Toughest Call I've ever made: WSOP Main Event 2015 part one.

I look at his bet, it sat ominously in the middle.  A pile of large denomination chips simply sitting on the felt. In any other situation, about as nonthreatening as a stalk of celery, but in this case they looked like the barrel of loaded gun pointed at my forehead.

If I called it would cost me every tournament chip I had.

The power of putting an opponent all in is obvious.  If he calls and he's wrong then he busts.  Here, I could bust the Main Event early on day two.

That would be a bit like tearing up a power ball ticket before the drawing.  If I fold... I counted my remaining stack for the fifth time...  I'd still have plenty of chips.

"Discretion is the better part of valor."  That's a quote I recall in these spots.  Sometimes the bravest thing you can do in poker is fold.  But...

The hand just didn't make sense.

I felt I should call.

Still, this wasn't a $365 or a $1500 buy-in where I can just go with my gut and deal with the consequences.  Even worse, the investors who put me in will know I called off with a hand that only beats bluffs.  Did they really put me in the Main Event to bust in this fashion?  On top of that, some of them weren't happy the day before when I was the only one from the group of five to advance.  Me busting in this fashion might put one investor, in particular, in an asylum.

I told the table I needed time and everybody, all deep stacked, told me to take all I needed.  I looked at the bettor.  He nonchalantly stared into space.  Perhaps, a bit too casually.  I feel tanking for a long time always give you some piece of information from your opponent, whether you receive it consciously or just feel it subconsciously.  Something clicked, I couldn't put my finger on it, but I felt he had to be bluffing.

Now my head AND my gut told me to call.

I wanted to throw in a chip to indicate I was calling for my stack... but...

It's the Main Event of the World Series of Poker the biggest tournament in the world.  You only get one chance a year... if you are lucky.  The entire hopes of the group of investors were on my shoulders.

I can't think about that, I told myself.  Okay I asked, would I call if I had slid every single dollar of the $10,000 buy-in to the cashier from my own wallet?  That's a lot of dollars.  Would I wager $10,000 of my own money on a bluff catcher?

I studied him some more.  The answer was yes, I would put 10k of my own money on this.  I knew I would call.  Then I asked myself would I be fine getting on the plane if I was wrong.  Could I deal with the all the anger that call might bring if my head and gut were wrong.  Could I handle letting down Will Souther who organized the investment team and all the supportive and positive people who took a chance on me.  Would I regret the decision?

I felt strongly that calling was the right thing to do.

I knew this wasn't a time for discretion, this was a time for valor.

I pulled off a solitary chip from my stack and flung it into the middle.  It indicated I was calling.  My tournament life was a stake.  My heart went to my throat.  He didn't insta-show which I knew meant he probably didn't have the nuts unless he was cruelly slow-rolling me (a major breach of etiquette to not turn over a strong hand in that situation).  He turned and looked at me.  Uh oh, that felt like he might have something...  I could only beat a bluff.  Did I really just call of my stack early on day two with only a bluff catcher?  

His stare lingered.  It wasn't fear that his hand wasn't quite strong enough, no it was anger,  Finally I heard, "Nice call," he said it practically spitting through his teeth.  He flung in King Jack with the King of Spades face up.

Phew...  I just doubled.  By far the hardest call I've made in my life.  Not the best call (10 high National Championship) but the hardest.

I turned over my hand triumphantly, and the table oohed and ahhed.  The Irish kid who I heard tell his neighbor earlier he had recently finished second in a Pokerstars Sunday Millions or something like that was especially generous in his praise.  I didn't really hear it, my head was buzzing and it could have just as easily been Bono jibber-jabbering in brogue in the background.  All I could focus on was I had chips on Day Two, so many it was difficult to stack.  Wow...  that was hard.

I thought back to the investors, especially the ones who had the players backs on Day One after the one went ballistic on the facebook group page.  If some of them didn't stand up for us, I don't know if I could make that call.  Some of them understood poker is a game of partial information and you have to used your skill to make the best decision possible.  It's not always the right one, but it's the best one most of the time.

The single most important hand of the Main Event for me and I made the right decision.


For the poker players, here's the nitty-gritty...  Let's preface it with the one hand history I had with this player.  (Incidentally, he went on a freefall after losing that hand and busted a level later.  When he did the players at the table sang his praises as a high stakes cash pro from L.A. and said he was playing really well until I ran him down.  He had a Sammy Farha vibe to him (was not Sammy

When I moved to the table, my stack had taken some lumps.  I entered day two with a decent stack but quickly lost momentum and chipped downwards after some run bad.  I felt the closest I had come to tilting during my entire run.  I switched tables immediately after getting five outed in a pot, I could have played a little smaller, and I lamented the lost chunk as chips were becoming more precious.

