High Stakes Heroes: #5 Lex Veldhuis

High Stakes Poker rookie, Lex Veldhuis, stormed onto the set in Season Six with a plan to instigate some action. He certainly did that, mixing it up with Phil Ivey and Doyle Brunson in two legendary hands

Even though he only appeared on one season of High Stakes Poker, Lex Veldhuis certainly made an impact. The Dutch cash game pro wasn’t afraid to mix it up with anybody, playing plenty of big pots – and usually with complete air.

However, not all of his big moves worked. In a hand that has been viewed on YouTube over 200,000 times, Phil Ivey pulled off an audacious all-in bluff with 5-2 offsuit, forcing Veldhuis to fold the best hand. However, as Lex explains in this exclusive interview, there was a lot more going on in that hand than meets the eye…

PokerPlayer: Were you a fan of High Stakes Poker before you went on?

Lex Veldhuis: I was watching Season One of High Stakes Poker when I first started playing 1c/2c, so it was incredible for me to play against those same players. When I was on set I realised that I had made it to one of the highest levels in poker and it made me really proud and happy. Of course you need to have a certain amount of talent in poker, but so much of it is just hard work. It was a cool experience for me and it motivated me for other things I wanted to do in life too.

How did you manage to get on the show?

It was actually Daniel Negreanu who talked to Mori Eskandani (the producer) and said he might have an interesting guy to have on the show. Mori had no idea who I was but Daniel showed him the tape of the 2009 WSOP Main Event where I was bluffing a lot (watch it here) and Mori said if I want to play I can play.

You had one of the toughest High Stakes Poker lineups in the history of the show, with Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan and Daniel Negreanu all on your table. Did you know this before you went on?

They showed me but I was just thinking, let’s do this! If you are going to play on the highest level you may as well play against the best. I also expected this would happen because I was the new kid on the block. I think Mori thought that by putting me in the middle of a table like that it would create action and that I would be the catalyst.

Was this the biggest cash game you’d ever played? And did you sell any of your action?

I sold 50% of my action, it’s the only time I have sold for cash games. I had played $300/$600 online before but that was for $60k stacks. This was $200/$400 with an $800 straddle and a $250k buy-in. It was definitely the highest I have ever played.

Who was the toughest opponent that you played against and why?

I would have to say Phil Ivey. Negreanu’s cash game was unrefined back then and it was only afterwards that he started working on his no-limit hold’em. I didn’t fear him at the time, plus he was on my right.

But Ivey was across the table from me and playing hands against him is uncomfortable. You know what he’s capable of and you know what he’s done in the past. His table presence is definitely a real thing, it’s not that he’s just a good player. Some players have table presence and others are just invisible. If you look at the presence of a player like Allen Kessler compared to somebody like Ivey, the difference is incredible. [With Kessler] you have a big blind that seems free to take and [with Ivey] it is always going to be a battle. It’s a relief when you raise Ivey’s blind and he folds!

Does this make you play noticeably tighter against Ivey?

I won’t go out of my way to avoid him – which is obvious in the hand I played on the show – but you are aware of it. Even if you play the same it makes you more uncomfortable, and then you start to wonder if maybe he has a read on you. It’s a pretty cool thing he has going.

What is his personality like away from the table?

He definitely has a crew. He’s more open and talkative at the table now than he used to be. I played with him in Europe a few times, and during the $40k event at the WSOP, so he started to relax around me.

He’s cool [but] he’s as elusive as people say. When there’s a group of people standing and talking, Ivey’s not there. Then he comes back and says, ‘I better do good today because I just lost $300k playing craps.’ I said, ‘You were only gone ten minutes!’ He’s on a different level.

Your natural inclination is to talk a lot at the tables. Is that your personality or a part of your strategy?

I don’t plan like that about strategy, I’m just there to have a good time. I play better, feel better and feel more comfortable when I am talking to people. I never bring headphones to the table.

There are so many interesting people too. It takes a lot for someone to pay $10,000 for something that they like. I like pool but I’m not going to pay $10,000 to enter a pool tournament! That’s what these people [amateur players] are doing and they must have a story somewhere that you can learn from. You meet a lot of interesting characters and it’s more enjoyable to talk.

Veldhuis’ hands from High Stakes Poker

Hand 1 – stomped by Ivey

Lex Veldhuis vs Phil Ivey, High Stakes Poker Season Six
Pot size: $111,100

Lex Veldhuis has put the $1,600 straddle on when Barry Greenstein raises to $5,500 with Q-T in the cutoff. Ivey, sensing weakness, reraises to $18,000 on the button with 5-2 offsuit. The blinds fold and it’s Veldhuis’ turn to act. He cold four-bets to $51,600 holding K-J. Greenstein quickly folds. Ivey asks how much money Veldhuis has behind before quickly moving all-in. Veldhuis folds as Ivey picks up the $111,100 pot with Five-high.

