In 2009, I made my first cross-country journey to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker. It wasn’t my first time in Vegas, but it was my first time going exclusively for poker. Given my position with PokerNews, I’ve spent the last six years in Sin City, though since then I flown out each time to avoid the grueling 1,710-mile trek from Wisconsin.
Interestingly, on that first road trip I stopped at Horseshoe Council Bluffs where I promptly lost $400 playing $1/$3 no-limit hold’em. At the time it was more than 10% of my entire bankroll. Coincidentally, a few days ago I was back at that venue, which is among my favorites in the Midwest, while once again making the long drive to Vegas — I’ve relocated here for good. Once again I lost $400, which fortunately represents a lot less of my net worth nowadays.
Anyway, during the game I ran across a familiar face in Sam Grizzle, who you might be surprised to learn has amassed $1,287,290 in live tournament winnings dating back to 1988. What’s more, he did so without a single six-figure score. Say what you want about the man — and believe me the tales of him being broke, hustling, borrowing money, and so on are endless — that is an impressive fact.
Anyway, on this day Grizzle, who you may better remember from the ESPN broadcast of the 2003 WSOP and as the only man with whom Phil Hellmuth has gotten into a fist fight — was seated at the $1/$3 game and I was looking forward to playing against the grizzled veteran. Of course I was mindful to take notes on a few hands, which I thought I’d examine in this week’s edition of Hold’em With Holloway.
Hand #1: In one hand, the button straddled to $15 and there were five callers, including Grizzle who as it turned out held . The flop hit him hard, and after the small blind checked, the player in the big bet $25. Grizzle then raised to $75, and everyone else folded except the big blind, who called. Another on the turn gave Grizzle a full house, and he bet a measly $15 after his opponent checked. A call was made, and then the big blind moved all in on the river. Grizzle nonchalantly called off his remaining $120, and was shipped the double after the big blind’s proved no good.
My Take: I don’t mind Grizzle’s call preflop. The game was playing pretty loose, and there were a couple of bad players with big stacks. If you were able to flop a big hand, chances were good you’d get paid, and -suited is a nice hand with which to speculate. I also like Grizzle’s raise on the flop. There was a lot of money in the pot already, so no need in allowing anyone a cheap turn, especially those who might want to draw to some sort of gutshot Broadway draw.
Grizzle cleared the field except for the flop bettor. At first I wasn’t a fan of Grizzle’s tiny bet on the turn, mainly because it essentially turned his hand face up, but after considering it more I really don’t mind it. Such a tiny bet was begging for a call, but it was also enticing for any ten or straight draw, both of which would have been drawing dead. If the big blind happened to have the last remaining king, well that would be even better. The key was Grizzle would need to determine the right bet size on the river, a decision rendered moot when the big blind shoved all in.
In all honesty the action on the turn and river doesn’t really matter in this hand given the game and stakes. The chips were going in and Grizzle was going to double. Still, it was interesting to watch the wily veteran get cute on the turn.
Hand #2: A player in early position raised to $12 and I called with pocket sevens. Another player came along, then Grizzle three-bet to $60 from the hijack. The player in the big blind just flatted, then the original raiser tank-shoved all in for roughly $250 which prompted me to ditch the walking sticks. Grizzle moved all in over the top, the big blind called off for $200, and just like that there was a juicy pot on the line.
The flop saw the big blind excitedly reveal his , and his delight understandably grew when the on the turn gave him two pair. The river was a , and the original raiser simply mucked his hand. Without a word, Grizzle rolled over for a set and the win. Needless to say, the big blind was deflated while Grizzle pulled in the pot, which increased his stack to nearly $1,000.
My Take: The original raiser was an aggressive player, so I opted to flat with sevens in the hope of pricing in others and then flopping a set. Instead, Grizzle squeezed in position, which I actually respected given how tight he’d been playing. After the big blind flatted, I figured I’d take a flop if the original raiser just called. If he folded, I would do the same. Instead, he shoved all in, which made my decision easy.
What I really enjoyed about this hand was the fact that Grizzle sat silently after flopping top set. He allowed the player in the big blind to get his hopes up, and then promptly crushed his dreams. It wasn’t malicious so much as a lesson — don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Anyway, I couldn’t help but smile as Grizzle, who was supposed to be a washed-up and vocal poker pro, stacked his chips.
Words of Wisdom: Shortly after sitting down, I saw Grizzle reach into his pocket and pull out a rubber band. He began to fiddle with it in between his fingers, and eventually his neighbor asked him why he was all banded up.
“Just thinking about the future,” Grizzle quipped, which to my disappointment was the only words he said during the game. Still, it was pretty funny, and as it turned out his wishful thinking paid off as he was the game’s big winner (at least up until I left a $400 loser).
I realize there wasn’t a whole lot of strategy discussed in this article — aside from maybe being wary of small turn bets and not underestimating “washed-up” poker pros — but I had a Sam Grizzle experience, and I just wanted to share it with the world.
Have you had a Sam Grizzle experience? If so, tell me about it in the comments or on Twitter @ChadAHolloway.