded, I'd still have a decent chip stack left heading into Day 3 as only ten minutes remained before we finished play for the day.
There were just so many hands that I could beat! I took some time to consider my options then decided to shove my chips all-in. Ouch, Kathy snap-called and that's always a bad sign. She had a pair of sevens in the hole and indeed had made her set. See you later, Phil. A meaningless six came on the turn. I didn't even bother looking at the river card.
I turned to my friend Howard “The Poker Professor” Lederer and told him that I was about to get busted out of the tournament. Funny thing, only a few minutes earlier, I told Howard there was absolutely no chance that I'd get knocked out so late on Day 2.
That's when I heard my table mates roar. The ace of clubs had hit on the river!
How did I play this hand?
I like my $6,500 pre-flop raise. Any raise between two-and-a-half and four times the big blind is considered standard.
I also like my $12,000 bet on the flop into the $22,000 pot. Any bet around fifty percent of the pot works for me. Some pros, however, would argue that a check to trap your opponents makes better sense in this situation while others would suggest that a larger bet to protect your hand is the best play.
Kathy's $30,000 bet was genius. She made the bet so quickly that I didn't think there was a chance in the world that she had made her set. You really fooled me, Kathy!
Now, let's get to my all-in bet, but a little history lesson first.
In an earlier hand, a player under the gun had raised it up to $3,000 and the next two players called. Kathy then made it $12,000 to go. I had a strong suspicion that the player under the gun had nothing, and sensed that Kathy had a similar read.
I decided to make it $50,000 to go from the big blind with A-10. The initial raiser folded and Kathy moved all-in for $68,000. In retrospect, I made a reckless call my A-10 was a marginal hand. Kathy showed pocket kings to win the pot.
Well, as a direct result of that play, I now thought it was reasonable that Kathy might have raised it up with a pocket pair like tens, eights, sixes or fives, or with A-9 suited, or that she was even trying to bluff me out of the pot.
That's why I have no problem with my all-in move on the flop with A-A. Even without our playing history, I would have shoved with pocket aces in that situation eight times out of ten because of my stack size and the size of the pot.