What a field! The 2,576 players in the World Series of Poker championship event marked a historic moment for poker. But can a “known” great player ever win the WSOP again? Or, are we going to see “random” players — whether eventually deemed to be great players or not — win poker’s greatest championship for years to come?
Here is a taste of my WSOP run in 2004; brace yourself for some bad beats. On day one, I just seem to lose pot after pot, and I’m down to $4,175 at the first break. I’m almost in tears as I call my parents, but they pump me up, and I come out smoking after the break and get back to $10,000.
Halfway through the day, I pick up K-K and the action is raised to $600 by the first-position player. The second-position player then makes it $2,200 to go, and the third-position player calls. I say, “You better keep those ESPN cameras rolling, boys,” and decide to just call. The first-position player folds, so three of us take the flop. It comes 10diamonds 7diamonds 4spades, and the raiser leads out for $3,500 and the second player calls. My K-K does not include the Kdiamonds, and I start to study.
I have a feeling the raiser has either Q-Q or J-J, but lurking in my head is the possibility that he may have 10-10 or A-A. The Adiamonds Kdiamonds also crosses my mind. After a long study, I decide I can win the event if I fold my hand, and if I call and my opponent has A-A, I’m gone. Finally, I fold, showing my holecards to the camera but not to my opponents. The turn card is the 7clubs, for 10diamonds 7diamonds 4spades 7clubs, and the original raiser bets $7,000 and his opponent folds.
Now I have the sinking suspicion that my opponent had Q-Q, but I have to live with my game plan. For the next 45 minutes, I’m fighting off feeling regret at the laydown. About one hour later, when I have $20,000 in chips without ever being close to going all in, I’m feeling very high and mighty. Even if my opponent had Q-Q, he had a 20-to-1 shot to take me out right then and there. This way, I’m in, in, in. I end the day with a risk-free $33,350, feeling like a maestro.
On the sixth hand of day two, I raise with K-10 to $1,500, and get called by two players, including one of my business partners in the new Phil Hellmuth Million Dollar Poker System DVDs, John Moonves, who is in the big blind. The flop comes down 10diamonds 3clubs 2spades, and I bet out $1,200. The next player now makes it $5,000 to go, John folds, and I count my opponent down (he has $8,000 more). I decide that I have the best hand, and that I’m just going to call the $3,800 raise. Why not let him bluff off all of his money?
The next card off is the Qspades, I check, and my opponent checks. The last card is the 4hearts, for a 10diamonds 3clubs 2spades Qspades 4hearts board, and I bet out a mere $800. My opponent calls me, and I say, “Tens,” whereupon he flips over the Qclubs 9clubs. What the heck is going on here? This guy was going to bluff me, Phil Hellmuth, on the sixth hand of the day? Uh-uh, this was not going to happen, but then he hits the miracle queen, and wins only $800 more from there? Que pasa? A $15,000 pot lost just like that!
A while later, a gentleman opens the pot for $1,500 as I look down at J-J in the small blind. I count him down quickly and decide that I will raise it to $8,000 to go when it gets to me; I have $28,000. Then, another player in front of me says, “I raise,” and throws in $2,000. Now I think to myself that J-J is almost never a big favorite over a raise and reraise in front of it. But wait, how can he reraise when he threw in $2,000 over the top of a $1,500 bet?
A ruling is made, and the second daftar poker online player is forced to call. Now, I see an opportunity to call cheaply, and flop a set and bust someone. The flop comes down 9-3-2. I check, the raiser checks, the other player bets $2,000, and I call. The raiser studies a long time, and folds. The turn card is the 4hearts, and I check and my opponent checks. The river card is the 10spades, so the board is 9-3-2-4-10, and I bet out $1,500.
My opponent asks how much I have left, and I tell him $25,000, which he promptly raises. I fold my hand very quickly faceup, and say, “I know you hit the 10 on the end.” He says, “You didn’t call?” and flips his hand faceup — the 10clubs 9clubs. Que pasa? What in the bloody H is going on here? Of course I didn’t call, but even worse, I suddenly understand the truth behind this situation. It is bad enough to take the bad beat with 10-9 over my J-J, but even worse, I see the light in an instant: This guy hadn’t played a hand in a long time, and it is obvious to me that he didn’t see the original raise. That is why he threw in $2,000 and announced he was raising. He would have folded for the $1,500 bet with this hand, this much I know.
