The Poker Bluffing Virus

This week, we return to the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star event in San Jose. I played a hand against online poker pro Amnon Philippi early in the tournament where I came very close to blowing all my chips and tournament hopes. There's a little history between Amnon and me.

At the 2009 WPT Championship, Amnon helped me bust out of the tournament a mere thirty-five minutes into the event. To this day, I'm still not sure why I bluffed off so many chips to him, and why so fast.

Then, at last year's WSOP Main Event, we faced off against each other again. And again, I came right at him, bluffing him like a madman while trying to induce him to bluff me. It's a funny thing, when I bluff off a load of chips to another player, it seems like they can't help but try to bluff me in return.

I bluff them and they bluff me — it's like some kind of poker virus! It was now time for Round Three between Amnon and me at the Bay 101. Ding, ding! I jabbed away, calling him down twice but each time he had the winner. Then, with blinds at $150/$300 plus a $25 ante, I opened for $750 with 8-8. Amnon made it $1,800 to go from the small blind, and I called.

The flop came K-7-4. Amnon bet $2,000 and I called again. A deuce fell on the turn. We both checked.

On the river, a nine came off and Amnon tossed in $4,500. I paused to think about my play with pocket eights as I only had $7,300 remaining. A bad call would cripple me. I decided to make the call. Amnon showed me three kings — the nuts.

Let's take a closer look at the hand.

My $750 raise was acceptable. In fact, any raise between $750 and $1,100 would have been in the standard range. Amnon's $1,050 reraise was also by the book.

My pre-flop call for $1,050 was legitimate as my pocket pair might have been ahead, and I could always flop a set.

My call on the flop wasn't exactly a mistake but I really should have known that Amnon might have had the best hand possible. It's like legendary poker pro Doyle Brunson says, the greatest players always know when they're up against the nuts.

I like Amnon's check on the turn. Why bet when your opponent is probably drawing dead? You certainly don't want him to fold a weak hand, and he might even try to bluff you. Better to give him some rope and let him hang himself.

Amnon's $4,500 bet on the river was well-sized.

My call on the river was just horrible. It was an easy fold unless I had a strong read on Amnon — which I didn't.

I was embarrassed and more than a little appalled at how poorly I played this hand. But what was really annoying was Amnon's comment at the end of the hand. “Man, you played that hand well,” he said. “I was supposed to take all of your chips. You would have called if I had moved all-in, right?”

No, Amnon, not right. There's no way I would have played my hand had you moved all-in. Come on, man!

Fortunately, before going on tilt, I looked down at As-Ks, moved all-in for $2,800 against my opponent's A-J offsuit, and won the hand. And two days later, I was the tournament leader with $520,000 in chips. Nice hand, Amnon, but you'd better watch out the next time we play. That bluffing virus is bound to kick in soon!

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