The $7.5m man reveals his top tips, with everything from handling hot cards to bluffing out a standing champ
PLAYING WITH A SHORT STACK
The most important thing is not to panic. People get short-stacked and think they need to keep pushing allin all the time. But it’s all relative to the blinds. If you’ve got more than 10 times the big blind, you’re good. You can still make the standard raise. If you’re less than 10 times the big blind, you will get called and need to push all-in. The hands you get involved in also become more open. Because you need to double up, you may push all-in with, say, J-10 suited, which you’d never normally do. Though I was short-stacked during the WSOP, I was very patient because I always had plenty of chips in relation to the blind. I was able to steal, but, if someone came over the top, I had enough left to get out.
During the WSOP, I made quite a few laydowns. One in particular was the laydown of my life. There were 20 players left and I raised under the gun with A? -K? . I had about $4-$5m in chips. Steve Dannenmann called my raise. The flop came 10? , 9? , 3? . I decided to check-raise and take the pot right there. But he moved all-in on me – and had me covered. If I’d called I’d have risked my whole tournament. It was such a hard hand to lay down, but I laid it down for two reasons. First, I believed he had a set, which made me an underdog. And even if I was wrong, by getting away from my flush draw I still had enough chips to carry on. After I mucked, he showed me a set of Nines. Making a laydown like that feels so good.
I don’t bluff a maniac. Instead I try to lay traps against those kinds of guys. If they make a small raise I’ll call with a second-tier hand and attempt to catch something. If they make a big raise I don’t get involved unless I have Aces, Queens, Kings or A-K. But I always keep in mind that calling a small raise won’t hurt my stack, and I play against these guys a lot more when I have position.
DANCING WITH BULLETS
Wired Aces are a double-edged sword: you either win a small pot or lose a big pot. Let’s say a maniac is at the table and raising. I might flat-call and raise him on the flop. But if you’re going to slow-play Aces, you need to take your medicine if it doesn’t come off. If you don’t raise with your Aces and the flop comes 7, 4, 3, then you bet and the big blind raises… well, a lot of amateurs would make the mistake of going all-in at that point. But you could easily be drawing dead to your opponent’s straight. For that reason I very rarely slow-play Aces – I like to clear out the field pre-flop.
HOW TO PLAY THE PROS
One day I was at a table with John Juanda and Phil Ivey. For the most part I didn’t try to play against them. Juanda was short-stacked, like me, and Ivey had a mountain of chips. I didn’t want to tangle with Ivey, and I figured that if I mixed it up with Juanda it would be for all my chips. However, I did get into a couple hands with Ivey. In one hand he raised. I was on his left and called with J-10 of diamonds. The board came down with two Jacks on it. When he checked, I knew he’d check-raise. He did and I moved allin. I didn’t want to take any risks. I didn’t want to see him fill up a pocket pair. He folded and told me he had Ace-high.
A lot of amateurs make the mistake of bluffing too much or bluffing with no outs. In the latter instance, you don’t want to throw your money in unless you’re confident the other guy can’t stand the heat of a raise. During the World Series I made only one or two stone cold bluffs – and one against Greg Raymer after he kept raising into my big blind. I knew he couldn’t always have winning cards, and I was very happy to see him fold.