To make matters worse, I have the gut instinct that the original raiser had A-K, and I ask him if that’s what he had. He immediately says that that was indeed what he had. Now I’m freaking out over the simple inevitability of it all. I was supposed to win $8,000 on this hand, not lose $5,000. This guy was going to fold, and even if he did call the $1,500 bet, I was going to raise the original raiser all in for $8,000 and bust him with my J-J to his A-K. The only thing that stopped me from raising was the fact that I didn’t think the other player missed a raise right in front of his eyes; he was in the No. 9 seat and the raiser was in the No. 7 seat. Wow! What a fluky start to day two.
Five minutes later, I raise with Q-J from late position, and the big blind hesitantly calls me. The flop is Jdiamonds 9spades 7diamonds, and the big blind checks. I make a decent-sized bet of about $3,000, and the big blind moves all in for about $4,500 more. I call, and he flips over the Kdiamonds 9diamonds — a pair and a flush draw. Bang! The 4diamonds comes right off, and now I’m reeling. I look down at about $18,000, and now I’m muttering to myself about bad beats, bad players (He didn’t even see the raise!), and bad luck.
It is now announced that they will break my table, and I’m dealt Q-Q under the gun. I make it $1,800 to go, and now I’m freaking out thinking I’m going to lose this pot to K-K. Everyone folds to the big blind, who is the guy who beat me with Q-9 earlier in the day. He moves all in for my whole $18,000. Finally, I fold my hand faceup, and he shows me A-K.
The very next hand, at a different table now, I’m still talking about throwing away pocket queens when I pick up pocket queens again and open for $1,800. Incredibly, the big blind moves me all in! This time, I feel that my opponent has J-J or worse, but I still fold my hand faceup. The big blind shows 7-7. I don’t mind this at all. After all, I could have gone out if he hit a 7. Besides that, who in WSOP history will ever lay down Q-Q in back-to-back hands for a single reraise?
Unbelievably, the very next hand, I pick up K-K (that’s Q-Q, Q-Q, and K-K in three consecutive hands) and open for $1,600, and the same man moves me all in again. In an instant, I call him for my last $11,000, and he flips up A-10, and I double up.
From there, I went all the way down to $3,200 and all the way back up to $30,000 (perseverance). Then, I’m not sure that I won another pot. One hand, I raised with A-Q after a loose player limped in. The flop was A-10-4, and he checked. I bet $3,000 into the $7,000 pot, and he called me with K-Q! It was a gutshot, belly buster, terrible kind of play that enrages me when they hit the miracle jack, which “they” did. The Jspades on the turn also was a flush card, with a board of Aspades 10spades 4hearts Jspades, and I checked behind him. On the end, he moved me all in, and I folded.
Now, near the end, I actually did have tears in my eyes behind my fine mirrored Oakleys, so no one could see them. Why had all of this garbage happened to me? Are you kidding me? Is this even remotely fair? At the break, my parents had finally arrived in town to console me and pump me up. Was it time for one last charge, then? Of course. You never, ever give up in the Big One! But I had only $4,100 left with the blinds at $600-$1,200.
In the small blind, I called $600 more with K-8, after the button had limped in. The flop was 10-8-4, I moved all in for a pittance, and the big blind called. The player on the button raised, and when the big blind folded, he showed me a hand that I have written about many times — Q-10. When the last two cards provided no help for me, it was all over.
One more year at the WSOP, and I came up short. I didn’t win an event, and although I outlasted 2,200 players in the Big One, made the money in five events (even though I skipped many events) to bring my total to 45 (Berry Johnston has 46), and made two final tables (I do have that record, at 32), there was no satisfaction whatsoever for me at the 2004 WSOP. By the way, for 15 years I have worked hard to make it to the top of the WSOP all-time money winners list, but I’ll lose my position at the top because first place is $5 million in the Big One this year, and I’m at roughly $3.6 million. Oh well, you can count on this much: I’ll be back!…