Hard poker truth: Few things are more satisfying than pulling off a bluff, but the act requires the courage to continue firing at the pot and the brains to make sure each bet makes sense as the board gets exposed.
Chris "Jesus" Ferguson put on that kind of clinic in a hand against
Phil Hellmuth in the finals of last years National Heads-Up Poker Championship.
Dealt J-10 offsuit, Ferguson raised on the button.
Holding J-J, Hellmuth called.
The flop came A-8-7, two spades. Hellmuth checked. Ferguson had a gutshot straight
draw, but hes dead to an ace, king, queen, 8 or 7.
"But its kind of worth a bluff here because I have a chance to hit
a really good hand," Ferguson says. "If a 9 comes at any point in the
hand, I could win a monster pot, even though its a long shot."
Ferguson bet $30,000. Hellmuth check-raised another $60,000.
"This is where I could fold this hand," Ferguson says. "If I was
out of position, Id fold. He doesnt necessarily have an ace. Hes
probably more likely to have an 8 or 7 than an ace. If he has an ace, he can slow-play
the hand because he might not think I could catch up. He can let me try to bluff
my chips off to him. If he has an 8 or 7 and thinks hes ahead, he might
want to take the pot right there.
"I decide to call. I can still hit that 9, and a 10 or a jack might be good.
And I plan on stealing the pot because I have position."
The turn came a 6. Hellmuth checked again.
"Its a little bit scary to Phil because it makes a straight,"
Ferguson says. "At this point, I decide to bet again, $90,000, about half
the size of the pot. Im a little bit surprised Phil called here. Now Im
thinking he might have that ace.
"Im done with the hand at this point. Its not my intention to
bluff on the river, but I decide if a spade comes, Ill bluff on the river.
Or maybe if a 5 comes. It has to be a scary card. If a 9 comes, obviously Im
going to bet for value because I have the nuts. But even if a jack or 10 came,
I wouldnt bet because I dont think its good."
The river came a king of spades.
"A very good card," Ferguson says. "It puts the spades out there,
it puts the king out there. I could have A-K at this point. If he has a weak ace,
he has to be pretty worried. So I bet the $180,000. Its a complete bluff
with a jack high."
Ferguson was bluffing with a straight draw, but the flush draw got there. Either
way, he knew his betting pattern looked like someone on a draw, and he had the
heart to carry off the move with one more big bet that forced Hellmuth to fold.
On the button: The last player to act; noted by a hockey puck-shaped disk that
(Steve Rosenbloom is a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune and the author
of the new book The Best Hand I Ever Played, now available in bookstores. He can
be reached at email@example.com.)
© 2005, Chicago Tribune.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
Gaming: Poker [Pulling Off a Bluff]
Pulling Off a Bluff: Raising on the Button
By Steve Rosenbloom
Article posted on 2/27/2006
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