We are often told that poker is a game of decisions and we have talked about it in past articles. Flashback to July 6th, 2006.
I have been a professional player for only two and a half years, and I am fortunate enough to find myself at the final table of a WSOP at a $5,000 entry.
At the time, there were far fewer tournaments on the World Series schedule, and this NLH tournament was dubbed the “Little Big One”.
To be in the final of such a tournament is in itself an achievement for any poker player, let alone a young player.
Plus, to add to this joy, immense names and poker legends of the time were also with me at this final table; namely Marcel Lüske, Vinny Vinh, and the one we no longer present, Phil Hellmuth, the “Poker Brat”.
Suffice to say that this day has remained etched for life in my memory. But there is another reason, a much less happy one, which ensures that I will never forget this FT.
One of the worst decisions I’ve ever made at a poker table
At the end of six hours of play, I discover this hand; 8-2. A real trash, but I’m in the big blind and Hellmuth who is in the small blind didn’t raise, so I find myself playing this hand “for free”.
On the flop: Aces, 4 and 3. I’m heads-up with the great Phil. He checks and I bet hoping he hasn’t connected and will throw his cards away.
Unfortunately, he calls without thinking too much. In the audience, two legends watch the action, Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan.
The turn brings another 4. A roller coaster goes on in my head. I take my time; I think about the best strategy. There’s a metagame between Phil and me, we’ve played a lot over the past few months.
He even told me some time before; “Do you know how I got rich at poker? By calling people who try to bluff me ”.
What to do next?
I still decide to bet again after Phil’s check, because I feel he doesn’t have a very strong hand. He calls again. If the 5 comes out, I make my straight and it’s jackpot time! If it’s not the case, well, we’ll see and we’ll advise.
Spoiler alert: I had to advise. The 5 remained hidden in the middle of the deck. I activated my little decision machine. If I check, I’m sure to lose the pot with my 8 high, and there’s quite a bit of money in there.
Still, if I bet and lose, it will greatly affect my chances of winning this tournament. I’m sure Phil doesn’t have a strong hand, and certainly not an Ace because he didn’t raise before the flop. I also tell myself that Phil is risking a lot in this tournament.
He’s chasing his 10th bracelet at the time, he’s playing for history, the pressure is enormous on him and I know that. I also take this parameter into account.
What to do? Bluff? Is it the right time, is it the right spot? That’s what I said to myself. You have to go all-in, he can’t pay, impossible. He will not take the risk of missing his 10th bracelet, so close to the goal, for a bad call. This is exactly what I should have done.
Follow your instinct
What happened, however, was that I was scared. Even though deep down I knew the best decision was to calmly say “I’m All-in”, I chose to only bet half my stack, which resulted in signing my death warrant at the table.
Phil felt that something was not clear in the story I was trying to tell. One end of my story was missing: the other half of my stack. He quickly paid off my very bad bluff, with high King.
So in the end I was right, he had a weak hand and he would never have risked putting his tournament on the line if I had moved in.
I can still see myself standing at the table, banging my fists on the table at my own bad play.
Marcel Lüske tried to calm me down “It’s okay, you’ve tried it”. The time I half bluffed … I remember it like it was yesterday.
Meet me at the tables on CoinPoker to practice your skills and enjoy the action. Open yourself a CoinPoker account today.
Isabelle “No Mercy” Mercier
WPT Winner & OFC “Progressive” World Champion