I sat down in the small blind and looked at Qd7d.  It folded to me rather quickly.  I like to raise my first hand at a new table.  I feel you get a little suspicious respect as players would rather only come at you with the top of their range until they have a better idea about how you play.  That said, I don't like to bluff too much out of the small blind.  I'll be out of position and when it's folded to you the big blind is giving you a much wider range.

I hadn't even stacked my chips and blinds were 300-600.  Go with the steal attempt, the tilt part of my mostly nit brain told me.  I picked up a 1k chip with then intention of making it 1300 and as I do I see the big blind, my future nemesis had a giant stack.  I hesitated.  I intended on calling a raise but why bloat the pot.  I'd limp and call, rather than bet and then have to call.  The 1k chip dropped to the table and I said nothing.

The player turned to me and asked if I meant to bet,  Well, I did mean too, before I saw his stack.   I wasn't about to say no as it roughly translated to "I'm weak here please raise me."  So, I just nodded nonchalantly.  He stared at me.  Though I didn't ask for it or suggest it was a raise or claim it should be, the dealer called the floor.  We all knew one chip was a call but I had dug myself into this spot and went through the process in a bit of gamesmanship as the floor obviously ruled it was a call.  The big blind studied me some more and he just checked.


Flop came out J7x (rainbow).  I checked.  He bet.  I called.  Turn a 10.  I checked.  He bet.  I called.   River a K.  Check.  Check.  He shows A6.  I flip over Queen Seven and he starts to seethe.  Probably I would have folded to his third barrel.  He's also mad he didn't raise with his Ace preflop especially with the way the whole thing went down.  I'm prepared for some action from him out of spite.

An orbit later I open my first hand from the hijack (Ad5d).  He immediately three bets me.  Something a little too fast about the action, I notice.  I also notice he still a little mad.  Folds back to me and I look at my Ace blocker and decide to go to the flop.  It comes out Qc4s3s.  I check.  He bets.  Ace high is good here sometimes.  I also have a gut shot and outs to the Ace if I'm not good.  I call with the intention of possibly trying to steal later and reassessing as the hand progressed.  Turn is Ah.  I check and he bets.  I call.  I decided I'm calling his value bet on the river now.  I hoped he didn't have AQ.  River is a third spade (eight or nine).  I check.

He gathers a massive stack and plops it into the center covering me.  I didn't expect that.

Okay, what does he have here.  The bet size smells suspicious.  It's bluffy.  Why would he do that?  I don't know much about him at that point but he has the baring of a competent or decent player.  He seems aggressive.

What's he putting me on?  Okay, say he puts me on top set (unlikely as most would four bet aces pre) he's getting max very value there if he rivered a flush.  That's really unlikely though.  Okay maybe second set (possibly I just call with Queens preflop) and thinks he can get me to call off my chips.  Hmm..  In that weird scenario a flush makes sense kind of.  He could also put me on AQ or KQ but wouldn't he be fearful of pushing me out of the pot.  He's not getting any value against those hands.  Maybe he thinks I'd call off with top two, but any other Ace or Queen I'd hold would fold.  He's losing a ton of  money.  Okay, Say, he thinks I have a set of 4s or 3s?  Really, would I play them like this?  No, wouldn't I protect my hand a little bit against the flush draw?  Same with my other hands.  It's hard for him to put me on a strong holding so the bet makes no sense.  It only makes sense if he's putting me on a weaker hand he wants to fold.

Okay,  So if he rivered a flush, this would be an incredibly bad bet.  Sometimes good players overshove the river to look weak and induce a call.  Does he know enough about me to think I might call.  I did just call two streets with Q7.  Maybe he's labeled me a call station.  That said, this is the Main Event, people aren't calling off unless they have a lot.  Again, a bad strategy for a good player.

Okay, this screams bluff.  He wants a lesser hand to fold and he's using the threat of extinction to push me off the hand.  What if he's turned a better hand into a bluff?   All he needs is any Ace besides Ace2 to beat me.  Ace4 and Ace3 are two pair hands.  The 3 and 4 also allow any other kicker to play.  Would he play an Ace this way?  No...  An Ace would have show down value.  Wouldn't he just check or maybe put out a value bet with say AK or AQ?

Would he play a set of Queens this way?  Most people don't check the river when they make their hand so maybe he's not scared of me having the flush, but still it's rather ham-fisted to simply shove a holding like that in that situation.  It might not be good but it's way to strong to simply bet out all the hands he'd get some value against.

This had to be a bluff and a bluff only  Finding the courage to call it, that was the issue.



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