Strong Hand V Strong Hand – An Analysis of Poker Hands

Hand 1

This hand is from the World Championship Final of the 1989 World Series of Poker, where the last two were Johnny Chan (winner in both 1988 and 1987) and 24-year-old new kid on the block Phil Hellmuth. If Hellmuth were to win, he would be the youngest winner thus far. If Chan won, he would equal Johnny Moss’s record of three wins and be the first to win three times in a row. Now sadly no longer with us, Moss had dominated the tournament in its early years. He won in 1970 (when the players voted on the champion) and again in 1971 and 1974.
Hellmuth had about a two to one lead in chips when the final hand was played. First to speak, he made it $40,000 to go. Chan called and re-raised $130,000. Hellmuth then immediately said he was all-in. Chan now had a tough call. He had about half a million dollars left, as against Hellmuth’s million or so with about $300,000 in the pot. But if Chan called and won, he’d be a solid favourite.

The hands were:
    Chan     Hellmuth
    AS,7S    9-9

This is similar to the decision Chris Ferguson faced against T J Cloutier. He is probably behind, but will be no worse than about 5/2 against to win it. The difference here though is that Hellmuth has an aggressive image, so Chan could easily put him on a hand such as a K-Q, in which case Chan would be favourite. Nevertheless, I think it was a marginal call since Chan had not made such a huge commitment to the pot that he could not pass. But then he’s got umpteen World Series Bracelets, which is umpteen more than me, so who am I to argue? Chan called. With a spade draw and an overcard, he’s about 2/1 against.
The flop was KD, KC, 10H with fourth street the QS. Chan would now be saved if the river was a 10 (two pairs), jack (straight), queen (two pairs) or an ace. But Hellmuth was delighted to see the 6S, and his two nines held up. So, on this occasion, the best hand on the flop won and there were no issues with bad luck as in the 2000 final. Phil Hellmuth became the youngest ever champion and since then has gone from strength to strength. He is now generally considered one of the strongest players in the world.

Hand 2

This hand involved Debbie Berlin, Dave (Devilfish) Ulliot and Ram Vaswani. This hand illustrates several themes and shows what happens when a strong hand comes up against another strong hand.

Ram raised the pot to £700 before the flop with pocket sixes and was called on the button by Devilfish and on the big blind by Debbie.

The hands were as follows:
    Devilfish     Debbie     Ram
    KH,JH         KC,10H    6S,6C

The flop was KD, 6H, 3H.

Debbie has a reasonable hand, hitting kings on the flop and she bet £500. Ram just called (he was slow playing his trips – a great hand), hoping to get some action behind him. Devilfish re-raised to £2500 with two kings and a flush draw with another very strong hand. Debbie folded but Ram re-raised again going all-in and Devilfish called. Devilfish has top pair with a good kicker plus four to the flush, but must suspect he is behind. However, there is now too much in the pot for him to pass and he knows he has lots of outs. The turn and river cards were a running pair of fours 4D followed by 4H), making a flush for Devilfish but a winning full house to Ram.


Hand 3

This is another hand with a similar type of confrontation with a strong hand matched against another strong hand. It is also an example of a semi-bluff that has gone wrong. Bambos and Simon Trumper were the players.

Simon, holding AC, 8C raised on the button and Bambos called with KS, QS.

The flop came AD, 8S, 7S.

Simon bet out with the top two pair. Bambos raised all-in with a king-high flush draw. He cannot beat a pair, so his hope is to win the pot on the flop with this semi-bluff. It’s hard to get someone holding the top two pair in Texas Hold ‘Em to pass, so not surprisingly Simon calls. Fourth street brought the AS, giving Bambos his flush but Simon a full house.


Hand 4

This hand involved Dave Welch who raised before the flop with pocket jacks and Dave (Devilfish) Ulliot. Devilfish called, slow playing his pocket aces.

The flop came AS, 10C, 5H.

Devilfish checked his monster hand (i.e. trip aces). Dave Welch, with two jacks, cannot have liked the flop, but he bet, in an effort to win it right there. He knew that if he got called, he was probably up against an ace, perhaps with a weak kicker, and he would definitely slow down after that. Devilfish called again slow playing his trips. Because there is no likely draw on the flop, Devilfish was quite safe in not raising. Dave’s raise before the flop indicated that he was not likely to have two small cards and hence a draw to a bottom straight.
Devilfish was trying to keep Dave Welch interested. If he had raised then, Dave would have undoubtedly passed. Fourth street was the eight of hearts, no visible improvement. Devilfish checked yet again and Welch wisely checked behind him. Dave Welch was hoping this hand was going to be checked out but he was out of luck. The river was the four of diamonds. The board now looked like this: AS, 10C, 5H, 8H, 4D.
Devilfish then bet enough to set Dave all-in. If he checked again here, he knew that Dave would probably just turn his hand over. So he had to bet. This was a tough call for Dave Welch. There was no likely draw that Devilish could have made, except for the remote possibility of the small straight, so it looked like he had an ace or was bluffing. I wouldn’t have liked to choose. In fact, Dave Welch even said to Devilfish that he had either a very strong hand or was on a complete bluff, which was a good analysis. However, Dave called and Devilfish showed his aces.