Broke in an hour

Editor's note: The following is a conversation between Phil Gordon and another poker player immediately following the L.A. Poker Classic.

Phil Gordon: Hey, I couldn't make it down to L.A., I've been busy with my new company and writing my new book … how did the Commerce tournament go?

Poker Player: We're an hour into the Commerce 10K tournament, I haven't been playing much recently, but I feel like I'm really on my game. I'm mentally ready to battle through the day and get some chips. I've made a little progress, and I'm sitting on an above-average stack of 12,000 and the blinds are still just 50-100. The field is just completely full of amateurs. I really feel like this tournament is mine for the taking -- it has been so long since I've won, and I'm really ready.

Gordon: I know, I'm not playing that much either these days … too busy.

Poker Player: I'm in the small blind with pocket 4s and a kid that looks like he's 19 years old raises under the gun to 200. He's got me covered with about 13,000 in chips. Everyone folds to me in the small blind, and I have a bad feeling about the hand. I know the kid is strong -- I can feel that he's strong -- but I have to call here and give myself a shot at flopping a set. If I hit and he's got a hand like Aces or Kings, I'll get all his chips. If I don't hit, it'll be cheap for me. I call the 200 and get a sinking feeling in my stomach.

Gordon: Hey, I love calling here.

Poker Player: The flop comes 7c-4d-10s and I love my hand.

Gordon: Sweet!

Poker Player: I decide to bet right out here and hope the kid comes over the top with his over pair. If he's got A-K or A-Q, he'll be tempted to chase, and if he's got the over pair I think he has, he'll put in a nice raise and I'll be able to trap him.

Gordon: Exactly! What'd you bet, about 300?

Poker Player: Right on. I bet 300 with confidence and the kid stews for some time, which is good news. He's either stewing because he's trying to figure out what to do with A-K, or he's stewing because he has an over pair and he's trying to act weak, or its taking him some time to figure out how much to raise. After a good 30 seconds, he raises 2,000, a really big overbet of the pot. That overbet smelled weak. That's exactly what I was hoping for -- a nice big reraise.

Gordon: Got him right where you want him, that's for sure.

Poker Player: Now, it's back to me. What now, I think. I can just call his raise and bet 3,000 on the turn, but that is a little risky. If he's got Q-Q or K-K, I don't want to shut him down if an Ace hits the board or the 10s pair off. There are a lot of scary cards that can come off the deck, and if I just call here, these chips may be the last I'll win. No, it's better to raise right away and get him pot committed. I think about 3,000 seems right, committing about half my stack to the pot. No way in the world this punk kid can throw away Aces here to a reraise. No chance. Hell, he might even call me with A-10 in this spot. I reraise 3,000 more and the kid thinks about two seconds before moving all-in over the top.

Gordon: Wow.

Poker Player: The TV cameras come over … they always come over when it looks like I'll be all-in. Especially only an hour into the tournament -- I might be the first player eliminated in a field of almost 700. I'm never in a hurry to call off all my chips unless I have the complete nuts. There is a real chance I'm beat here with 10-10 or 7-7, but there is just no way to get off this hand.

Gordon: No way to get off it, that's for sure.

Poker Player: If I get broke after flopping set over set, I get broke. I'm not going to start laying down a set after the flop -- I already make too many "big laydowns" as it is.

Gordon: I completely agree, Phil. No way to get off this hand now, you've got him right where you want him with A-A or K-K. I call.

Poker Player: So, I called and the kid turned over 7-7. I'm the first guy out and I have to call my wife and let her know I'm coming home just a few hours after landing in L.A. I can't remember a tournament where I was the first one out -- kind of reminds me of your buddy Rafe a few years ago at the World Series. What'd he last, 13 minutes or something?


Phil Hellmuth and I talked about the hand for another 10 minutes or so. And yes, it was Hellmuth that got broke an hour into the tournament. And yes, we talk on the phone about hands quite regularly. Having his insight and counseling -- away from the table -- is a great asset to me and I'm very pleased that he thinks enough of my game to share these hands and listen to the ones I want to talk about as well. Even though we're enemies at the table, the guy has game -- a better game than mine. And he's willing to help me. Be sure: I'll never have a big enough ego to turn down advice from one of the best in the world.

Here's the lesson I took away from this hand: Even at the top of the game, there is no way to differentiate an over set from an over pair. If you flop a set without a straight or flush possible, get the money into the pot. If you get unlucky and have a smaller set, you're in good company -- it happens to the best in the world on a regular basis. Even Phil Hellmuth.

Phil Gordon is a World Poker Tour champion, host of Bravo's "Celebrity Poker Showdown," and plays online exclusively at FullTiltPoker. Phil Gordon's educational poker DVD, "Final Table Poker", is available at ExpertInsight.net and his "Little Green Book" is available now.