OK, maybe I've still got too many Sound of Music echoes bouncing around in my head, but the title of this post alludes to the fact that today I watched both the Monday and Tuesday episodes of this week's new "Poker After Dark" (available here) and got to experience what is indeed one of my very "favorite things" in poker: watching Phil Hellmuth lose. (The photo of him above is selected because it's one of the few in which he's not sporting that blecch-inducing UB logo.) This week's PAD is a cash game, a departure from their usual format.
First, it was amusing to see him seated next to Tom Dwan, acting as if Dwan is his new best friend. This was apparently taped after the heads-up championship, because one of the other players asks something like, "Weren't you two supposed to play a heads-up cash game?" That's a challenge that was (sort of) issued and accepted when Dwan busted Hellmuth with a bad beat at the Caesars event.
In Monday's episode, Hellmuth raised with suited K-5, and Allen Cunningham called with 6-6. The flop was 5-6-X. Hellmuth bet, Cunningham raised with his set. Hellmuth goes into a rant about how he had predicted for the cameras that this exact scenario would come up: that he would get Cunningham to put all his money in drawing nearly dead. Oh yeah, great read there, Phil! LOL!
But things got even better on Tuesday. First, Hellmuth picked up suited A-K and appropriately put in a substantial reraise from one of the blinds. His opponent, an amateur I had never heard of before, called with Q-10 offsuit. The flop came king-high, but Hellmuth, following his usual idiotic habit when he is playing out of position, had checked in the dark, so he couldn't bet his top pair/top kicker. The other guy checked, too. But even more stupidly, Hellmuth checked again on a fairly non-scary turn card, and his opponent, who had now picked up a straight draw, checked behind. The river completed his opponent's straight. Hellmuth checked again, then called when the other guy bet about $12,000.
Predictably, rather than kicking himself for misplaying the hand about as badly as can be done, Phil berated his opponent for the preflop call. He then spent several minutes congratulating himself on having lost the minimum on the hand! Uh, no, Phil--you should have won it, and probably would have if you had bet on either the turn or the river. Aren't "eagle" types supposed to be bold and fearless about their strong hands? You played it like a mouse. (For those among my readers who don't know, Hellmuth's book, Play Poker Like the Pros, famously categorizes poker players into animal types: the mouse, the jackal, the elephant, the lion, and the eagle.) I was glad to hear the commentator, Ali Nejad, say "Phil has nobody to blame but himself" for the loss. That fact was obvious to everybody except Phil.
Next, Hellmuth gets stacked off when he finds himself on the bad end of a set-over-set situation with Cunningham, fives versus tens. He shoves it all in and, of course, gets called. He is 100% certain that he trapped Cunningham for all the marbles--until he sees the cards. It's a priceless moment.
Now he's well and truly steaming, and rebuys for another $100,000. (At least this time he pulled it out of a very nice black leather satchel, unlike the laughable plastic grocery bag in which he was carrying his money when he showed up on the second season of "High Stakes Poker.") He runs some junk hand (can't remember the details) into Mike Baxter's K-K. Hellmuth hits top pair, but is behind all the way, and loses a bunch more money. Again, rather than berating himself for overplaying his mediocre hand, he latches onto the fact that Baxter took maybe two seconds longer than he really needed to to turn over his cards after being called on the river, and launches into a several-minute tirade about being slow-rolled. I don't think this fit any reasonable definition of a sl0w-roll. When Baxter got called, he very likely thought that Hellmuth would only call him with a hand that had him beat. He even grimaced a bit, which I interpret to be him thinking that he must have lost. He really hesitated only a second, and I got absolutely no sense that he was doing it to prolong the losing opponent's anticipation (which I think is the essence of the slow-roll). Baxter was very classy about it, though, and apologized for the perceived infraction of etiquette, in order to smooth things over with Phil. (And maybe just to shut him up.)
Speaking of classy, I have been highly impressed by Tom Dwan so far. Other than the NBC heads-up match, this is the first time, I think, that I've seen him play on television. The guy seems to have a phenomenal poker sense, knowing when to apply pressure and when to back off. He has played nearly flawlessly in the first two hours, and is the big winner up to this point. Some of that is because of good luck, for example, flopping the nuts when his opponent flopped the second nuts, but I think he squeezed every single chip out of the guy that he could have, which takes a great feel for the game.
Just as impressive, though, is how he held his tongue with respect to Hellmuth. Before Phil mucked his A-K in his misplayed hand, he flashed them to Dwan. Dwan could easily have engaged Phil in a debate about how badly he had played it, but he just said, "No comment." I think it was clear from his facial expression that he know Phil had completely bungled the situation, and he certainly owed Phil a needle or two from their heads-up encounter. But he didn't take the shot, just kept it to himself. Smart and classy, both.
Three more days of watching Phil Hellmuth lose his money--it's like a brown paper package tied up with strings!
It just occurred to me to check what Phil's book says about playing A-K when you flop an ace or a king to go along with it. Here it is, p. 52: "You bet, raise, and reraise quite a bit because you have hit 'top pair' with 'top kicker.' In every case where an A or a K hits the flop you will have top pair with top kicker (A-A-K or A-K-K), and this is a very strong hand in Hold'em! ... The point I'm trying to make is that A-K becomes very powerful when you catch an A or a K on the flop, and you should put in a lot of betting and raising on the flop when this is the case." (Emphasis added.)
Of course, this is in the "Beginners' Strategy" section. Probably in the "Advanced Strategy only to be attempted by Eagle players" section, it says, "Check it down until your opponent makes a straight, then call him."