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The way to make 'em pay

Amateur made pros look silly

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The only poker show I really liked watching was High Stakes Poker, unfortunately it was cancelled after Norm Macdonald took over as host. In fairness to the show, he was absolutely terrible.

During the last season, there were a few interesting hands that caught my attention, but there was definitely one in particular I thought I would discuss.

They were all playing deep, as the minimum buy-in was $200,000 and, as usual, the lineup included a few rich businessmen who play casually and have money to throw away.

In this particular hand, one of the businessmen limped under the gun, a few players folded and Phil Laak raised in the cut off to $4,200 with A A. Jonathan Duhamel, the 2010 WSOP main event champion, picked up Q Q in the small blind and elected to flat call. The businessman also called, so there were three remaining hands to see the flop.

The flop was 8 3 2 rainbow and Duhamel led out for $7,000. With a few seconds' hesitation, the businessman made it $27,000. Laak quickly mucked his A A and Duhamel did the same with his Q Q. The businessman won the hand with a monstrous 5 6.

For obvious reasons, I thought this hand was interesting, but it was the table talk after the hand that really got my attention.

Laak immediately began to fish for information, asking if the businessman had J J. Really Phil? You think he would limp call under the gun with J J in an eight-handed poker game? A few minutes after the hand was played out, they interviewed each of the three players to get their take.

Laak said the reason he folded was he really thought the businessman had two pair. Well I'd like to ask you Phil, which two? 8 2, 8 3, or 2 3? I actually found it comical a so-called top poker player put his opponent on two pair on a flop like that.

Duhamel also somehow thought his opponent may have had two pair after dissecting the hand himself. This left me more than a little bit stunned.

Being in Laak's spot, even though you are holding aces and the flop is a great one for your hand, the way the betting took place, I don't necessarily blame him for folding (even though I am pretty sure I would not have). The reason being -- and this is my humble opinion -- when Duhamel led the flop, it screamed to me he was holding a hand such as 9 9, 10 10 or 7 7, and he made a feeler bet. The businessman's raise wouldn't have scared me as much. I would never put him on two pair here and if he flopped a set, which is more than possible the way he played his hand up to this point, I feel that on such a dry board he would flat call and hope Phil was holding a big hand, which he was.

So the only reason I can see why Phil folded the hand was he was playing with scared money. Duhamel, on the other hand, put out his feeler bet and when he didn't like the response he got, he folded.

The best part about it was, while the businessman was discussing the hand during his interview he said he thought if he raised, he would put both of the other players in a tough spot and get a few folds. It worked. In the end, it looks like this amateur made the pros look like amateurs, at least for one hand anyway.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 5, 2012 B13

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