How does it feel to be on the end of one of Ivey’s highlight reels?

To be honest this is the question that I get asked the most – how does it feel to be stomped by Ivey like that? Not great!

Do you think anyone else on the table or in poker would have pulled off that move?

I think durrrr would be more inclined to call with the 5-2 (!) so I don’t think anyone else would do it. You could say my timing was right but that it was the wrong move because it was Ivey.

Does the image that Ivey gives off of having unlimited money help his play at the table?

When he sits down he’s already decided he is going to play the game for this amount of money, so he might as well play it as best as he can. I’ve had times online where I have decided I would try to win $2m that day, so when I lost big it was okay. I could go and drink beer with my friends and not lose any sleep over it.

You decide to take a risk and there are two results – you either win or you lose. When you lose you can’t really cry about it because you knew that it was a possible outcome.  

Do you have any regrets over this hand now?

I’ve never said this before, but I watched a lot of Ivey on High Stakes Poker before and he never instantly goes all-in preflop. But he shoved against me after about ten seconds. The first thing I thought, because he asked me how much I had behind, was that my counting is a little fast and jittery. He looks up and says, ‘I’m all-in.’ But he knew how much money I had, he plays live poker every day! My first thought was why is he doing this? If he really has a decision he’s going to think a while and he’ll balance it out for when he has Aces.

But I had sold 50% of my action and the guy I sold it to actually said, ‘Don’t do anything crazy and call it all off with A-Q preflop!’ After that point I decided never to sell again. I thought there was a chance Ivey was bluffing, but I didn’t trust my instincts and really regretted it.

What did you think when the show eventually aired?

I was watching it with my friends and when I saw he had 5-2 I was so annoyed. My friends all thought it was hilarious. They were laughing and screaming. A friend threw a sandwich at my head. After the hand was over they just left and said that’s all they wanted to see!

Hand 2 – redemption versus Doyle

Lex Veldhuis vs Doyle Brunson, High Stakes Poker Season Six
Pot size: $185,900

Lex Veldhuis puts the $2,000 straddle on and it’s folded around to Doyle Brunson who limps in from the big blind with Q♠-7♠. Veldhuis makes it $9,000 with 9♠-2♠ and Brunson calls. They both check on the 6♠-2-3 flop.

The J♣ comes on the turn and Brunson bets $20,500 into the $24,900 pot. Veldhuis calls and they see a 4♣ on the river. The pot is now $65,900 and Brunson bluffs $60,000 into it. After a brief delay, Veldhuis calls and wins the $185,900 pot with just a pair of Twos.
Was there any history with you and Doyle before this hand?

I’d never played with Doyle before but I heard from Mike Matusow backstage that all the guys thought I was crazy. This was on the second day of recording and I was already $200k down, but playing completely on my own money now. I was playing for most of my net worth, but I’ve always taken crazy shots so I didn’t feel uncomfortable.

When I walked on set I asked if the guys wanted to play higher. We started playing $500/$1,000 and Doyle took his straddle back. I started to banter with him saying that I thought he was supposed to be a gambler. He started making some comments about me playing for 10% of myself and so on, which was obviously bullshit, but that information was important.

When he limped from the big blind what sort of hands did you put him on?

Anything crappy. I think he plays really honest so I don’t think he will limp-raise me because he has no idea who I am and it’s rarely optimal when you are very deep. I put him on a random suited hand or something like K-8.

What did you think when he bet full pot on the turn of a J-6-2-3 board?

When I check the flop my range is really weak, so I just think he’s attacking that weak range. His bet doesn’t really make a lot of sense though. It would have been a lot harder for me if he had bet half pot there.

The river put out four to a straight and he bet full pot again. What do you think now?

Now it becomes really weird because he is repping two different ranges on the turn and river. The only problem is that a gutshot is exactly the type of hand he might fire pot with on the turn. But then I thought how many of those hands with a Five in them will he really limp-call $9k preflop? I never really thought he had the straight, my biggest concern was that he would turn a higher pair into a bluff.

How did you make the call?

At one point it was going through my head, ‘Okay, I am playing a $200k pot with a Deuce.’ But I can’t really think about that. My first instincts were, what is going on? And then I just called without thinking about anything else other than my instincts.

Was that call one of the highlights of your career?

Yeah, it was the biggest pot I have played so far and I was so happy that I was able to trust my instincts. Even if I was wrong and he had 7-5 for the nuts I wouldn’t have regretted the call. I would have been able to live with that. The blinds and the stage didn’t alter my play – I knew it would be crazy with big pots and that I had to accept that and just play poker.

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