Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 28: Calling Hellmuth with Jack-Deuce Offsuit

Poker Night in America

In last week’s Hold’em with Holloway, I highlighted two of the biggest hands I played during my two days on Poker Night in America in April playing in a $25/$50 no-limit hold’em cash game at SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia. The lineup included Shaun Deeb, Phil Hellmuth, Darren Elias, Alec Torelli, Dan Shak, Tom Schneider, and Andy Frankenberger, among others.

Playing in such a game was way out of my league, and I had to turn a blind eye to bankroll management. However, playing poker on TV against some of the biggest names in the game had been on my bucket list. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Fortunately, I was able to double up straight out of the gate thanks to a set-over-set situation, and I also played an interesting one where Torelli laid down a big hand. You can read about both of those hands by clicking here.

I’ll remember those two hands for the rest of my life, but I’ll also remember one that played out in the latter half of Day 1. That’s because I got to do something I’ve always wanted — beat Hellmuth in a pot and inspire one of his trademark rants.

In the hand, I put on the $100 under-the-gun straddle and watched as Hellmuth called from middle position and Torelli did the same from the big blind. I looked down at the lousy {j-Clubs}{2-Hearts} and easily checked my option to see the flop, which came down {j-Spades}{7-Hearts}{4-Clubs}. I had flopped top pair, but I wasn’t too proud of my kicker, so I just called after Torelli led out for $250. Hellmuth then raised to $900, Torelli folded what turned out to be the {j-Hearts}{2-Diamonds} (the same hand as me), and I eyed the “Poker Brat” suspiciously.

Hellmuth doesn’t get out of line much, but I thought he could very well be squeezing. It was an extremely dry board, and it was apparent that Torelli had enough of the flop — possibly a jack or seven — to lead out and then fold. I had a jack myself, so what could Hellmuth have here? There were not many jacks left, and a seven I could beat. Maybe {6-}{5-} for an open-ended straight draw? Though it’s not like Hellmuth to limp from middle position with such a hand. If he had a set, why chase out two opponents on such a dry board?

I wasn’t quite sure where I stood, but I felt it was worth paying to see a turn and get some more information, and so I called. The dealer burned and turned the {9-Diamonds}. I checked, and Hellmuth quickly fired out $1,600. Again, I looked at him with suspicion.

“Chad, you read me well,” Hellmuth said. “Let’s see. Now’s a test of that. I’m not showing this one either, this one’s going in facedown.”

As soon as Hellmuth volunteered this my gut screamed that I was good. Granted, Hellmuth is one of the best table talkers in the game, and he’s great at manipulating people to do his bidding. However, I’ve seen him open his mouth hundreds of times — both on TV and as a PokerNews reporter — and in this particular case I felt he was full of hot air, so I called.

The {8-Spades} river meant a ten would make a straight, so it wasn’t a great card for me. I checked, and fortunately Hellmuth did the same. Had he fired another big bet, I’d have been hard pressed to make the call. As it was, I showed my {j-Clubs}{2-Hearts} for a pair of jacks, and Hellmuth showed that he had been bluffing with {a-Spades}{k-Clubs}.

“Good call,” Hellmuth offered, though I knew it wouldn’t stop there.

“You’re kind of free this summer, right?” Shak asked jokingly. “Forget the employee event.” The rest of the table was very complimentary and joked around a bit. All the while Hellmuth sat there quietly with his arms crossed. You just knew it was coming.

“We’ll see if he keeps calling me with top pair no kicker,” Hellmuth finally vented. “I’m tempted to get $15,000 more ... he’s trying to give it away.”

Hold’em with Holloway, Vol. 28: Calling Hellmuth with Jack-Deuce Offsuit 101

It wasn’t a full-blown Hellmuth rant, but it was a mini-one. He made a few more inconsequential comments, and I simply pointed out he didn’t raise preflop with ace-king when he was first to enter the pot. It was hard for him to argue that, but for the rest of the game, even as it went on into a second day, Hellmuth harped on me about how I was going to call him down light again and pay him off. It never happened, but it was fun listening to him go on and on about it — kind of a fan boy’s dream come true.

Now, I’ve known Hellmuth for quite awhile. Not only have I interviewed him and reported on him numerous times for PokerNews, but we also both hail from the Madison, Wisconsin area. As such, we know a lot of the same people, and our paths have crossed multiple times over the years, especially around the holidays when he returns home to visit family. This wasn’t my first experience with the “Poker Brat,” but it certainly was the most high-profile one.

I like Hellmuth a lot. I think he’s a superb tournament player and great for the game. I also think he’s one of the nicest and most charitable guys I’ve ever met off the poker felt. At the poker table, well you know what you get there. Part of it is for show, but part of it is genuine Hellmuth. I’m glad I got to be the hare in his crosshairs, if only for a short time.

The only thing I regret in the hand is not uttering one of my favorite lines. On the turn, before calling, I should have said, “Phil, I may only read at a kindergarten level, but I can read you like a book.”

How epic would that have been? Problem was if I had said that and been wrong, I’d have looked like a total fool. Oh well, missed opportunity there, but I am content having won some of that sweet, sweet Hellmuth money.

I went on to cash out for $20,775 on the first day (a profit of $15,775), but ended up giving half back on Day 2, which featured a much tougher line-up and me playing less than my A-game (more on that in a future article as well). All told I profited $7,850 against some tough competition. Poker Night in America’s Nolan Dalla had some kind words to say about my appearance, and even said I’ll “certainly be invited back.” I look forward to that.

For those interested in seeing my hand with Hellmuth, check out the video below starting at around the 1:03:00 mark. You can also watch my entire appearance on the archived live stream, and this fall it will air on CBS Sports Network (I don’t know the exact date yet).

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