Former world champion Phil Hellmuth isn’t shy when it comes to identifying his greatest plays, but this one – on his way to his ninth WSOP bracelet – is his all-time favourite…
Back in 2003, at that year’s World Series of Poker in the old Binion’s Horseshoe, I played a $3,000 no-limit Hold’em event. What stands out in my mind is a hand at the final table, when it was down to just three of us: Erik Seidel, Daniel Negreanu and me.
But before we got to the final table, I raised 21 hands in a row – without looking at my cards. There were 28 people left in the event at that point and everyone on my table was playing to make the money, which was the top 27. They kept folding to me. When somebody called me on the 13th hand, I won with pocket Aces. Then I went back to raising blind for another eight hands.
When it came down to three of us at the final table, though, I had to go in the opposite direction. Erik Seidel had around 900,000 in chips. Daniel and I each had about 150,000. Erik began raising every hand, and I anted off my money, just waiting. I’m proud to have been able to go from raising every hand to raising none.
Then I picked up pocket Queens and raised to 18,000. Erik called. The flop came 9-T-Q. Erik checked, I bet 15k, and a Queen came on the turn. I had four Queens now. He checked, I bet 20k, and he check-raised another 75k. I called. On the river I bet half of my remaining stack (around 40k). He called and mucked his cards when I showed quads.
I never found out what he had, but I figure he might have flopped a straight. I’m thinking that I extracted close to the max from him, in terms of money that went into the pot, but I also think that if he had a straight I could have moved in and gotten him to call.
What this hand represents is the fact that I had to do so much folding to wait for that situation. It was scary – 80% of the world would have gotten impatient. Who knows what would have happened to me if I hadn’t waited for the right moment to make a move? Erik was reading so well, and playing so tough, that he forced me to wait. It was hard to do and it required a ton of discipline.
After winning the tournament, I felt really good about the way I had shifted gears. But I had to. Erik was a force that day. He played great and took a massive chip lead just by bullying us.
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