Phil Hellmuth – I Can Dodge Bullets Baby

By Donovan Panone | July 4, 2009

Situation: WSOP Main Event
Blinds: Unknown, but around 250/500
Stacks: Unknown, but no one seems too short

For this hand, we will play as if we are Phil Hellmuth. We don’t have the luxury of the reads that Phil has picked up at the table. However, in poker we can start with generalizations and stereotypes and then confirm or deny those as we observe players. In this hand, Phil is playing against an older gentleman. In general, older men tend to play very tight and sometimes tricky. When they enter a pot, especially raising or re-raising, they often have a very strong hand.


Hellmuth makes it 1,500 from the 5th seat in middle position with acks and Frank Pasintino, who is in the cut-off position says in his best mafia tone “You make it 1,500? Make it 3,000”.

Hand Range: This hand is as much about reading betting patterns as it is physical tells. When a player is jovial and conversational, it is a usually sign of strength. When someone is bluffing, they often do not talk because they don’t want to sound nervous. In this case, Pasintino is calm and almost joking with Hellmuth. As far as betting patterns go, he is re-raising only the minimum. This can sometimes be the sign of an inexperienced player who is afraid to raise too much or a sign of a monster such as QQ, KK or AA (leaning mostly toward KK and AA). In this case we have an older gentleman who is a tight player re-raising a middle position player from the cut-off. It’s not likely Hellmuth is on a pure steal, so it this combined with his relaxed table talk is the sign of a big hand. However, Hellmuth is getting a great price on his money and can easily afford to make the call and decide what to do based on the flop.

The Flop:


Hellmuth checks in the dark before the flop. By doing this, he is controlling the size of the pot but also can disguise his hand and make a read purely of the actions of the other player. Pasintino now says “you check to me? I check too.”

Hand Range: Pasintio checking behind unfortunately doesn’t necessarily narrow his hand range too much. He may check behind with QQ and KK fearing that Hellmuth has an Ace and he may also check AA with the full house in hopes to trap Hellmuth. The fact that Hellmuth holds an Ace does mean that the Ace on the flop would be the case Ace and does make it less likely that Pasintino has the other two. The only other clue we have at this point it Pasintino’s continued relaxed and conversational tone.

The Turn:


Hellmuth checks. The pot contains approximately $7,000 and Pasintino casually throws out $10,000.

Hand Range: This is a bad card for Hellmuth. Two of the three hands he can put Pasintino on now have made a full house. On top of that, he now overbets the pot. If he had KK, would he really bet $10K here with the Ace on the board? Simply by process of elimination, he has to put Pasintino on either AA or QQ. What about a bluff? I guess anything is possible, but he would have to be bluffing a large percentage of the time to make a call profitable. Based on the factors previously mentioned, a bluff simply isn’t likely. In addition to the bet sizing, Pasintino continues to casually joke around. Betting this much into the pot would make almost anyone clam up with nerves if they were worried about their hand.

The Result:

Hellmuth proudly folds his AK face up and gets Pasintino to show his AA. While you certainly don’t want to play fearing monsters under the bed, sometimes you have to trust your instincts and make big laydowns to win tournaments. This is a great example of such a laydown.

By Donovan Panone

Donovan started playing poker in 2004 and is an experienced tournament and cash game player who has a passion for teaching and helping others improve their game.


One Response to “Phil Hellmuth – I Can Dodge Bullets Baby”

  1. Jesus
    July 21, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    I dont think its that hard a lay down…do you???

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